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Overreactions: There actually was a hockey game tonight

475668991_slideIt’s hard to sum up this game tonight. There was a game. It was an NHL regular season hockey game. It counted in the standings, but no one who has a twitter or was around people likely got invested in this game. It was a sideshow.

The impending trade of Ryan Miller finally happened. The impending trade of Steve Ott finally happened. And in one instant, the sense of dread on the horizon became a reality. And the Sabres played on.

While the team out on the ice walked away with a 4-2 win over the visiting San Jose Sharks, there’s not much to take from it. Jhonas Enroth was sensational. Brian Flynn scored again. Tyler Myers actually had a really good game.

And now, two points later, everything is different. The fact the team is currently riding a three game win streak out of the Olympic break is completely irrelevant. The soul of the team is forever changed. And even while Cody Hodgson, Matt Moulson, Flynn and Myers scored in a Sabres win at home on a Friday night, it doesn’t seem quite right. You don’t normally spend the third period’s television timeouts applauding for guys who aren’t on your team.

But the game’s a final, and Sunday, the team will take off out west for a roadtrip, and some of the guys on the plane may not be coming back to Buffalo on the same plane. They may have played their last game here. Matt Moulson, who scored the game winner tonight in maybe his last game as a Sabre (god, we can do this for everybody) wasn’t a story tonight.

There was a game. And I don’t think it matters too much right now.

  • Picked a hell of a game to show up late. Team was already out for warmups by the time I got to the press box.
  • Funny that you naturally didn’t want to put two and two together when Tim Murray missed his WGR spot at 5:30. It’d be too easy to assume there’d be a trade. Turns out, there was.
  • Good to see Enroth step up and have a game like that when he needed to grab the reins and earn a shot at being the #1 guy for the rest of the way. He will be. He’ll get his shot. Read the rest of this entry

Overreaction: Miller holds back Hurricanes in last minute win

474892745_slideWe don’t know if Tuesday night was Ryan Miller’s last game with the Sabres. It might be. Then again, any game could be anybody’s last, because, you know… life.

But the impending NHL trade deadline is making these things more of a reality. And Miller made a hell of a case to be someone teams want on their squad against the Carolina Hurricanes, stopping 36 shots and even adding two assists in a 3-2 win in Buffalo’s first game back from the Olympic break.

Christian Ehrhoff scored twice for the Sabres, including the winner with 43.4 seconds remaining in regulation. Tyler Ennis also added a third period goal for Buffalo, who was outshot 38-18 on the night.

“Sometimes the hockey gods are good to you,” Ehrhoff said.

Ennis’ goal put the Sabres up 2-1 with less than eight minutes to go, but a fine individual effort from Carolina’s Alexander Semin tied the game at 2-2 with four minutes exactly on the clock.

Eric Staal also scored for Carolina.

Buffalo now hosts Boston on Wednesday night to continue a stretch of three games in four nights at First Niagara Center.

  • The word “Latvia” came up more than I’m comfortable with during this game. Let’s not be them.
  • How about that game out of Ville Leino? He was good. Drew two penalties, and was generally effective possessing the puck. Not bad for starting the game between Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick.
  • Not sure I’m comfortable with the idea Tyler Myers has an “A” on his sweater. I don’t want him to be looked at as part of the core. There was one play with the Sabres on the powerplay, where he got caught with the puck at the blueline near the bench. With the team changing and trying to get onside, he just fired it into the corner, completely unaware that Christian Ehrhoff was alone and waiting for a pass at their own blueline. Simple play could’ve retained possession if he sends it back to Ehrhoff. Myers gives the puck away. The problem with Tyler is between the ears. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Penguins (talented) beat Sabres (not so much)

467052031_slideMaybe if you watched the first ten minutes of this game, you thought the result might be in doubt. If you watched the last fifty, you knew better.

Even despite jumping out to a quick 1-0 lead on the Eastern Conference leading Penguins, the Sabres couldn’t take advantage of early chances before the giant awoke. The result of that is Pittsburgh dominating Buffalo en route to a 5-1 decision in the last game at First Niagara Center before the NHL’s Olympic hiatus.

Drew Stafford scored just under six minutes into the game, but that would be the only time Penguins’ netminder Marc-Andre Fleury would be solved. Buffalo got other chances, but Matt Ellis and Zemgus Girgensons couldn’t quite get it done and the lead was nothing but tenuous.

Then the beast came to life.

A rough hit from Steve Ott on Penguins star Harry Zolnierczyk seemed to rile up the NBC darlings. Zolnierczyk would tie the game late in the first period, and it was over from there. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each scored highlight reel goals in the second, and Brian Gibbons and James Neal added third period insurance goals.

“That’s a good team over there that’s obviously playing extremely well,” Ott said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with a couple of turnovers in the second, but there’s no lack of passion. Every guy is out there working hard trying to compete.”

Ryan Miller, looking to impress Team USA coach Dan Bylsma on the other bench, was solid but helpless, making 29 saves and getting hung out to dry on many occasions.

  • Lots of Penguins fans in the crowd at FNC. Games against Pittsburgh are the right time to play the “Hey Penguins fan, do you know who Lasse Pirjeta or Tomas Surovy is?”
  • Speaking of those guys, we’d all love to have a guy like Malkin or Crosby right? Here is a good reminder of what it takes to get one of those guys. Embrace it, because in the end, we’ll have guys on our team scoring goals like those in the second period. And I’ll take that over hearing the word “compete” on a daily basis 11 times out of ten.
  • Mike Weber on the first Pittsburgh goal, top to bottom, was a complete mess. Sabres were possessing the puck well, moving up ice, and he gets it and fires it into the corner. Pittsburgh easily collects it, goes the other way and he chases them into the corner. By the time he gets there, the puck is headed to the front of the net and Zolnierczyk has all the time in the world to beat Miller. That shift in itself gets him cut from good teams. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Panthers edge Sabres in regulation

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If anyone’s been seriously concerned about “the tank” lately, they’ve been seeing some issues. The Sabres, heading into Tuesday night, had picked up points in five of their last six (2-1-3), and more impressively in nine of their last ten (6-1-3) at First Niagara Center.

So with a strong run putting them on the brink of passing 29th place Edmonton, for at least one night, the heroic march to the 5th overall pick was stalled, this time by their historic Atlantic Division rival, the Florida Panthers. Despite two early goals by Drew Stafford that put the Sabres in front, a few deflections and an inability to finish late chances left Buffalo on the losing end of a 4-3 decision.

Ryan Miller struggled on his way to finishing with just 18 saves, getting beat three times in the first period on deflected shots. Florida scored twice in 52 seconds in the final minutes of the period, and the 3-2 lead would be a sustained advantage.

Florida’s Nick Bjugstad widened the gap with a second period snipe to make it 4-2, and Tim Thomas would weather the storm in the Panthers net over the final 20 minutes. Thomas stopped 15 of 16 Buffalo shots in the third period to hang on for the win.

Steve Ott would score his 100th career goal on the powerplay 8:36 into the final period, but the Sabres failed to tie it and took the loss in regulation.

  • Tyler Myers got a lot of love after the last game (arguably more than merited) and he followed it up with a relative dud, which the stats back up. He activated offensively a few times early, but overall, he was unimpressive in his own zone. We need to have a real conversation about this guy.
  • This space does not hesitate to rip on game presentation, but they’ve done an excellent job recognizing milestones over the PA. They even have graphics ready. It was good to see them make a big deal out of Ott’s 100th NHL goal. Now if they could only put the goal information in writing on the scoreboard, we’d be all set there.
  • By the way, the music was a mess. Absolutely way too relaxed and chill for a game as close as that. Can’t lull the crowd to sleep like that.
  • The boxscore isn’t kind to Miller, but hard to blame him much on the first period goals. Yes, as he said after the game, his positioning could’ve been better, but still, deflections. He’s the kind of guy who goes out of his way to take responsibility for things, which is incredibly admirable. But other than the Bjugstad snipe (which was gorgeous) he’s taking the heat a little more than he needs to. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Sabres defeat Devils in hockey game

460610051_slideReturning home from a two-game roadtrip where they got worked in two losses, the Sabres hoped the comforts of home would put them back on track. And they did.

Facing a Devils team playing the second half of a back-to-back, Buffalo, on the strength of a powerplay that helped them generate over half their shots and both goals, walked away with a 2-1 win at a sold out First Niagara Center.

Matt Moulson and Matt D’Agostini scored for Buffalo, as they won their fifth consecutive home game.

Moulson opened the scoring late in the second period, jamming home a loose puck from the top of the crease, his 14th of the year.

For D’Agostini, he finally tallied his first goal as a Buffalo Sabre, putting home a rebound with just over eight minutes remaining in the third period. Good work by Steve Ott and Linus Omark, who tallied his first point as a Sabre on the play, created the opportunity.

“I went in there and the puck was just laying there,” said D’Agostini.

The Sabres shockingly got a solid night out of Ryan Miller, who made 21 saves and got the win. Only a Michael Ryder goal on a two-man advantage blemished his outing.

Buffalo is now off until Tuesday, when they face Carolina in the second game of a three game homestand.

  • Tyler Myers should probably get suspended for that hit on Dainius Zubrus in the third period.
  • I hate that Mike Weber or anyone else has to fight after a big hit. It’s ok to hit people. If it’s a cheap shot, knock yourself out, but a good clean hit should be respected and not punished.
  • For everyone in Buffalo that wants to see Ryan Miller start in Sochi, you better start making a bigger deal out of it or it won’t happen. Not one “U-S-A” chant in the first game since the roster was announced, even after multiple impressive saves. Gotta start getting to word out, people.
  • Zenon Konopka was not overly impressive in 11:37 making his Sabres debut. Whatever. We’ll see where it goes.
  • John Scott took a penalty, not for being John Scott, or for being targeted by officials, but for doing something against the rules. It happens. Not everything makes him a victim. Read the rest of this entry

Delayed Overreactions: Sabres defeat Coyotes in ridiculous finish

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To quote Vin Scully, who called Kirk Gibson’s unlikely home run in the 1988 World Series, “I don’t believe what I just saw.”

Pretty much.

On what was and will be one of the most incredibly ridiculous goals you’ll ever see, the shorthanded Buffalo Sabres defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in overtime. Mark Pysyk got credited for the winner as the puck was carried over the goal line by Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.

Reaching for a rebound from his own shot, Pysyk’s effort was deflected up in the air above Smith, and it fell directly into his waistline. Not knowing where the puck was, Smith retreated to his goal, unaware that the winning goal was stick on his backside. That’s a turn of events that could be referred to as “unlikely,” but that definitely happened.

The Sabres were able to get the win despite playing with an incomplete roster, only dressing 16 skaters thanks to a flu bug making its way around the locker room. One of those 16 was John Scott, and another was Drew Stafford, who was ejected mid-way through the second period. Somehow, the home team made it happen.

This was all made possible by a late goal by Tyler Ennis to tie the game at 1. Buffalo dominated play for much of the third period, and a miscue at the Phoenix blueline by the Coyotes allowed Zemgus Girgensons to find Ennis alone in front to beat Smith.

“It’s a great win for the guys,” said Ennis. “We beat some adversity today.”

Ryan Miller made 36 saves to get the win for the Sabres, and was strong in the first period as Phoenix outshot Buffalo 15-3. He was only beaten by a questionably-high deflection from Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal early in the second period.

“These are the kind of things that weren’t happening for us,” said Miller. “It’s a little bit of a Christmas present for us, and we’ll take it.”

More like a Festivus miracle.

  • I commented after the first period how impressed I was with Tyler Myers defensively. I thought that might have been his best 20 minutes of the season. The next 40-plus? Back to unimpressive Tyler he went.
  • That goal went “viral,” as the kids call it on the internet, and for once the Sabres actually got on SportsCenter and Deadspin and dumb stuff like that. It was a dumb goal that brought a lot of brilliance, especially Harrison Mooney’s Grammy Award worthy “Goal In A Butt”. So much fun, guys.
  • Girgensons has been fantastic lately, but I think people need to realize he’s only 19. Let’s not build him up into something he’s not yet. Temper the enthusiasm a bit. I know there’s not much to be excited about with this team, but you run the risk of it getting to his head. That’s dangerous (see: Myers, Tyler) and we do not want to ruin anything about this kid. He’s the real deal. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Sabres beat Sens in shootout

454972815_slideThe Sabres only needed one goal to get themselves a point tonight. No one said it had to be pretty, and they ended up snagging two.

Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons scored once in regulation and the shootout winner as the Sabres defeated the Ottawa Senators by a 2-1 final.

After falling behind early in the first period on a Milan Michalek goal, Buffalo tied it in the second as Girgensons threw a shot from the goal line into Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner’s skates. Despite appearing to take the lead later in the period on a delayed penalty, the game would end 1-1 after 60 minutes as the go-ahead goal was disallowed.

Matt Moulson, Brian Flynn, Steve Ott and Girgensons scored for Buffalo in the shootout, which last ten rounds before Ryan Miller stopped Erik Condra to end it.

Miller made 35 saves on the night, as he won his first game against a team other than Toronto since Ted Nolan took over as interim head coach.

  • I figured there was going to be a lighter crowd, and I took some pictures early in the game and posted them on twitter, but it did fill in a bit. The secondary market was extremely soft and the weather likely scared some people off, but there were no more than 14,000 in-house tonight.
  • Got into multiple arguments on twitter, but the disallowed goal was not a bad call. The referee reserves the right to determine what constitutes possession when it comes to blowing play dead on a delayed penalty. Did it work out for the Sabres? No. But the rules are written poorly in terms of language defining possession. That’d be nice if it were clearer.
  • Here’s the official statement from the league on the disallowed goal: Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Sabres win in overtime, beating Leafs still super fun

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Don’t know what it is about Toronto, but I don’t think anyone cares.

The Buffalo Sabres moved to 13-1-1 in their last 15 visits from the Maple Leafs as Christian Ehrhoff scored 38 seconds into sudden death to give the home team a 3-2 overtime victory in front of throngs of visiting fans.

With a late penalty to Toronto’s Paul Ranger expiring, Ville Leino won an offensive zone faceoff and the puck was worked back to Ehrhoff at the top of the slot. Not long after, the puck was behind Leafs goalie James Reimer and Buffalo had their sixth win in 27 league games.

“I didn’t have the time to do a big wind-up there,” said Ehrhoff “I saw the opening between the legs and I put one through there.”

Matt Moulson and Luke Adam scored for Buffalo, who twice came back from one-goal deficits in the second period.

Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin scored for Toronto, who got 26 saves from Reimer.

“It’s good to see the guys get rewarded for doing the right things,” said Ryan Miller, who finished with 22 saves in the win.

  • Leino, who is a frequent target of derision, was fantastic tonight. Drew the penalty late in regulation and made the key play on both the opening goal and the overtime winner. Really, really good game from him.
  • Two of Buffalo’s three regulation-and-overtime wins (ROW) have come in the two visits from the Maple Leafs.
  • Matt D’Agostini gets the nice +1 on his stat line in his Sabres debut, as he set the screen on Reimer for the game winner. He was good, made some nice plays in the offensive zone and wasn’t a liability at all. Of course, since he didn’t score in his first game, he will be marked as a massive disappointment for life. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Sabres lose to Red Wings, look awful doing it

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For what really should be a momentous occasion in a club’s history, there wasn’t a lot of anticipation for this one. Rightfully, and unfortunately so.

The Buffalo Sabres unveiled their fifth third jersey in franchise history tonight at First Niagara Center, and the result of the game was a lot prettier than the result of the design process. Detroit, playing their third game in four nights, and without star center Pavel Datsyuk, handed the locally-based hockey franchise a 3-1 loss in front of 18,721.

Cody Hodgson opened the scoring, as Buffalo took a lead for the third game in a row. Those three games all ended in the same result: a loss.

Detroit tied the game on a Darren Helm goal just thirty seconds into the second period, and finally took the lead in the third period as Johan Franzen beat Ryan Miller with Tyler Myers in the penalty box. Losing the special teams battle was  the difference, as the Buffalo powerplay went 0-for-2.

“It’s just something we have to clean up, that’s for sure,” said captain Steve Ott, when asked about the team’s penchant for taking penalties. “It’s gonna cost us games like it did tonight.”

Red Wings veteran Daniel Alfredsson (of course) added the empty netter to seal it.

Miller was fantastic for the Sabres tonight, stopping 31 of 33 shots and doing all that he could to keep the game close.

Buffalo has now lost four in a row, and hosts Montreal on Wednesday night.

  • Even when the things got leaked/unveiled, there’s that “wait until you see them on the ice” crowd that withheld judgement. Well, they still looked like shit.
  • Darren Helm’s goal was pretty. Shook Tyler Ennis’ coverage in front of the net, and whipped a quick backhand past Miller. You’d like to see more goals like that and less like Franzen’s ugly one.
  • Matt Moulson is a few games like this away from showing up on a milk carton.
  • Very few people in the crowd wearing the new jersey. Shockingly, there didn’t seem to be much interest in buying it. But great job, Sabres creative team! (Editor’s note: previous statement is sarcasm. Please do not take seriously. It was meant to be taken as a facetious remark. In no way is this an honest compliment to the Buffalo Sabres organization and/or their creative services department.) Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Heavily favored Sabres start out hot, but fall to Avalanche

185376342_slideThis season’s gonna be fun.

Not in the way of “these guys are so good, I can’t believe it”-fun, but in the way of “this team is a mess and I don’t know what’s going to happen next”-fun. And as a fan, the least you can ask for out of your team is being interesting. And this team is just that.

Facing a red-hot Colorado team in their own rink, the Sabres, still winless at home, decided to mail it in for the first 20 minutes and couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole they were in. Buffalo ended the night with a 4-2 loss to the visiting team formerly known as the Nordiques.

It wasn’t even about how the game ended, it was about how it started.

Colorado took a 2-0 lead before the Sabres even registered a shot on goal, which didn’t happen until 14:09 into the game.

“A lot of our vets are out there to start a hockey game,” said coach Ron Rolston after the game. “I think preparation is the first thing you look at, and focus on what we need to do early on in the game.”

Buffalo was outshot 14-3 in the opening period, and after giving up a powerplay goal to Matt Duchene in the first minute of the second period, they actually made it a game.

Cody Hodgson ripped a slap shot past Colorado’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere to make it 3-1, which was later answered by Avs center Paul Stastny to make it 4-1.

Marcus Foligno would score in the third to make it 4-2, but Buffalo’s scoring struggles continued despite holding a 27-12 shots advantage over the final 40 minutes.

“We just need to come out better,” said Hodgson. “I don’t know what else to say.”

Neither do we.

  • Nikita Zadorov, playing his first NHL game, looked solid. Played like a veteran. The talk went from getting him a game before the puck was dropped to talking about giving him more minutes after the buzzer went. He did look good, but considering the rest of the blueline is a dumpster fire, it’s all relative. Let’s not ruin this kid for playing within himself. Look at the guy wearing #57. Develop him right.
  • That cheer when Stafford put the Sabres’ first shot on goal was loud.
  • Ryan Miller didn’t talk after the game, again. I don’t find that to be a big deal, but it’s interesting because making the decision not to is as much of a statement as anything he’d say. He can’t be happy with the way things are going. He’s not the problem. He’s playing well, and it’s not enough. Read the rest of this entry
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