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Preseason Overreactions: Visiting Leafs defeat Sabres in surprisingly entertaining exhibition

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.45.41 PMNothing better than a Friday night game featuring two regional rivals, right? Maybe not for the 3,000-ish fans who probably ate their tickets and didn’t come to First Niagara Center, but for everyone who came to see some hockey, it was a treat.

Beginning a home-and-home set in Buffalo, the Toronto Maple Leafs knocked off the Sabres in a very heated preseason tilt by a score of 6-4.

Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth had an awful game, surrendering four goals on his first seven shots against and struggling on his way to the loss. In his first action of the preseason, Neuvirth finished with 16 saves.

“I was having a tough time finding the puck tonight,” Neuvirth said after the game.

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The game was noticeably chippy, as three-ish fights broke out (not sure Tyler Myers and Toronto’s Sam Carrick going at it really counted) as Drew Stafford, Chris Stewart and Cody McCormick all picked up majors for fisticuffs.

Buffalo’s offense did have some life, most notably the stick of Chris Stewart, who tallied twice in the first period. The Sabres also got goals from Jake McCabe and Cody McCormick, but they trailed for the final 44:39 of the game.

James Reimer made 34 saves for the Leafs, as these two teams meet again on Sunday at Air Canada Centre.

  • Safe to bet that Jhonas Enroth has a good chance to roll into the season as the team’s starting goaltender. Just a thought.
  • Hell of a game out of Chris Stewart. His backhand goal early was fantastic, a great shot from that position. If he shows he can be a solid power forward for this team, that’ll be great for when they deal him before the deadline.
  • Was honestly surprised at how few Leafs fans were in attendance. Friday night, cheap tickets… what’s the excuse? Traffic?
  • Tim Schaller made his quasi-debut for the Sabres, and he probably earned himself a recall at some point during the season. Numbers game may force him out to start the season, but he’s the kind of guy Ted Nolan is going to adore.

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, Preseason Edition: Sabres fall to Maple Leafs in really, really long shootout

Losing isn’t something the Sabres had done yet. Things were going so well. Optimism was creeping in.

Then the third period of the team’s fourth preseason game started.

Blowing a two goal lead in the final ten minutes of regulation, the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t beat James Reimer in time to save the win as they fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The game was decided by a shootout after a spirited overtime, and it took 30 (yes, 30) shooters to decide the winner. Jhonas Enroth was beaten by Jay McClement in the 15th round of the shootout, and Reimer stopped all 15 shooters he faced.

“I thought our game for 50 minutes was really, really strong,” said Sabres forward Steve Ott. “The last ten minutes, we cost ourselves.”

Enroth was solid in net for Buffalo, stopping 32 of 34 shots in addition to 14 of 15 in the shootout.

The Sabres got goals from Mark Pysyk and Marcus Foligno, while Jamie Devane (sounds fake to me) and McClement scored for Toronto. Reimer made 38 saves for the Leafs.

These teams meet again tomorrow night in Toronto, in what should be the last chance to impress for at least a few players.

  • Brian Flynn really picked up his game from the other night, and his hustle gave him a few chances to make a mark. He needs another game like this to really make his case to stick around with a guy like Zemgus Girgensons in a good spot to make the team.
  • People really hate Patrick Kaleta. Man, he was running around trying to hit anything the first few shifts of the game.
  • Jamie McBain had a pretty solid game, but I’m not sure he’s going to make the team still. It’s obvious they were really trying to give him a solid look, as he had a team high 27:02 TOI, but I think that shows more that he’s on the fence than that he’s got a spot. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 31/48 Edition: Wait, I thought this team was bad?

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Sabres forward Steve Ott did score the game deciding goal, but he did a better job summing up the night in the locker room after the game.

“That’s fun,” said Ott.

Buffalo came back from an early 2-0 deficit to tie the game at three before the end of the second and held on in the third to get the game to overtime before they eventually downed the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5-4 shootout win in front of 19,070 raucous fans, in both teams’ colors, at First Niagara Center.

“Honestly that’s easy energy you can take from the crowd,” added Ott.

The game got off to a wild start as Buffalo John Scott dropped the gloves with Toronto’s Fraser McLaren as Leafs tough guy Colton Orr tried picking a fight with Sabres pest Patrick Kaleta. Orr was booted from the game and Buffalo started off with a four minute powerplay which they failed to capitalize on.

Toronto would open up the scoring with two goals 1:16 apart just minutes later, beating Ryan Miller twice on five shots in the opening period. Tyler Ennis scored late in the period to cut the deficit to one.

The physical play continued to escalate throughout the game, and Toronto regained their two-goal lead on Mikhail Grabovski goal about nine minutes in. Buffalo would storm back on goals 0:45 apart by Marcus Foligno and Jason Pominville to tie the game, and then take the lead early in the third on a Christian Ehrhoff powerplay goal.

Leafs leading scorer Nazem Kadri would tie the game six minutes later, and except for a lot of hitting, the game was unresolved through 65 minutes of play.

“It was nasty and chippy and that’s the way it should be,” said Foligno.

Drew Stafford tallied in round 2 of the skills competition and Ott would score the shootout winner as Miller stopped 5 of 6 Leafs shooters, complementing his 30 saves through regulation and overtime.

Buffalo, with the win, sits just four points out of 8th place with 17 games remaining. Just when you thought they were out, they suck you right back in.

  • John Scott, as much as he gets bashed, may have had his most effective game as a Sabre in 3:02 of ice time. He was able to bait Leafs forward Phil Kessel into a coincidental minor, which is a trade you take any day. And he had some fun after the game.
  • Marcus Foligno always seems to step his game up when they play Toronto. Not just on the scoresheet (has six points in six career games) but as a physical presence. Makes you wish they played the Leafs more often.
  • The drumline in the arena looks dumber and dumber each game. Yes, having someone lead chants is great until they stop, and then everyone else does. You’re creating sheep instead of putting the onus on the fans to make their own noise. Band-aid over a bullet wound. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 2/48 Edition: Sabres beat Leafs, Earth orbits around Sun

20130121 pominvilleLast season, the Toronto Maple Leafs accomplished something incomprehensible: they swept the season series with the Sabres at the Air Canada Centre.

Luckily, we’ve had enough of that shit.

In the first of two meetings in the center of the hockey universe, Buffalo, fresh off a season-opening win over the Flyers, headed up the Queen Elizabeth Way and defeated the Leafs by a score of 2-1 in Toronto’s home opener.

Buffalo jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Cody Hodgson and American hero Jason Pominville. A late powerplay goal by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, with the teams skating 6-on-4 made it close, but the Sabres held on.

Ryan Miller was strong in net for Buffalo, stopping 34 of 35 shots. For the second game in a row, he was also the beneficiary of not one but two disallowed goals. In 42 career games against Toronto, Miller now has a record of 28-14.

Thomas Vanek also registered an assist on Pominville’s game winner to retain the NHL scoring lead with six points.

Buffalo sits at 2-0-0 on the season, and next heads to Carolina for the first game of a home-and-home Thursday in Raleigh. Toronto, well, they’re still struggling with that expansion to a 12-team league.

  • At some point, someone other than Vanek, Pominville or Hodgson is going to have to create a goal. They’ve been in on everything so far, and it’s not a concern yet, but it will be soon.
  • Ryan Miller looked locked in most of the night, and made some very good saves. Overall, he seemed completely in control.
  • John Scott with 1:58 of ice time and a fight, which, was alright I guess. After two games, he’s spent 4:08 on the ice and 5:00 in the box. Again, this can’t last. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 80th Edition: Good thing the Leafs are awful, or this could’ve sucked.

It can’t ever be easy, can it?

Backs against the wall, playoff hopes on the line, hated rival in town, coming off a tough loss with chances to stay in the playoff picture fading faster than a Luke Schenn tee-shot, the Sabres were guaranteed to come out strong and make a statement.

There’s no guarantees, apparently. But who gives a shit if they come through at the end, right?

Spotting the clubhouse-bound Maple Leafs a 3-0 lead, the Buffalo Sabres made the most rousing of rousing comebacks, fighting back for a 6-5 overtime win. Derek Roy scored the game winner on a powerplay at 3:29 of overtime to tie Buffalo with Washington at 88 points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

An epic goal by Jordan Leopold with 1:53 remaining in regulation tied the game at five, erasing a two goal deficit in the final ten minutes.

“Today was one of those days where we could’ve found ourselves losing that game 5-0,” Leopold said. “It didn’t work out that way, because we decided to dig in and push it all the way.”

Alexander Sulzer scored twice, Roy added another and Tyler Ennis also scored for Buffalo, who at one point or another, trailed 3-0, 4-2 and 5-3 before sending it to overtime.

Ryan Miller, despite the five goals allowed on the statline, made several phenomenal saves in stopping 20 of 25 shots he faced to get the win.

Buffalo’s scant playoff prospects remain alive until Thursday, when a matchup with the Flyers in Philadelphia and a Florida/Washington battle await. Until then…

…Wow.

  • In the final 43:29 of the game (second, third, and overtime periods) Buffalo outshot Toronto 36-12. It shouldn’t have been as close as it was.
  • Marcus Foligno, the well deserved first star of the night, was an absolute force. Throwing huge hits, dropping the gloves, picking up assists and overall being a pain-in-the-ass for the Leafs. And remember, there was a debate over whether the team made a mistake giving up on Zack Kassian.
  • Alexander Sulzer came to the Sabres with the following career totals: 74 games played. One goal. Seven assists. In 15 games with Buffalo, three goals, five assists and a good chance to get a nice contract this offseason. Read the rest of this entry

3MI Roadtrip Recap: Toronto

(In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, well, go lay down on train tracks.)

Preamble

It’s about as close to being at the center of the hockey universe as you can get. Saturday night in Toronto. Hockey Night in Canada. Nationwide up north and on NHL Network in the United States.

The aura of the Air Canada Centre is something that has to be experienced. And it’s something that I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experience. Multiple times. Many, many times.

So when you look at the calendar and see Sabres at Leafs on a Saturday night at the end of March, two thoughts come to mind:

  1. Going to games in Toronto is awesome.
  2. The Leafs will be eliminated from playoff contention by then.

Which brought us to Saturday, which was as big as big games could get after losing Friday night to Pittsburgh.

So me and my buddy headed up north for the day. A nice afternoon of watching hockey at Real Sports Bar & Grill across the street from the ACC and some Saturday night hockey. Got standing room only tickets off StubHub at box office price. Can’t beat it.

Sabres @ Maple Leafs
Viewed at: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

If you want to write the book called “How to fuck up your playoff chances in a game you should win,” I’ve got a suggestion for what you can include.

Making the short trip north for a showdown with a free-falling Toronto Maple Leafs, who came into Saturday riding an 11-game winless streak at home, who happened to be starting their fourth-string goalie because their third-string goalie got shelled the game before, Buffalo proceeded to back away from any decent shot at a playoff spot.

Unable to beat Ben Scrivens or shut down a struggling offense, the Buffalo Sabres dropped a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the golf-course-bound Leafs in Toronto.

Ryan Miller was unable to rebound from a rough outing the night before, giving up four goals for the second straight night. He made 25 saves in the loss.

“We scored some goals tonight, so I didn’t need to be perfect,” Miller said. “But I needed to make another save or two.”

Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino, and Drew Stafford scored for Buffalo, who never led at any point. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 43rd Edition: “It was an important game for us.”

On the verge of a seven-game road trip and two and half weeks away from First Niagara Center, the Sabres desperately needed to end the month’s home schedule on a high note.

It wasn’t very high, but high enough.

Thanks to two first period goals from the team’s fourth line, solid goaltending, and the team’s leading scorer coming through as usual, Buffalo was able to secure a split to the home-and-home with Toronto, as they pulled out a 3-2 win at First Niagara Center.

Matt Ellis opened the scoring at 1:05, banking in a shot from behind the goal line. The rare fortunate bounce was followed up by Gaustad ripping a wrister past Jonas Gustavsson less than three minutes later.

“We haven’t got many of those,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff admitted in his press conference, referring to the team’s bad luck of late.

Buffalo’s two early goals were answered by the Maple Leafs before the end of the first, as they scored two goals in just 2:46 to even the score.

The tie was broken with just over five minutes remaining in the second, as Thomas Vanek threaded a beautiful pass to Jason Pominville at the back door for the All-Star’s 15th of the season. The Leafs defense failed to notice the captain sneak around the goal to the backside of the crease.

“We should’ve had the coverage in front of the net,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said after the game.

Ryan Miller made 24 saves for the win, and allowed two goals or less in consecutive games for the first time since October. Jonas Gustavsson allowed three goals on 25 shots to a team he shutout a few days before.

The game wasn’t without the reemergence of the story of the season, as Brayden McNabb left the game with what could be a concussion. Ruff reported that he did in fact visit the “quiet room” and is out for tomorrow’s game on Long Island.

  • Getting goals from guys like Paul Gaustad and Matt Ellis is the difference between this being a competitive team and an average team. That depth in offense is crucial. The second and third lines didn’t contribute any themselves. Thanks to Gaustad, Ellis and Patrick Kaleta (two assists) chipping in, they got two points.
  • I’ll say there were probably a solid 9-10,000 Leafs fans in the building.
  • Derek Roy came out extremely strong and overall had a pretty solid game. He was doing good things with the puck down low, created a couple chances too. Read the rest of this entry

3MI Roadtrip Recap: Toronto

(In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, well, go find a bridge.)

Preamble

It really is the center of the hockey universe. Whether we like it or not.

Living in Buffalo, you get used to Toronto being “right there.” Honestly, it’s a nice perk. I hate Canada in general with a passion, but, to be truthful, I love going to Toronto. It’s beautiful.

I’ve made a habit of heading north to catch Sabres games since the lockout. Thanks to the Sabres’ ownership of the Leafs on the scoreboard since then, it’s been a habitually great trip. Heading into Tuesday, I had attended 15 Sabres/Leafs games at Air Canada Centre, with Buffalo winning 13 of them. Really. When you can leave an opposing arena on a winning note, it makes the trip much more enjoyable.

A couple weeks ago, I found a few standing room only tickets on StubHub for a reasonable $49.99 each. You read that right. Those damn fees turned into $60 each, but I’m a huge fan of the SRO areas at the ACC. You basically stand right at the top of the 300 level, with a birds-eye view of the ice and some space to breathe. Some would look at a $60 ticket that doesn’t include a seat and question it, but I don’t. It’s Toronto. It’s a different world.

So I headed north with some friends eager to see another win. Um, well…

Sabres @ Maple Leafs
Viewed at: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

You can’t win if you don’t score.

Thanks to an impotent offense and 60 minutes without a single powerplay, the Sabres had no chance to win in a 2-0 loss to the Maple Leafs.

First period goals by Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski were plenty of cushion as Jonas Gustavsson got the shutout for Toronto. Ryan Miller made 26 saves in the loss.

Buffalo was in rough shape early, as Thomas Vanek played just four minutes due to illness and left the game during the first period. Without their leading scorer, the Sabres struggled.

“We need to get one and it will make the boys in here feel good and hopefully we can string them on from there,” Sabres forward Drew Stafford said. “We’ve got a great opportunity in the rematch in a couple days.”

Opportunities are only useful if they’re converted.

  • The officiating was horrendous both ways. The only penalties called, save for the Patrick Kaleta charging penalty, all required tangible evidence to prompt a call. Stafford put the puck in the crowd. Then Stafford pushed a guy into the net and knocked it off. Then Mike Weber put the puck over the glass. That’s weak.
  • Love the atmosphere at Air Canada Centre, but honestly, that was the weakest vibe I’ve experienced there. Crowd was absolutely dead. If I ranked all the games I’ve gone to there in order of quality of atmosphere, that one was 16 out of 16. Shitty intro video doesn’t help get the crowd going either. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 34th Edition: Sabres fall to Leafs

The NHL shuts down for the holidays at this time every year. It’s a safe bet Sabres fans are looking forward to the two days off as much as the players are.

It was another excruciating result for Buffalo, falling 3-2 to Toronto and losing Thomas Vanek to injury midway through the game. Vanek is reportedly day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Ryan Miller was fairly solid, making 28 saves in the loss. He was spectacular in the first period and seemed to get hung out to dry on a couple occasions.

Jason Pominville and Derek Roy scored for Buffalo, who have just one win in their last six.

The Sabres took a second period lead as Pominville opened the scoring, but the Leafs answered with two quick goals. Roy tied it early in the third period, but a goal by Nazem Kadri was enough to give Toronto the win.

Buffalo is now 1-4-1 in their last six games.

  • Seriously, if Thomas Vanek misses any time, or this is a nagging injury, this team is screwed.
  • Brayden McNabb had a really good game. Created a lot offensively, played solid defensively and made an impact physically. If he can string a few of these games together, he should be able to stay in the lineup even after Tyler Myers returns. Being the only defenseman who’s waiver-exempt, he’s going to have to play his way in every night.
  • After a strong debut, Derek Whitmore wasn’t as effective tonight. He didn’t seem to be on the same page as linemates Paul Szczechura and Drew Stafford. The team’s lack of centers renders any discussion about whether Whitmore or Szczechura is next to head down the 90 moot. Read the rest of this entry
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