As soon as the schedule came out, you looked for it. You looked for the opener, and it was home. Then you looked to see when the first game against Boston was.
Tonight, the demons await.
Ever since Milan Lucic brazenly ran over Ryan Miller in TD Garden, the cloud hanging over the franchise still has yet to dissipate. It’s not just they haven’t won there since that 6-2 loss, including two late season losses by scores of 3-1 and 4-3 that surely could’ve improved the Sabres’ playoff chances. It’s not just that they’re in the midst of a four game losing skid in a shortened season right now.
It’s that this franchise had all their faults exposed in one night and have yet to prove that they’re past it.
That game showed a lack of strength amongst the Sabres, not only to stand up for each other, but to avoid being rattled by it. Ryan Miller wasn’t the same for months. The skid the team went on was a major factor towards another year outside the top eight in the East.
And most notably, the changes to the roster since have all been with that game in mind.
It wasn’t long until they decided it was time for alleged-Lucic-in-waiting prospect Zack Kassian to fill that role in the NHL. They brought him up and saw what few had been trying to point out all along, that he wasn’t that guy. And then Marcus Foligno came up and filled the role better, so Kassian was dealt while his stock was still high.
And they traded Paul Gaustad, who was supposed to be the leader on the ice that night, but stood by idly by. He was gone at the deadline. It was clear that whatever toughness the Sabres thought they had, wasn’t enough. Or at least wasn’t the kind they needed.
It continued over the summer, with Steve Ott being acquired for talented center Derek Roy, and the “enforcer” John Scott being signed as a UFA.
There was no skirting around what this was supposed to be. This was supposed to make the team a group that didn’t allow things like the Lucic hit from ever happening.
So far, that hasn’t worked out well. Read the rest of this entry
After all, going into Rogers Centre, facing one of the best teams in the league in their own barn, after needing superb goaltending performances to win in Anaheim and San Jose?
Well, the offense decided to take care of that. Chasing Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo after just 5:10 and sitting on a 3-0 lead, Buffalo again weathered the storm, hanging on for a 5-3 win against the top team in the Western Conference.
Ville Leino scored twice in the opening 3:44 to give the Sabres a two goal lead, but it was a Brad Boyes goal, which had to be confirmed by review after play continuing, that chased Luongo and gave the visitors the cushion they’d never surrender.
“I told Ville after the game he’s a better shutdown guy than he is a scorer,” Ruff said. “Ever since we’ve put him in a shutdown line, he’s played well. I thought Ville played a great game. … He deserved what he got.”
Vancouver made it 3-1 late in the second, but Christian Ehrhoff’s goal early in the third proved to be the game winner. David Booth of the Canucks would add his second of the game to make it 4-2 soon after and former Sabre Zack Kassian scored his first as a Canuck with 2:46 left.
Tyler Ennis added an empty-netter with just over a minute left to seal the deal, and push Buffalo to 3-0-0 on their current four-game western trip.
The difference again was Ryan Miller, who stopped 32 of 35 shots and had his shutout streak stopped at 155:37. He held the fort as the Sabres were outshot 13-6 in the second period and 10-7 in the third.
The win sends Buffalo into Monday’s game in Winnipeg just two points back of the team that was ripped away from Atlanta, who heading into Sunday night’s Capitals/Flyers matchup, sit in the final playoff spot in the East.
- Good for Zack Kassian deciding to show up for the game against his former team and decide to start hitting people. He’s the kind of player who shows up when he wants to, and Vancouver will learn that soon enough. Credited with 7 hits, he now has 16 in three games with Vancouver (5.3 per game). In 27 games with Buffalo, he had 39 hits (1.4 per game). Don’t worry Canucks, he’ll disappear at some point soon.
- Same can be said for Marc-Andre Gragnani. Dude obviously played above and beyond against the team that gave up on him. Threw a whopping three hits against the Sabres, which is as many as he had in his last 11 games for Buffalo combined. If he would’ve played that motivated while he was here, he’d still be here. Was still a -2.
- Rough night for the top line. Jason Pominville finished -3 on the night (a season worst), and Thomas Vanek played just 12:09, just ten seconds more than Corey Tropp’s team low total. Both were held off the scoresheet again. The team’s winning, but man, they’re going to have to turn that around. Soon. Read the rest of this entry
Please make way for the sixth edition of “The Instigator Podcast” featuring Chris Ostrander of Two In the Box and myself.
This week’s episode breaks down the NHL Trade Deadline, and the Sabres moves. We talk how awesome it is to have Cody Hodgson, how awesome it is that Darcy got a 1st for Gaustad, all the other deals and play Plus/Minus.
While many fans were pulling out the pitchforks with 3:00 approaching, Regier was making moves, and while many might’ve been fine with the previous trade with Nashville, he had something up his sleeve.
Buffalo sent rookie Zack Kassian and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani to Vancouver in exchange for Calder candidate Cody Hodgson and German defenseman Alexander Sulzer.
Hodgson, 22, has 16 goals and 33 points in 63 games for the Canucks. He has worked his way into “rookie of the year” talk after playing eight games last season for Vancouver. He made 12 playoff appearances in their run to last season’s Stanley Cup Finals, picking up one assist.
Sulzer, 27, has played just 12 games this season. In 74 games with Vancouver, Florida and Nashville, he has one goal and seven assists. He takes over Gragnani’s role as the team’s #7 defenseman. The Kaufbeuren, Germany native has been on Team Deutschland for the last two Olympic games.
The return was solid, but it was still a shocking move for the Sabres to give up on Kassian, who’d quickly become a fan favorite with his alleged physical play.
In 27 games for Buffalo, Kassian picked up three goals and added four assists. His legendary physicality was largely absent, as he proved to be a more passive big body than people expected. He was the Sabres’ first pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, 13th overall.
Vancouver also gets Marc-Andre Gragnani, a once promising young defenseman who had fallen out of the lineup. In 44 games, the guy who had been penciled in as a powerplay quarterback had just one goal and 12 assists. He had been the team’s leading scorer in last year’s first round series against Philadelphia, and it was his overtime goal against Carolina in April 2011 that helped secure a playoff spot.
Hodgson is currently signed to his entry-level deal, which expires after next season at a $1,666,666 cap hit. Sulzer is a pending unrestricted free agent at $700,000 for the season.
Saturday night’s game in New York was previously referred to as a litmus test here on this blog. One would’ve been looking for an “A” or an “F” from the Sabres.
Call it a “C” because everyone is now left “clueless” when trying to determine where to go. Or you could use “C” for “clusterfuck.”
In their last outing before Monday’s NHL trade deadline, the Buffalo Sabres had a chance to gain more ground on that elusive 8th playoff spot as they travelled to New York to face the conference-best Rangers. They travelled home to Buffalo sitting six points out after a 3-2 overtime loss.
Drew Stafford scored both goals for Buffalo, who twice let one-goal leads slip away. Ryan Miller was sensational early on, stopping 25 shots on the night, but Buffalo couldn’t put the game away.
Ryan Callahan’s goal three minutes into overtime ended it, deking past a sprawled Patrick Kaleta and beating Miller.
“We could have won the game,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We need those extra points.”
Buffalo more than held their own against the team they’re likely battling for a chance to play against in round one of the playoffs. The Sabres have 20 games remaining to catch 8th place.
- Drew Stafford really needed a game like this. He’s had his chances all year, he just hasn’t been finishing. This game was a game where he was finishing.
- Andrej Sekera got big minutes in this game, and deservedly so. Dude had a great game and picked up an assist on the first Stafford goal. Play has been phenomenal of late.
- Patrick Kaleta had the worst game of his season. Earned himself a nice -3 rating and was burned on both the tying and winning goals. That line with Paul Gaustad and Nathan Gerbe has been relied upon to be up against team’s top lines and they’ve held their own. If they’re going to be put in that role, great, they’ve acquitted themselves by now. But if they’re playing the Rangers in the first round and they can’t contain New York’s studs, it’ll be a four and out. Read the rest of this entry
Here we are.
With only ten days until the NHL trade deadline, the Buffalo Sabres aren’t in the position they expected to be. No one expected this.
Buffalo now sits 15th in the Eastern Conference with 24 games remaining as they dropped a 4-3 shootout loss to Montreal at First Niagara Center on Friday night.
“I’m obviously very disappointed,” said coach Lindy Ruff after the game. “Embarassed.”
Twice in the first period, the Sabres grabbed leads on goals by Robyn Regehr and Tyler Myers. Both were cancelled by the Canadiens, who tied the game 2-2 with under 14 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
A second period goal by Montreal’s Chris Campoli gave the visitors what seemed like the deciding lead, but Tyler Ennis’ goal with just over eight minutes left in regulation was enough to get it to overtime.
Failing to capitalize on a truncated powerplay in overtime, Brad Boyes and Jason Pominville were both stopped by Carey Price in the shootout as Montreal’s Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais sealed the win.
“This is a game we should’ve put away but didn’t,” Ruff said.
Ryan Miller made 16 saves on 19 shots for the Sabres. With Carolina defeating San Jose, Buffalo is tied with the Hurricanes at 55 points, but sits last thanks to tiebreakers.
- Andrej Sekera had a phenomenal game. He was strong and responsible defensively and was a beast in the offensive zone. He made a great play to set up Robyn Regehr in the second period that Regehr couldn’t put away. Sekera was great early in the season, but hasn’t been as good the last couple months. Tonight was a step forward.
- Zack Kassian’s fumbling of that 3-on-1 rush in the second period that preceded the Campoli goal is a sign of a kid who isn’t confident enough to make a play himself or a passive guy being indecisive. The fact he’s a part of this awful team should be worrisome. He’s got a bright future if he develops right.
- The Sabres would have the third pick in the NHL Draft if the season ended today, and a 14.2% chance of winning the lottery to move up to #1 overall. Read the rest of this entry
It’s too bad that the Buffalo Sabres came into Philadelphia with playoff hopes nearing non-existent. It’s too bad that after heading to the locker rooms at the first intermission with a 2-0 lead, it didn’t last more than a few minutes into the second period. It’s too bad that Ryan Miller’s rare night off lasted just under 27 minutes.
Blowing a lead is bad, but that’s not what happened here. Surrendering a lead and walking into a woodchipper is more like it.
Early goals by Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, the only two players the team has been able to rely on all season, gave Buffalo an early lead en route to a 7-2 loss to the Flyers.
“This time of year, it’s unacceptable to get a lead like that and blow it,” Pominville said. “In the first, we had control, we generated chances and didn’t give up much. Then the momentum changed sides. That’s when you have to lock in and play better.”
Philadelphia climbed one back just 54 seconds into the second on a Max Talbot goal. Wayne Simmonds scored identical powerplay goals at 3:32 and 6:49 to cancel the lead and chase Jhonas Enroth. The Sabres didn’t get a boost from Ryan Miller, and the Flyers ran away with it.
Enroth stopped 15 of 18 shots in 26:49. Ryan Miller stopped 13 of 17 in relief.
14th place Buffalo now returns home to face Montreal Friday night at First Niagara Center.
- Ryan Miller had been long overdue for a night off. Jhonas Enroth wasn’t especially horrible, but the move was made to try to wake up the team, and it did nothing except ruin Miller’s time for rest. Now he’s probably going to go back in and start tomorrow night against Montreal. Enroth is gonna need more starts. They need to know what they have in him moving forward.
- I tweeted during the game that Brad Boyes should be playing 18 minutes a night until he’s dealt. He played 16:29. Give him a proper audition now that they’re headed nowhere.
- Can’t be said enough how well Jason Pominville has owned that captaincy. Team MVP. Read the rest of this entry
Hot off the presses is the big-budget production known as the fourth edition of “The Instigator Podcast” featuring Chris Ostrander of Two In the Box and myself.
In this episode, we talk splitting the weekend, leaving games early, “Hockey IQ” vs. “Sabres IQ”, healthy changes everything (featuring the Incredible Lance Diamond), some fan questions and play some “Plus/Minus” again.
With time winding down on the Sabres’ window to reinsert themselves into playoff contention, there are games that carry more weight than others. Facing a Tampa Bay team two points behind them in the standings, this was one of those games.
That window slid a bit further towards the closed position tonight.
Coming out flat after an inspiring win last night, in front of a lifeless crowd, the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t overcome another two goal deficit, falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 2-1 defeat.
Ryan Miller was solid in net, stopping 26 of 28 shots, but the goal support wasn’t quite there.
Jason Pominville’s third period goal, his 20th of the season, cut the deficit in half, but a late surge, including a shot off the crossbar by Christian Ehrhoff, couldn’t find an equalizer.
“We didn’t play well enough,” said head coach Lindy Ruff after the game.
With the night’s results, Buffalo falls to 14th in the East, eight points behind 8th place Toronto with a game in hand.
The Sabres’ unbeaten-in-regulation run came to an end after going 5-0-1 in their last six. They next face 6th place New Jersey at home on Tuesday.
- Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff were on the ice and out of position on both Tampa goals. They were eventually split up, and then reunited. Myers led the team in ice time with 23:02.
- Made mention of it on twitter during the game, but Tampa’s 2nd goal, the eventual game winner is a look at what could be soon. The goal, scored by Steven Stamkos, a #1 overall pick in the draft, was set up by Teddy Purcell, part of the return from trading pending a pending UFA at the deadline a couple years back. A few more losses, and the Sabres might be looking at having guys like that on their team next year.
- Thomas Vanek looked pretty good, and his efforts set up Pominville’s goal. His unreal goal count in his career against Tampa (23 goals in 26 career games coming in) was not augmented tonight. Read the rest of this entry
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, feel free to move to the Congo.)
Not often that you get opportunities to see your team play twice in one day. Well, sort of.
Couple weeks ago a buddy of mine alerted me that the Rochester Americans were playing a weekday morning game in Toronto. He suggested we go for the 11am start. Oh, and the Sabres were hosting the Bruins the same night. What are the odds? Luckily, getting a day off work was feasible, and it worked out great. Easy drive Sabres game didn’t start until 7:30. Plenty of time.
So we hit the road early and headed up the QEW to Toronto to see the Sabres’ minor-league affiliate play the Leafs affiliate to start one hell of a day.
Rochester Americans @ Toronto Marlies
Viewed at: Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Amerks have had their struggles with injuries. With Joe Finley out with a lower body injury, facing a Toronto team they’ve had tough games against this season, things didn’t get much better.
Getting an early start in front of thousands of school kids, the Rochester Americans lost 4-3 to the Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum.
Rookie Zack Kassian scored twice for Rochester, who now sits 9th in the AHL’s Western Conference.
Max Legault scored the other goal for the Amerks. David Leggio made 21 saves in the loss.
Rochester struggled offensively for much of the game, generating just ten shots through two periods. Kassian’s second goal came with under four seconds left.
- Kassian looked like the Kassian we know. Wasn’t throwing his weight around, but strong physically and good around the net. He’s not going to be the player everyone wants him to be. He’ll be good though.
- Made an effort to watch Dennis Persson as much as I could. Seems like he’s slowly becoming a bit steadier. His selection was always assumed to be under the intention that he’d grow into a Henrik Tallinder-type, and I can see it. Tallinder took his sweet time developing. Persson is progressing slowly as well. Not ready to say “bust” yet. He was -2 on Wednesday.
- If you’re into roadtrips, I highly recommend heading up to Ricoh for a game. Beautiful little AHL arena. Very intimate environment.
- Travis Turnbull is a guy that can be a mainstay on the Amerks for a few years. A joy to watch. Plays with a lot of intensity and spunk. Had a nice scrap with Toronto’s Kelsey Wilson. Read the rest of this entry