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Overreactions with 30 to go: Blues (good team) shutout Sabres (not good team) to kickstart new streak

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It had been a long two-plus weeks since the Sabres last graced the First Niagara Center ice with their presence. Coming off their first win of the calendar year, they faced a tough test in the visiting St. Louis Blues.

The result was predictable.

Despite a solid outing from goaltender Jhonas Enroth, the Blues jumped ahead on a second period Dmitrij Jaskin goal and that would be all they needed. St. Louis goaltender Jake Allen stopped all 23 shots he faced and picked up an assist as Sabres fell 3-0.

462811978_slideVladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz added third period goals to pad the final tally, but Buffalo was unable to cash anything. Buffalo’s Chris Stewart and Brian Flynn each had breakaways at points in the game that weren’t finished, as the Blues looked like an elite team as they moved into a temporary tie for the best point total in the National Hockey League.

Enroth would stop 27 shots to claim his 20th loss of the season.

The Sabres continue their homestand Saturday as Lindy Ruff and the Dallas Stars visit First Niagara Center.

  • Nice of the Sabres to do a little tribute to former captain Steve Ott in his first visit since being traded before last season’s deadline. Not everyone deserves a tribute, but he was the team’s captain. That honor deserves respect. Also, bonus points for having it say “Thank You Steve” not “Thank You Ott.”
  • Speaking of former Sabres, look at legendary defenseman Chris Butler getting on the scoresheet with an assist on the winner.
  • The time of game was officially 2 hours and 14 minutes. It went quick. Only three minor penalties, and only 49 total face-offs. Get in, get out, get a loss. Read the rest of this entry
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Overreactions with 38 to go: A banner night for Hasek is a loss

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It’s been a rough year.

If you’re a Sabres fan, it’s been rough. If you’re a Buffalo Sabres season ticket holder, it’s been even rougher. Every game is draining, both emotionally and financially. It’s long been discussed (here on this blog and increasingly elsewhere) that the organization tends to be sloppy with things like marketing and game presentation, but this was going to be a special night.

It was underwhelming.

After a short, subdued ceremony to honor the greatest goaltender in franchise history and possibly the greatest player to ever wear the uniform, the Sabres dropped their eighth in a row, falling by a 3-1 score to the visiting Detroit Red Wings.

Mike Weber’s second period goal, his first of the season, would be the only offense the Sabres could muster.

Buffa461501680_slidelo fell behind midway through the opening period, as Darren Helm scored shorthanded to give the Wings a 1-0 lead. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar would add second period goals and the result was never in doubt.

Czech native Michal Neuvirth made 27 saves for the Sabres, while fellow Czech Petr Mrazek got the win for Detroit, stopping 25 shots.

One game on the schedule stood out as important for the fans. Tonight was that one game.

The game wasn’t thrilling. Little about the night was.

  • Seriously, the organization should be embarrassed about that. You don’t retire numbers often. This organization has arguably retired some numbers undeservedly. There isn’t a chance to do this better next year. There isn’t anyone close to being a candidate right now. It could be decades before we do this again. This should’ve been a seminal moment in team history, and it was completely underwhelming.
  • Little fanfare for Zac Dalpe’s Sabres debut. Honestly didn’t even notice him on the ice until near the end of the first period.
  • Whoever designed the patches the players wore tonight needs to take a lap. Uninspired and weak design. You’re retiring a number, why is the logo the primary focus of the patch?
  • Twenty years from now, the Sabres will be hit with a rash of injuries and will recall Matt Ellis from the Rochester Americans. The guy will never go away. That’s not an insult or anything. Ellis just seems like he’s always around and he never really hurts you. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 48 to go: Sabres can’t hold on to late lead, fall to Bruins in OT

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After the previous night’s debacle, heading into Boston against a rested Bruins team, one would’ve reasonably expected a decisive result against the favor of the Sabres. Buffalo didn’t go down easy. In fact, they almost had a heck of a win.

Despite tired legs, and losing both their captain Brian Gionta and dreamboat winger Marcus Foligno in the first period, the increasingly depleted Sabres surrendered a late lead before allowing the extra-time winner in a 4-3 overtime defeat in Boston.

Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s second of the game with 1:31 remaining forced the extra session, and it was Loui Eriksson who netted the winner at 2:14 of overtime to hand Buffalo the loss.

Hamilton opened the scoring in the first period, but second period markers by Sabres defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Rasmus Ristolainen would give Buffalo a brief lead. “Brief” would be exactly one minute, as Boston’s Chris Kelly answered Ristolainen’s goal exactly a minute later, tipping in a Zdeno Chara point shot.

460762632_slideThe Sabres would take the lead in the third on New Hampshire native Tim Schaller’s first National Hockey League goal. Schaller, recalled from Rochester last night, beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask on a wraparound early in the period. Hamilton would tie it later on in the period.

Jhonas Enroth stopped 33 shots in the overtime loss, as he filled in for an ill Michal Neuvirth, who was expected to start.

  • Sabres coach Ted Nolan said after the game that Marcus Foligno would be out for a while. It’s assumed he hurt himself in the fight with Boston’s Matt Bartkowski. Sort of a shame he’ll be out, as he’d been on a pretty solid run of good play of late.
  • The Bartkowski hit on Gionta is one of those predatory hits that show a lack of respect between players. You don’t line a guy up like that to get control of the puck. You line him up to take advantage of his prone position. There may not be any supplemental discipline, as he already was assessed a major and game misconduct. Just a scummy hit.
  • Good for Tim Schaller, scoring his first NHL goal in front of his family and close to home. He said on the postgame that he went to Bruins games all the time growing up. Dream come true for the kid, who has earned his looks for the Sabres this season.
  • At what point should an adult ask people to stop calling him “Dougie?” Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 49 to go: Avalanche bury crumbling Sabres

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With pregame rumors of a Johan Larsson call-up circulating, there was speculation as to what could possibly necessitate the move. Turns out Matt Moulson’s late scratch due to being sick would be what is referred to as a “harbinger.”

Missing their top left winger, and losing Patrick Kaleta due to illness and Tyler Myers to injury, the Sabres were on their heels all night and dropped a 5-1 decision to the visiting Colorado Avalanche.

In a fitting tribute to the discourse around the team this season, 2006 first overall pick Erik Johnson took a pass from 2013 first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon and beat Jhonas Enroth just 2:23 into the game.

It was all downhill from there. Colorado’s Cody McLoed would score shorthanded five minutes later. That 2-0 lead would hold through the third period, when Alex Tanguay and John Mitchell would score to put the game away.

Larsson made his whirlwind night memorable, burying his first career NHL goal with 6:33 left to make it 4-1. Tanguay would add an empty netter and the Sabres fell 5-1 for the second straight game.

Enroth made 22 saves in his first loss since December 4th. Calvin Pickard stopped 28 of 29 for the Avs.

  • Good for Johan Larsson to finally pick up his first NHL goal. Tonight was his 34th National Hockey League game. He’s not supposed to be some elite goalscorer, but at some point the points had to come. Nice way to cap off the day for him.
  • Ted Nolan brushed off the idea that it could be mumps that ailed Moulson and Kaleta. Could just be a flu bug, but hey, who knows. He’s not a doctor.
  • Missing Tyler Myers for an extended period of time will really aid the tank. Not so much in the way the team will be worse per se, but that guys like Andre Benoit and Andrej Meszaros might have to get more ice time.
  • The Sabres did a great job with the Make-A-Wish kid who dropped the puck for the ceremonial face-off. The kid was in the locker room helping interview players after the game. Really cool experience for him.  Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 62 to go: Sabres beat Sharks (again) on wild weather day in WNY

459205408_slideIt’s fairly common for the region to figuratively groan every time Western New York gets attention for bad weather. It happens, but the locals will always argue that the summers are real nice and it snows more in other places and the people are great and yada, yada, yada… but with a national television audience tuning in, it was a night about the weather.

With up to five feet of snow (accurate) burying parts of metropolitan Buffalo, including areas just minutes from First Niagara Center, the Buffalo Sabres continued their dominance of the San Jose Sharks, picking up a 4-1 win in front of an estimated crowd of about 6,200. It was the Sabres’ eighth straight win against the Sharks, who haven’t won in Buffalo since 2005.

“It was strange at the beginning, but I think the people that were here certainly gave us a boost and how hard they fought even to be here,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan.

Brian Gionta scored twice for Buffalo, his first two goals as a Sabre. Model American and hockey god Brian Flynn added a goal and an assist, while Nic Deslauriers added the opening goal for Buffalo.

Michal Neuvirth stopped all ten shots he faced, but had to leave the game after the opening period with a lower-body injury. Jhonas Enroth entered the game in relief and stopped 19 of 20 San Jose shots to pick up the win.

Brent Burns scored for the Sharks, who account for two of Buffalo’s three regulation wins this season.

  • The injury forced goaltending coach Arturs Irbe, a former Shark who’s been out of the NHL for a decade, to suit up as an emergency goaltender in case Enroth went down. Irbe spent five seasons with the Sharks, including their inaugural season in 1991-92.
  • Buffalo finished with fourteen shots on goal, their third lowest total of the season. The 30-14 shot difference was near identical to the 30-15 shot totals in the Sabres’ win over the Sharks in San Jose last month.
  • I tweeted it before the game, but that’ll be one of the more memorable games of this season and maybe of this whole rebuild. I haven’t seen the building that empty since the bankruptcy days over a decade ago. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 63 to go: Sabres crush Leafs in convincing and hilarious fashion

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Any time the Toronto Maple Leafs are in town, it’s dreaded. Thousands of thousands of the worst, most obnoxious jackasses that come through the doors of First Niagara Center all season routinely leave their mark.

Tonight, they left jerseys on the ice. They left beer cans. And they left without two points.

The Buffalo Sabres, with a home crowd in Leafs gear booing them as they took the ice, played their best and most complete game of the season. With a 6-2 win, the throngs of visitors and their opponent went home angry and disgusted.

It was great. Really. Really great.

Zemgus Girgensons scored twice and Buffalo got rock solid goaltending from Michal Neuvirth, stopping 32 of 34 Toronto shots.

“It’s hard enough when you don’t win games,” said Girgensons. “Today was absolutely different how we played.”

Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson and Tyler Myers also scored for the Sabres.

“It was a fun one,” said Ennis.

David Clarkson and Phil Kessel scored for Toronto, who lost to the Buffalo Sabres.

  • Buffalo registered a season-high 35 shots on goal. The previous high was 32, twice. They registered 30+ just three times before tonight, and won none of those games.
  • Brian Flynn on that second goal was super dreamy. Tyson Strachan ripped the puck around the wall and Flynn took off immediately, beats Reimer to the puck and is cool as the other side of the pillow in finding Girgensons in the high slot. Great play. Super duper.
  • Understated with the goalscoring output is how well Neuvirth played. Made some huge saves early to keep the Leafs off the board until late in the second period. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 79 to go: Quack Attack smacks Sabres

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With all the children off for Columbus Day, and a hastily organized “Kids Day” set for the Sabres’ matinee matchup against the visiting Anaheim Ducks, one might expect a light, fun atmosphere.

Yeah, not so much.

With the announced crowd of 18,912 watching, the Sabres were thoroughly and completely hammered by the Ducks, with Anaheim handing Buffalo a 5-1 loss in a game that was never close.

Starting with Andre Benoit’s penalty 18 seconds into the game, the Ducks rolled, outshooting the Sabres 17-3 in the opening period and 44-12 in the game. Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth, making his season debut and looking sharp early, never really had a chance, making 39 saves.

“Five goals against, that’s a lot,” said Neuvirth. “That’s too much. Tomorrow’s a new day, and we all gotta be better tomorrow.”

The Ducks got goals from Corey Perry, Matt Beleskey and Ryan Kesler, as well as the first two of William Karlsson’s NHL career.

Tyler Ennis scored in the third period to make it 5-1, his second goal of the season after tallying in Saturday’s loss to Chicago. Matt Moulson and Drew Stafford picked up assists on that goal, while the rest of the team was pointless, some in more ways then one.

Buffalo heads to Carolina to face the Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

  • I think it’s pretty damn awesome that the Pegulas shelled out the cash to buy 90,000 t-shirts to give out between yesterday’s Bills game and today’s Sabres game. Giveaways are cool. Giveaways that are unsponsored are an effort. Great gesture. Shame that there were a couple thousand unclaimed shirts draped all over the seating bowl.
  • Usually Ted Nolan seems very positive after games. He’ll say some things to show he’s not happy, but in the end he’ll have an optimistic spin on it. After the game, he was as pissed and upset as I’ve seen him since he came in last November. He claimed there would be lineup changes, but there’s only so many moves he can make. Marcus Foligno was scratched with an injury, so there are no spare forwards, and Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Strachan are your spare defensemen. Is that an improvement?
  • Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth will both get hurt in the next month or two. They will not be able to handle this workload all season.  Read the rest of this entry

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: 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

Overreactions: Late strike in 3rd, quick strike in OT push Enroth to win

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Wednesday night at First Niagara Center had loss written all over it. Coming into a game against Boston (who’s good), on the second night of a back-to-back against a rested team, with Jhonas Enroth in goal (who hadn’t won since October), the obvious was pointing to a loss.

And it was pretty damn close to being one. But that is why they play the game.

Matt Moulson’s tying goal with 53 seconds to go sent the game to overtime and Matt D’Agostini‘s fantastic finish 22 seconds into the extra session gave the Sabres their second win in as many nights, this time taking down the Boston Bruins with a 5-4 overtime win.

D’Agostini ended the game early into overtime by beating Boston goon Zdeno Chara to a loose puck in the Boston zone. D’Agostini went in on Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson, deked to the backhand and tucked it past him for the winner.

“I think he just thought he had time to go back and retrieve the puck,” D’Agostini said. “I kind of just snuck up behind him. I heard their bench screaming. I tried a little sneak attack on him in there, so it was good that I got by him and snuck it through the pad.”

Buffalo tied the game in a scramble around the net in the final minute. Likely goner Matt Moulson poked home his 16th of the year to send the game past regulation.

The Sabres also got goals from Zemgus Girgensons, Brian Flynn and Tyler Myers in just their 11th home win of the season.

Enroth, winning his first game since October 25th, made 29 saves.

  • Buffalo, with the win, is five points behind 29th place Edmonton with a game in hand. It’s good to be in a place where winning can be fun. Because winning should be fun.
  • Don’t know what it is about playing Boston, but Brian Flynn always seems to be flying when they do. Of course he’s a Massachusetts boy, so it does make some sense. His pass on the Girgensons goal was phenomenal. Deserved first star.
  • Really happy for Jhonas Enroth. Dude needed that win. Great way to get it, too. Needed a confidence boost. Read the rest of this entry