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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 52 to go: Zadorov’s OT winner extends Sabres’ streak

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For once, as this has been a rare occasion this 2014-2015 season, you can look at a game that the Sabres won and say to yourself, “They deserved the win.” Tonight was just one of those nights.

Nikita Zadorov‘s goal 29 seconds into overtime was the gamebreaker, as the Sabres defeated Florida, 4-3.

“I probably never had that big a goal in my life,” said Zadorov. “It’s a great feeling and I’m going to try to do it again.”

The young defenseman, fresh off a debate about whether or not he’ll be allowed to go play for Russia in the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championships in Toronto and Montreal, received a cross-ice pass from Tyler Ennis and ripped the winner past Panthers goaltender Al Montoya.

Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta also scored for Buffalo, which has now unreasonably won nine of their last 12.

Hodgson, who was stuck in the press box last game due to his lack of production, broke things open just 2:06 into the game, taking a pass from Patrick Kaleta and ripping it past Montoya.

“He got exactly where goal-scorers have got to get to,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan.

Sean Bergenheim, Jimmy Hayes and Jussi Jokinen scored for Florida, who turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead before Gionta’s equalizer. Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth stopped 25 of 28 shots for the win.

Buffalo closes their four game homestand Monday against Ottawa.

  • This was just the third time this season that the Sabres outshot their opponent. Buffalo finished with 32 shots on goal, just ahead of Florida’s 28. They are 3-0-0 when outshooting their opponent.
  • Seriously, just three times in 30 games. That’s ridiculously terrible.
  • Nikita Zadorov is a star and he’s rapidly moving up the list of “Easiest guys to root for.” Kid is very charismatic and more importantly he’s very good at playing hockey. Part of the Sabres’ surge is due to the fact he’s been getting minutes.
  • That Tyler Myers breakout pass to Brian Gionta’s tying goal was fantastic and the finish was beautiful. That’s a hell of hockey play. 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 66 to go: That Crosby guy is an okay hockey player

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The best hockey player in the world was at First Niagara Center tonight, and spoiler alert: he doesn’t play for Buffalo.

Sometimes, it’s just a joy to watch a generational talent just light it up, and Penguins forward Sidney Crosby did just that. Crosby tallied an assist on each of Pittsburgh’s first five goals, as the visiting Pens cruised, leaving the hometown Sabres with a 6-1 defeat.

Zemgus Girgensons scored late in the second period to make it 5-1, but it was answered by a goal by Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh also got two goals each from Kris Letang and Predators legend Patric Hornqvist. But it was the Crosby show.

The game looked a lot like this:

Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth was thrown to the wolves, giving up six goals on 39 shots. The Sabres struggled to generate offense, getting outshot 11-4 in the opening period and 26-12 through two periods.

  • Enroth didn’t even speak after the game, but it’s not like there’s much for him to say. He’s 1-7-1 on the season and on average is facing almost 37 shots a game.
  • The locker room after games is turning into a contest of “How many guys are left in the room when they open the door?” Guys don’t want to talk, and it’s usually the same things being said. Tonight, it was Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Drew Stafford and Zemgus Girgensons who really spoke. Cody Hodgson and Torrey Mitchell milled around. But everyone else just got the hell out of there. What can they say?
  • Gionta had a team best 17 Corsi For and a team best 4 Corsi Against. Good game for him. He assisted on the Girgensons goal. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 68 to go: Neuvirth shines in shootout loss to Habs

458483678_slideFor 60 minutes, fans were treated to some of the most monotonous, unremarkable hockey that has been played in First Niagara Center, which is saying a lot.

But five thrilling minutes of four-on-four hockey weren’t enough to decide the game, and thanks to a skills competition, Montreal walked out of Buffalo with two points after handing them a 2-1 shootout loss.

Drew Stafford scored the only goal for Buffalo, but goaltender Michal Neuvirth was sensational all night. While the Habs struggled to get shots on goal early, Neuvirth was sharp all night, stopping 31 of 32 shots, including 16 of 17 over the final 25 minutes.

Montreal’s Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored both in regulation and in the shootout to propel the Canadiens to the win.

Buffalo now faces a weekend back-to-back where they host Edmonton and Pittsburgh on Friday and Saturday.

  • This might’ve been Brian Gionta’s best game as a Sabre. Facing his former team, he didn’t tally a point but did manage to score in the shootout. He was noticeable, much more noticeable than he has been.
  • Good for Nic Deslauriers stepping up to scrap and try to make an impression. He got fed some fists to the face, but you appreciate the effort.
  • Tyler Myers was credited with the primary assist on the Stafford goal. Great work by him taking the puck himself, trying to deke through his own teammate Tyler Ennis, and losing control of the puck in such a way that it coasted right through a defenseman to Stafford on the doorstep. They all look the same in the boxscore. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 76 to go: Bruins bury hard-working Sabres

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After a notably poor performance in the opening period of last night’s loss to Florida, the Buffalo Sabres came out flying against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night. Outshooting the visitors 16-12, it was a much better start for the struggling Sabres. Except for that whole scoreboard thing, of course.

A goal by Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton near the midway point of the first period held up, and Boston rookie goaltender Niklas Svedberg collected his first NHL shutout as the Sabres lost by as score of 4-0.

Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Carl Soderberg also scored for Boston, who collected just their third win of the young season.

Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth, starting for the second consecutive night, put in an admirable effort, stopping 32 shots and falling victim to some traffic in front of him. Unfortunately, the admirable effort

“Everybody’s frustrated when you lose,” said forward Cody Hodgson.

Buffalo extends their scoreless streak to 142:06, having last scored a goal Tuesday in Carolina. They now head west, with their next game in Anaheim on Wednesday.

  • Losing isn’t a bad thing, considering the endgame of this season, but it’d be cool to see some competent offense once in a while.
  • Brian Gionta, Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson were on the ice for three goals against. Gionta has been highly ineffective to this point and he’s wearing a big letter on his chest. It’s still only six games in, but it’s becoming disconcerting.
  • The Sabres are going to end up being slumpbusters for a lot of teams this season. Read the rest of this entry

Preseason Overreactions: Sabres crush Capitals in final home exhibition

With the Washington Capitals leaving their stars out of the lineup, it looked pretty easy for the Sabres. 201410012104758804558-p5.jpgUnfortunately, every team they play this season won’t be doing that, so they’re still pretty screwed.

On a brisk Wednesday night in Buffalo, the Sabres jumped ahead early and rolled to a 6-1 victory over the visiting Capitals, wrapping up their home preseason slate.

Buffalo got two goals from Matt Moulson, as well as markers from Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and Sam Reinhart, who all scored their first of the preseason. The Sabres led 5-0 before Washington got on the board in the third on a goal by Jason Chimera.

“It was a good game all around,” said Ennis. “It was nice to see Reinhart get his first goal. Everyone contributed.”

Jhonas Enroth was a stud in net again, making 22 saves and solidifying himself as the likely starter for the season opener. Coach Ted Nolan wouldn’t confirm that after the game, but he acknowledged that Enroth is in a good position to be the team’s top goalie.

Buffalo wraps up their preseason on Friday in Carolina.

  • This was by far the best game Sam Reinhart has played this fall. I commented early how he looked like he belonged, and he followed that up with a goal in the third period. Before I wasn’t sure he deserved a look once the season starts, but he does now.
  • Marcus Foligno had a nice game. His goal was good work, as he basically got a free pass to the goal crease and walked it around Washington’s Braden Holtby. It’s good that he’s contributing. He’s going to need to do that regularly at some point.
  • Jhonas Enroth might end up getting 60 games this year if he plays this well. Hard for Nolan to turn elsewhere when he’s getting strong performances like this.
    Read the rest of this entry

Preseason Overreactions: Sabres shutout Carolina, game result means nothing

20140923Real hockey was finally back at First Niagara Center for the first time since April on Tuesday night. Well, if you count preseason as real hockey. It kind of is. But it doesn’t count.

The scoreboard said 2-0 in favor of the Buffalo Sabres, who used a strong 35-save performance out of goaltender Jhonas Enroth to earn the victory over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.

Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis scored for Buffalo, as their line with Matt Moulson combined for both goals. All three were on the score sheet on each tally, with Ennis and Stafford finishing with a goal and assist each and Moulson assisting on both.

“We’ve got great chemistry, there’s not really much else to say,” said Stafford. “I think we can be an extremely effective line, from here on.”

Neither team made it through the game without incident (surprisingly not involving Patrick Kaleta) as Buffalo defenseman Mark Pysyk was injured on his first shift of the game, and Carolina lost forward Jordan Staal in the third period. Coach Ted Nolan said after the game that Pysyk would be “out a little while,” which could mean anything. The news seemed more dire for Carolina, as Staal was seen on crutches after the game, and if the play was any indication, could be out for months.

Buffalo returns to action Friday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs visit for the first of a home-and-home set.

  • Patrick Kaleta made his return to the NHL lineup (if you think preseason counts) and made it through the game without any remarkable issues. He did try to run a Hurricanes player through the Zamboni doors in the corner during the third, but otherwise behaved himself. You’d have to assume Nolan wants him around, and it’s on him not to screw up.
  • Kaleta’s linemate, Mikhail Grigorenko did an admirable job making it look like he wasn’t annoyed having to play with him and rookie Brendan Lemieux. Grigorenko’s strong play could help make the decision to send Reinhart back to junior. Just throwing that out there now.
  • Sam Reinhart didn’t shine, but later in the game, you began to notice some solid play. He made a very patient play with the puck in the defensive zone, the kind of confident move you’d expect of a savvy veteran, not a recent draft pick. He might end up playing every preseason game to help get him up to speed, but I’m still not sure he needs to be in the NHL quite yet.

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