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Overreactions, Preseason Edition: Enroth, Sabres shutout Columbus

No matter the circumstances, preseason or regular season, it’s hard to know what to expect after Sunday’s shitshow in Toronto. The circus of the last couple days really had nothing to do with tonight’s game, and it showed.

Not a fight, scrum or scrap to be seen, as the Buffalo Sabres rode the solid goaltending of Jhonas Enroth and steady defense in front of him to a 3-0 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.

Buffalo jumped out to a lead early in the second period as Ville Leino finished a rebound from a Cody Hodgson shot as the team skated 6-on-5 on a delayed penalty. With Enroth on the bench for the extra attacker, the team generated multiple chances before Leino scored his first of the preseason.

That was all the offense they’d need, as Enroth stopped 26 shots to earn his first win.

“I don’t think it was that tough of a game on me, actually,” said Enroth. “Overall it was a pretty easy game.”

Third period goals by Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons provided the insurance for the Sabres, who moved to 4-1-1 on the exhibition season. Defenseman Mike Weber added assists on all three Buffalo goals.

Buffalo has one more game before they play for keeps, Friday night in Carolina.

  • Joel Armia played his last shift late in the second period and would leave the game with a hand injury. His line with Grigorenko and Girgensons looked really good, so it was disappointing that he disappeared. Sabres coach Ron Rolston was unsure of his status after the game.
  • Weber’s three secondary assists look better in the box score than they did on the ice. He honestly had a pretty good game. Funny how he’s turned from a fringe defenseman to a solid veteran in the matter of a year or two.
  • Hey Sabres, maybe don’t have your PR arm brag about the fact you didn’t bother to televise 6 of the team’s 7 preseason games. That needs to change next year, because things like Sunday should convince you that it’s worth the effort. Read the rest of this entry

Instigator Podcast #5: Meeting Deadline

The moment you’ve all been waiting for, the fifth edition of “The Instigator Podcast” featuring Chris Ostrander of Two In the Box and myself is out.

This week it’s all about the deadline, we talk Rick Nash & Columbus, what the Sabres might do, what they can do, some twitter comments and a special bonus edition of Plus/Minus.

Comments & suggestions can be directed to us. Let us know below or on twitter, @3rdManIn or @2ITB_Buffalo.

Overreactions, 22nd Edition: Yikes.

When you go play a team that’s in 30th place out of 30 in the league, usually it helps to put forth a little effort.

Coming off one of the more emotional efforts of the season before the holiday, the Sabres came out lifeless and allowed the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets lay a beat-down on them, taking a 5-1 loss.

Jordan Leopold scored for Buffalo.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen it this bad before,” said Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff, the league’s longest-tenured coach. “I think we’ve got seven regulars out of the lineup. We need to make better plays than we did tonight. Obviously when you’re short-handed you’ve got to be good with the puck.”

And make that eight regulars, as defenseman Robyn Regehr left the game with an upper body injury.

Jhonas Enroth took the loss, allowing four goals on 18 shots before giving way to Drew MacIntyre, who stopped 15 of 16 he faced.

  • Buffalo had a good number of opportunities early in the game to take the lead and it bit them in the ass. Jochen Hecht had a glorious opportunity that he decided to pass on. They left the door open for Columbus, and by the time they finally beat Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford, it was too late.
  • Lindy Ruff waiting a long time to shuffle lines, as there wasn’t major shuffling until midway through the third period. With the Vanek-Hecht-Pominville line being ineffective, Ruff decided to break up the scoring duo who’ve carried the team through the first quarter of the season instead of just getting them away from Hecht. Not quite sure why. Derek Roy was having a decent game at the dot, you’d think the logical move would be to put Roy in the middle there as he was a few games ago. Guess not.
  • Zack Kassian picked up an assist in his NHL debut, but exhibited the play that will disappoint many fans who see him as a physical presence. He registered one hit on the night. Read the rest of this entry

NHL Realignment: Planning for now and later

Possibly the biggest burning issue in the NHL, other than concussions, taking advantage of the NBA lockout, avoiding a lockout of their own next year, players getting attention for their Halloween costumes and whether Sidney Crosby will ever play again, is realignment.

The abduction of the Atlanta Thrashers to balmy Winnipeg threw a wrench in the league’s alignment. With the Thrashers franchise, or Jets as they are referred to now, still in the Southeast Division, something needs to change.

And it will.

The NHL’s Board of Governors will meet this winter and figure it all out. The funny part is, it’s already figured out. There’s a great way to do this, and I’ve got it all figured out.

Some teams will be really happy about this proposal, such as:

  • Columbus. The franchise is getting close to the ICU due to horrible play on the ice. No one wants to pay to see a loser, and that’s all the Blue Jackets have been for over a decade. They play too many games out west and not enough in primetime to gain a television audience or attention. Getting them east will improve the franchise’s future.
  • Dallas. Finally, a majority of games inside their own time zone, as they move to a group closer to the mid-west.

Teams that will probably be pissed at this include:

  • Detroit. They claim they were promised dibs on moving back East the first chance they got. Well, they’re gonna have to suck it up, because there’s already too many teams further east than they are. Thinking they would get to move East and Columbus wouldn’t is delusional. They complain about too many games against western teams at late hours, in this scenario, the number of those games is extremely limited. The concept they’d leave Chicago as the only Original Six team in the West is selfish on their part.
  • Nashville. They’d like to go east to try to get more early games and limit travel. They’ll be fine where they are.
  • Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. You boys are going to have to split up.
  • Winnipeg. Stranded from the rest of the western Canadian teams. They may complain about that, but they don’t have to worry about selling tickets because they’re a true hockey market, right?

So without further adieu, here is how you split up the teams, and how it’ll all work:

Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 9th Edition: Sabres get the expected win

The Columbus Blue Jackets were coming off their first win of the season. They couldn’t win two in a row, could they?

The Sabres made sure of that.

Even after blowing a two goal lead, Buffalo was able to grab two third period goals to make the difference in a 4-2 win over Columbus, earning their first home win of the season.

Jason Pominville was the first star, notching two goals and an assist, including the insurance goal with 2:24 on the clock in the third period.

“We stuck with it,” Pominville said. “We can be better, but we’ll definitely take the win.”

Brad Boyes and Patrick Kaleta also scored for Buffalo. Backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth made 41 saves to move to 2-0-0 on the season.

Thomas Vanek tallied three assists in the win, pushing him to second in the NHL in points with 14 (seven goals, seven assists).

NHL Predictions

  • Andrej Sekera played easily his worst game of the season. And that’s saying something. He’s been arguably the Sabres’ best defenseman to this point. He took three minor penalties and still ended as a +1, leaving him tied for second in the NHL in that category. An off night, but the guy has been solid to this point.
  • The powerplay, which has struggled recently, was 2-for-3 on the night. The special teams as a whole had a good night, with the penalty kill going 6-for-6. Looking at the final score, it was the difference.

Read the rest of this entry

Looking Ahead: Previewing the Sabres’ homestand

With seven games under their belt in the 2011-2012 season, the Buffalo Sabres head into somewhat-unfamiliar territory: an extended stay in Buffalo.

To this point, the team has played exactly one game at their home rink this month, a loss to Carolina on October 14. They’ve been superb on the road, sweeping a set overseas and winning their first three away games in North America before Saturday’s loss in Tampa.

Now, the Sabres will face that same Lightning team as they open a five game set at First Niagara Center. Only a point back of Toronto (yes, Toronto) for the division lead, a strong showing at home could be extremely beneficial to widening the lead on the rest of the Northeast Division, which, heading into Tuesday, sits 12th (Boston), 13th (Ottawa) and 15th (Montreal) in the East.

The Sabres have plenty to be happy about and plenty to be unhappy about. Thomas Vanek is scoring goals like they want him to, leading the team with six. The top line of Vanek, Jason Pominville and Luke Adam have combined for 11 goals and 25 points in the team’s seven games to date. At 5-2-0, they are getting to a solid start.

But there’s other stuff that is of some concern. The team was awful on Saturday in Tampa, so they’re coming off their worst outing of the year. Tyler Ennis is out for a few weeks with a high ankle sprain suffered in that loss. Ville Leino, the key offseason addition at center, has been relatively atrocious and asked Lindy Ruff to be moved to the wing.

So, they got that going for them. Read the rest of this entry

Traverse City: Great idea. Buffalo: Better idea.

After an off day yesterday, Luke Adam and the rest of the Buffalo Sabres’ rookie class wraps up their round robin schedule at the Traverse City prospects tournament tonight against the host Detroit Red Wings.

The Sabres head into the match having already wrapped up the top spot in their division and a spot in the 1st Place game, thanks to wins over Columbus and Minnesota, both by scores of 6-3. (By the way, stick tap to Kevin Snow of the Sabres, the only Buffalo media guy who’s there, for a solid job recapping the events.)

The championship game will take place Wednesday night as the Sabres take on the New York Rangers at 7:00 ET, a game which will be broadcast live on MSG and NHL Network.

It’s a positive step for the organization to be participating in an event like this. It’s a great opportunity for new Amerks coach Ron Rolston to get know his players. It will be a bonding experience for all the prospects in the organization. It’s even giving the team an opportunity to get an extra look at a few free agent invitees who may not get much of a chance to shine once the full roster is together.

The only real downside of the whole thing is the inability for anyone to watch without being inside the rink.

It begs the question… why are they not doing this here in Buffalo? Read the rest of this entry

Sabres announce 2011 preseason schedule

The countdown is now on: 90 days until the Buffalo Sabres hit the ice to begin the 2011-12 season.

This morning the organization announced their preseason schedule, a move that comes weeks before it has in the past.

The Sabres will begin their preseason slate at home on Monday, September 19 when the Carolina Hurricanes visit HSBC Arena. The Sabres will then travel to Montreal to play the Canadiens on Wednesday, September 21. The team will participate in a home and home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs starting at the Air Canada Centre on Friday, September 23 and then at HSBC Arena on Saturday, September 24. After a game on the road in Columbus the following day (Sunday, September 25), the team will travel to Washington on Friday, September 30 to face the Capitals.

The Buffalo Sabres will also play an exhibition game against Adler Mannheim at SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, as part of the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Challenge to complete the 2011 preseason schedule.

As expected, you have your home-and-home with Toronto, with one of them likely being a blowout win for the Sabres. You have your Wednesday night TSN game against Montreal, which will probably be on NHL Network as well.

Full credit to the Sabres for doing this earlier this year. Last year, the preseason schedule was announced by the team on July 8. Fans in recent years have been able to piece together the entire slate based on other teams beating them to the punch. Not so much this year. Good to see. Read the rest of this entry

Sabres captain Craig Rivet claimed by Columbus

There’s been an ongoing debate about when the Sabres should name a new captain, but nothing changed because technically they still had one on the roster. Not anymore.

Buffalo captain Craig Rivet is now a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets after being claimed on re-entry waivers. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun was first to report the move after the 12:00 deadline.

The Sabres will be on the hook for half of Rivet’s remaining salary, and he will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Columbus sits in 12th place in the West, two points out of a playoff spot and just four points out of 5th place with 21 games remaining.

Rivet was acquired by the Sabres in July 2008 from San Jose with a seventh round pick in 2010 in exchange for two second round picks. In 165 games with Buffalo, Rivet scored four goals and added 38 assists. One of those 38 assists was on Jason Pominville’s winner in the memorable win over San Jose after the Flight 3407 disaster.

Rivet also scored the game winner in the Game 1 victory over Boston in the first round of the 2010 playoffs.

After the series loss, it was revealed that the captain had been playing all season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Hopes were that he would be stronger than in years past, but he struggled to stay in the lineup this season, becoming a healthy scratch back in October and appearing in only 23 games before leaving today.

Sabres acquire Torres, deal MacArthur & Paetsch

The Sabres have made some moves at today’s NHL Trade Deadline.

Buffalo acquired forward Raffi Torres from Columbus in exchange for defenseman Nathan Paetsch and a second round pick.

Torres is a pending unrestricted free agent.

The Sabres also sent forward Clarke MacArthur to the Atlanta Thrashers for a third and a fourth round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.

More details, and possibly more trades to come.