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Overreactions, 27/48 Edition: Sabres win, Tortorella still thinks they suck

163580867_slideOn paper, this wasn’t going to go well.

On the ice, well, that’s why they actually play the games, right?

Jhonas Enroth, starting for the ill Ryan Miller, was sensational on the night, stopping 32 shots to lead the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers. It was Enroth’s first win since November 26, 2011.

“I felt very confident and I had control of every shot,” said Enroth. “I didn’t give up any bad rebounds and stuff like that, so it was pretty much a perfect game for me.”

Buffalo got two goals from Marcus Foligno and the game winner from, surprise, Thomas Vanek.

Even after surrendering the first goal, yet another shorthanded marker scored by Rangers forward and fine American Derek Stepan, Buffalo kept their composure for the most part. Foligno scored moments later to tie the game, and Vanek added what would be the winner with just over seven minutes remaining in the second.

Foligno tallied the insurance marker with about eight minutes to go in the third, banging in a rebound in front of the net. The Sabres, who rocket up to 27th in the NHL standings with the win, would hold on despite getting outshot 18-3 in the final 20 minutes.

Hey, a win is nice every once in a while.

  • Andrej Sekera was fantastic for the Sabres. Great with the puck, made smart and confident plays. Picked up two assists, but those weren’t even his best plays of the night. Overall great game from the Slovak, who played 21:48 of great hockey.
  • Brian Flynn and Kevin Porter may be earning themselves spots on the team. It’s obvious the team may be looking to deal at the deadline, and right now, these guys may be locked in for the remainder of the year if they keep this up. Flynn had an assist and Porter is showing more and more dependability. They bring what you need out of your bottom six.
  • Really shocked that the officials didn’t try to even out the penalty calls in the third period. New York ended up with just one opportunity, where they obviously didn’t score. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 26/48 Edition: Sabres’ ship remains on course

163486250_slide(Holy shit, I really did one for a road game!)

The loss to New Jersey Thursday night was a lost opportunity among few remaining to reinsert their playoff hopes into discussion. After a couple days off, there was another, with the chance to vault two teams with a win over struggling 11th place Philadelphia.

It turned out well.

Facing a team that was such a mess as recently as the day before that they needed a closed-door, players only meeting after a pathetic performance in a loss, the Sabres came out flat and never really put themselves in position to win. They lost, falling to the Flyers in a 3-2 loss on national television.

Buffalo fell behind 2-0 before the game was even halfway through the first period. Sabres rookie Brian Flynn scored his second in as many games to cut the lead in half before the end of the opening frame.

Claude Giroux scored 17 seconds into the second period to give Philadelphia the margin they would need. Jochen Hecht scored a shorthanded goal in the third period, but Buffalo couldn’t tie it.

Ryan Miller stopped 25 of 28 shots in the loss for the Sabres.

  • The Foligno-Porter-Flynn line was really good throughout the game. Flynn notched a goal, Porter added an assist and was named third star of the game. That can be one hell of a fourth line if this team is any good.
  • Speaking of Flynn, his goal was possible because of a subtly-brilliant play just prior to it in the shift. With Philadelphia collapsing around the net, Flynn collected the puck above the faceoff dot. Instead of throwing it towards the net into traffic, he spotted Foligno on the far post and threw it into the far corner boards. Foligno easily won the race to the puck and the Sabres continued to work the puck around, eventually scoring. Possession likely doesn’t continue if not for that heads up play.
  • Hopefully Jochen Hecht keeps scoring so someone might look at the scoreline and think he’d be a useful pickup at the deadline. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 22/48 Edition: New invention called “winning streak” all the rage in Buffalo

20130302 millerwinThere was as much reason to expect less as you’d think there was. In the end, the Buffalo Sabres found a way to get it done.

Fresh off an apparently invigorating trip to Florida, where they claimed two wins in a row, they tacked on another in the confines of First Niagara Center without their leading scorer, taking a 4-3 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils.

Jason Pominville scored twice off feeds from Cody Hodgson to lead the way. The team twice surrendered leads shortly after gaining them, including a third period dandy from New Jersey’s Andrei Loktionov that tied the game at 3-3.

Pominville and Tyler Ennis scored in the shootout and Ryan Miller stopped both New Jersey shooters to secure the win.

“We’re getting more resilient as a team now, and I think that’s a good sign for us,” said coach Ron Rolston. “When I first got here if we would’ve gave up the third goal, it might’ve been a different result.”

Jochen Hecht also scored for Buffalo, his first of the season and his first goal since December 2011. Adam Henrique and Sabres legend Steve Bernier added goals for New Jersey, who got 20 saves from Johan Hedberg and a point in the standings.

It was also a nice win considering they were missing scoring sensation Thomas Vanek. In his absence, Brian Flynn made his NHL debut.

“The guys did a nice job of battling and we pulled one out,” said Miller, who made 28 saves.

The Sabres take off tonight for New York, where they face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.

  • Lots of chatter after the game about how good the crowd was. It wasn’t remarkable to me. The baseline is so far off with this place, it must’ve just seemed like it since people were actually loud for once. It’s supposed to be, at minimum, like this all the time. It’s certainly not the on-ice product spurring all of it, because that game was a mess. Just gotta get people in the mood. Not sure what it was today, but it was dead silent all through the first.
  • Marcus Foligno’s hit on Alexei Ponikarovsky was beautiful. Just solid.
  • Speaking of hits, near the end of regulation, Robyn Regehr destroyed Ilya Kovalchuk from behind with the puck nowhere in the area. Should’ve been a penalty, and it wasn’t. Officiating overall was pretty awful today. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 9/48 Edition: Sabres not so Super, lose to Panthers

20130203 sabres suckHey, what a shocker… a Buffalo team loses on Super Bowl Sunday.

Yeah, I know. Lame and easy. But an afternoon that could’ve ended pleasantly in Buffalo will now only create more headaches. The Sabres jumped out to a 3-1 second period lead en route to a 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

“We played stupid I guess,” said superhuman star winger Thomas Vanek. “We had some great chances, didn’t even hit the net on some of them. We need to be smarter.”

Vanek, the NHL’s leading scorer, extended his lead with a goal and two assists, giving him 19 points in eight games.

Cody Hodgson also tallied a goal and two assists, and Alexander Sulzer added his second goal in three games for Buffalo. But the story was the missed opportunities, not only to score, but to prevent goals. Tyler Ennis had a breakaway in the second period which he did not convert. Marcus Foligno, Mikhail Grigorenko, Jochen Hecht, and Drew Stafford all had notable scoring opportunities which were not finished.

Shawn Matthias, George Parros, Peter Mueller and former Sabre Brian Campbell scored for Florida, who won their first road game of the year.

The burden of Buffalo’s third game in four nights appeared to take it’s toll in the end, and the Sabres have just a one day break before they head to Ottawa on Tuesday.

“I thought our energy was, compared to yesterday, was great for the first 40 minutes,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff in his post game press conference. “We gotta do some things different… that’s obvious.”

Buffalo now has lost six of their last seven after starting 2-0 on the shortened year.

“It just got away from us,” said Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who stopped 29 shots.

  • The George Parros goal was the epitome of a trainwreck for Buffalo. Alexander Sulzer makes a terrible play at the point to turn the puck over. Sulzer and the nearby Marcus Foligno get beat up the ice to create the rush. Christian Ehrhoff aimlessly slides through the slot to stop the play. Tyler Ennis glides up behind Parros as he beats Miller with a weak shot. In reality, that was the first nail in the coffin. The team was mailing it in from that point on.
  • Marcus Foligno played a career-high 21:46, more than all but Christian Ehrhoff and Jordan Leopold. So, yeah… about that. What?
  • Tyler Myers has been getting rightfully killed for his awful play, and he was an orange paint job away from being an actual pylon on the tying goal. But I guess it wasn’t all bad, because he ended up even. He was on the ice for the tying and winning goals against. It could be worse! Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 46th Edition: Another Day, Another Dagger

After a gritty and admirable performance Monday night in a tough loss to Detroit, hopes were sky-high Wednesday night for the Buffalo Sabres.

Alright, it’s not even worth trying at this point.

In a game where few objective fans could convince themselves that the end result would be in doubt, it proved to be another nail in the coffin for the Sabres’ 2011-2012 season. Chicago, battling for the top spot in the West coming in, now sits atop the heap after handing the floundering Sabres a 6-2 defeat.

All-star captain Jason Pominville scored both goals for Buffalo, who have lost ten straight road games.

“We’re not dealing well with adversity,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “Until we learn to win again, you won’t win on the road.

“We’ve got some players that are way away from their game, and we’ve got some guys that I thought were good tonight, but we didn’t have enough of them.”

Pominville’s second goal tied the game at 2-2 minutes into the second period, but the Blackhawks scored four unanswered goals to coast away with two points.

Jhonas Enroth, who has been strong lately despite not finding wins, allowed six goals and stopped 29 of 35 shots. Enroth hasn’t picked up a winning decision since November 26.

The team flies to Winnipeg to face the Thrashers on Thursday night.

  • With the need for some roster changes obvious, it’s a common topic of discussion to consider what players should be considered untouchable. Obviously, Thomas Vanek is the top name on the list. Many would throw in Tyler Myers as well. (I wouldn’t.) But Jason Pominville has been everything we could’ve hoped for when he was given the “C”. He’s having a phenomonal year, contributes in all areas. He’s part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  • The NBC Sports crew calling the game were quite critical of the Sabres throughout the broadcast. Some on twitter seemed taken aback by it. It’s nice to get an objective opinion once in a while, isn’t it?
  • Jochen Hecht’s pass to Pominville on the opening goal was absolutely sublime. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 40th Edition: Losing games good teams win

It was a promising start that materialized into nothing.

With Buffalo buzzing around the Carolina net early, it looked like the Sabres came to play. Ryan Miller was even stopping the puck. The results didn’t follow.

At the end of the night, it was the Sabres, after going unbeaten in regulation in their last eight visits to RBC Center, that walked away empty-handed, losing 4-2 to the Hurricanes.

“They’re only really good opportunities if you bury them,” Ruff said. “We work to get position offensively. It was good. Not converting isn’t any good.”

As usual, it was the leading scorers showing up without help, as Buffalo got goals from Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.

Miller looked like he was going to play the type of game that could get the team a win. Stopping all 15 Carolina shots in the first, he limited Carolina to Justin Faulk’s powerplay goal in the second through two periods and 23 shots.

In the end, it was Buffalo’s futile attempts at offense than led to the team’s demise, as a pressing pinch on a four-on-four led to a two-on-one and Chad LaRose’s game winner in the third. Miller finished with 31 saves.

The team’s center situation also got even more dire, as Derek Roy went down with an injury early in the first and did not return. Ruff indicated that he will miss some time with the damage.

  • Paul Gaustad is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He is currently counting $2.3 million against the cap. He has three goals in 37 games this season. If this team doesn’t turn the ship around soon, take the draft pick at the deadline and run.
  • Again, the lack of secondary scoring is the team’s biggest issue. The team’s top line (Jochen Hecht, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek) have scored the team’s only goals in nine of 40 games this season. The team is 2-7-0 in those nine. The two wins were shutouts. If the rest of the team doesn’t chip in, the team dosn’t win. End of story.
  • Lots of jokesters on twitter seemed pretty happy about Roy being hurt. First, being pleased about the guy who’s supposed to be the team’s best center is pretty lame. Second, you can’t trade someone who’s hurt. Everyone that wants him gone is stuck with him unless he’s healthy. Think, McFly. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 37th Edition: Long December continues for Sabres

For Sabres fans, there’s been plenty of reason to have the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls.

Of late, it’s hard to come up with new things to say about this team. The pervasive use of “injuries” as an excuse for the team’s poor play has masked many of the team’s problems. Those problems have led to the team losing five of the last six thanks to an absence of offensive depth and the

Friday night, it was just another loss, with the Sabres’ top line being the only effective unit and goaltending that wasn’t going to steal anything. When the clock expired, it was Buffalo on the wrong end again, falling to Washington 3-1.

Struggling superstar Alex Ovechkin scored twice for the Capitals, who got a strong game from former Montreal Canadien Tomas Vokoun.

“I mean, they got a fortunate one on the first one,” right wing Jason Pominville said. “We kind of would like to get a few of those go our way, but that’s just the way it’s been going for us.”

Jochen Hecht scored Buffalo’s only goal, being set up by team MVP’s Thomas Vanek and Pominville.

Unfortunately, the injury excuse just got a little more support, as defenseman Christian Ehrhoff went down with an upper body injury, and could be out “weeks” according to coach Lindy Ruff. Having lost Andrej Sekera the game before, the team’s defense is now decimated with Tyler Myers still on the shelf and no sign that the goaltending will pick up the slack. Ryan Miller stopped 18 of 21 shots against the Capitals.

Buffalo’s last win on the road was December 3rd in Nashville. A team that’s been struggling at home and had the road record to compensate for it isn’t getting wins anywhere. With one game left against Ottawa, the Sabres are 4-7-2 in the month.

Injuries have kept a many players out for extended stretches, but the core of the team has remained in the lineup. Outside of Vanek and Pominville, none of them are contributing.

It’s been a long December, and there’s not much reason to believe right now.

  • Derek Roy got killed immediately by fans and media for that awful turnover at the blueline. He’s the new Tim Connolly. I’m not justifying his poor play, I’m just pointing out that he’s going to draw the most ire from fans now. Especially with Ville Leino out.
  • Jochen Hecht is producing. He’s honestly been pretty good whenever he’s been healthy. That said, I think it might be a good idea to get him off the top line. Vanek and Pominville are gonna produce with just about anyone in the middle between them. If Hecht is going good and you can put him with Derek Roy or Drew Stafford and get them going, it might be worth a shot. The team’s not winning. Something has to change.
  • Mike Weber is a solid #6 defenseman. May eventually be a good #5 blueliner. But right now, he might be the third best defenseman that’s healthy. Yikes. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 36th Edition: New Jersey shuffles past Sabres

Staring back at Ryan Miller from the other end of the ice tonight was one of the most accomplished goaltenders in NHL history.

Far from the days of his prime, Martin Brodeur is still capable of playing at a high level, as seen in New Jersey’s last visit in Buffalo. Tonight, he wasn’t far off either.

In the end, Buffalo’s inability to beat Brodeur when presented with opportunities, as the Devils handed the Sabres a 3-1 defeat.

Trailing 3-0 in the second period, Thomas Vanek scored his team leading 18th goal of the year, but it would be Buffalo’s only marker.

“We just didn’t finish,” Vanek said.

Ryan Miller stopped 20 of 23 shots in the loss.

  • Luke Adam appeared to have scored on a deflection in the second when the game was still 2-0, but it was waved off on the ice and after review, was confirmed as not a goal. Neither replay shown on the broadcast was conclusive. Of course, the MSG feed used for the game was the Devils broadcast, as the Sabres don’t produce their own games when they play in metro New York. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that if there was a better angle, I wouldn’t be surprised if they chose not to show it to help out the home team. Happens all the time.
  • The fact that Jochen Hecht is the team’s #1 center says a lot about what the issue is with this team.
  • Tell me who this is: 36 games. 4 goals. 9 assists. -13 rating. $4.4 million cap hit. Answer listed at the end. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 35th Edition: Sabres bust a cap on Washington

That was a hell of a start.

The previous statement isn’t facetiousness, as one would expect with the way the Buffalo Sabres have been playing, especially at home. No, that’s legit.

Opening the scoring just 51 seconds into the game on a Jason Pominville powerplay goal, Buffalo stormed out to an early lead with four first period goals en route to a 4-2 win over Washington.

The returns of forwards Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes from injury proved to be of great benefit, as the team’s persistent attack in the opening 20 minutes made the difference.

The Sabres chased Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth after Christian Ehrhoff made it 3-0 just eleven minutes into the game with a snipe to the top corner. Brayden McNabb tallied his first NHL goal to close the scoring in possibly the best period of hockey Buffalo has played all season.

“We got everybody going early, we got the fans into it, and we got the bench going,” Pominville said of the early spurt. “You always want to get that first goal, and for us to get it that early was huge for the team. To generate more chances and score more goals after that was big. We limited their chances, and probably could have put a few more away.”

Ryan Miller made 20 saves in the win. Matt Ellis also scored for Buffalo.

  • One of the team’s biggest problems since they’ve been struggling has been the lack of scoring outside of the top line. Tonight, it was two defenseman and a fourth-liner providing the margin. But even with them chipping in, look at the scoresheet: all the top offensive players made an appearance. Pominville got the goal, but Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes all picked up assists. When the guys you rely on come through, good things happen.
  • Boyes was really good in his return to the lineup. That additional firepower outside of the first line has been desperately lacking of late. He picked up an assist on the McNabb goal.
  • He was named the second star, but I would still like to point out that Jordan Leopold had another phenomenal game.  Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 28th Edition: Is it over yet? Cool. Wait, they won?

There are plenty of games throughout the year where the Sabres might come out and play a strong game, or it might be a fun game to watch, but at the end of the night, they just can’t get it done.

Scratch that, reverse it.

In one of the more tedious stretches of 60 minutes we’ll see this season, the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers couldn’t determine a winner. Thankfully, it didn’t last much longer than that.

Jason Pominville‘s breakaway goal 2:19 into overtime gave the Sabres their second home win in the last four weeks as they defeated Florida 2-1.

“It wasn’t a pretty one, but we got it done against a team that was going really well,” Pominville said. “We talked about trying not to hand them opportunities by giving pucks away, and we were better with the puck. You want to generate more, but at the same time I thought we stuck with it.”

Ryan Miller made 22 saves for Buffalo, who also got a goal from Derek Roy in the first period.

The two points were surely worth a game that the NHL marketing department would probably love to burn the tape of. The teams combined for nine shots in the third period.

Buffalo, despite the win, took a couple losses on the night. Jochen Hecht got hurt blocking a shot in the third, while rookie Corey Tropp should miss some time after being rocked by Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov in the first period.

But still, a win’s a win.

  • Paul Szczechura has been really good in each game he’s played for the Sabres. Showing to be a phenomenal depth signing this offseason. That pass to Pominville? Szczweet.
  • Speaking of sweet, the effort all around on Buffalo’s first goal was beautiful. Brayden McNabb with the great effort to get the puck out. Tyler Ennis with the nice play to push it up ice, and Drew Stafford threading a perfect pass to Derek Roy, who made no mistake. Pretty.
  • Jordan Leopold’s return to the lineup was noticeably good for the defense. Leo had an assist on the winner and was solid in 20 minutes of ice time. Sabres should get a big boost if he keeps up his play from before the injury.
  • Ryan Miller had a really good night. Can’t fault him on a five-on-three. Made the saves he needed to. Read the rest of this entry