Only days away from the NHL trade deadline, the first domino has fallen at First Niagara Center.
Just hours before the Buffalo Sabres would drop the puck against Washington, the team announced they had traded defenseman Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for their 2nd round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, as well as a conditional 5th round pick in 2013.
The conditional pick is contingent on the Blues’ postseason success, as it is upgraded to a 4th round pick should St. Louis advance past the first round of the playoffs.
Leopold is in the last year of his three-year contract he signed with the Sabres as an unrestricted free agent in 2010. He registered 67 points in 174 games with Buffalo, and his 25 goals in Buffalo rank 18th among defensemen in franchise history.
“The first couple deals set the market,” [Blues GM Doug] Armstrong said on a conference call Saturday afternoon. “Pittsburgh set the market for defensemen when Murray went for a second [round pick] and I think a third that goes to a second based on a certain number of things…
“[Sabres GM] Darcy [Regier] might have been able to hold and see if the market goes up, but with that you’re always in the risk of an injury and getting nothing for the player. Everybody has to weigh the proper time for their team, and I know it was the proper time for us.”
Luckily, we’ve had enough of that shit.
In the first of two meetings in the center of the hockey universe, Buffalo, fresh off a season-opening win over the Flyers, headed up the Queen Elizabeth Way and defeated the Leafs by a score of 2-1 in Toronto’s home opener.
Buffalo jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Cody Hodgson and American hero Jason Pominville. A late powerplay goal by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, with the teams skating 6-on-4 made it close, but the Sabres held on.
Ryan Miller was strong in net for Buffalo, stopping 34 of 35 shots. For the second game in a row, he was also the beneficiary of not one but two disallowed goals. In 42 career games against Toronto, Miller now has a record of 28-14.
Thomas Vanek also registered an assist on Pominville’s game winner to retain the NHL scoring lead with six points.
Buffalo sits at 2-0-0 on the season, and next heads to Carolina for the first game of a home-and-home Thursday in Raleigh. Toronto, well, they’re still struggling with that expansion to a 12-team league.
- At some point, someone other than Vanek, Pominville or Hodgson is going to have to create a goal. They’ve been in on everything so far, and it’s not a concern yet, but it will be soon.
- Ryan Miller looked locked in most of the night, and made some very good saves. Overall, he seemed completely in control.
- John Scott with 1:58 of ice time and a fight, which, was alright I guess. After two games, he’s spent 4:08 on the ice and 5:00 in the box. Again, this can’t last. Read the rest of this entry
Backs against the wall, playoff hopes on the line, hated rival in town, coming off a tough loss with chances to stay in the playoff picture fading faster than a Luke Schenn tee-shot, the Sabres were guaranteed to come out strong and make a statement.
There’s no guarantees, apparently. But who gives a shit if they come through at the end, right?
Spotting the clubhouse-bound Maple Leafs a 3-0 lead, the Buffalo Sabres made the most rousing of rousing comebacks, fighting back for a 6-5 overtime win. Derek Roy scored the game winner on a powerplay at 3:29 of overtime to tie Buffalo with Washington at 88 points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
An epic goal by Jordan Leopold with 1:53 remaining in regulation tied the game at five, erasing a two goal deficit in the final ten minutes.
“Today was one of those days where we could’ve found ourselves losing that game 5-0,” Leopold said. “It didn’t work out that way, because we decided to dig in and push it all the way.”
Alexander Sulzer scored twice, Roy added another and Tyler Ennis also scored for Buffalo, who at one point or another, trailed 3-0, 4-2 and 5-3 before sending it to overtime.
Ryan Miller, despite the five goals allowed on the statline, made several phenomenal saves in stopping 20 of 25 shots he faced to get the win.
Buffalo’s scant playoff prospects remain alive until Thursday, when a matchup with the Flyers in Philadelphia and a Florida/Washington battle await. Until then…
- In the final 43:29 of the game (second, third, and overtime periods) Buffalo outshot Toronto 36-12. It shouldn’t have been as close as it was.
- Marcus Foligno, the well deserved first star of the night, was an absolute force. Throwing huge hits, dropping the gloves, picking up assists and overall being a pain-in-the-ass for the Leafs. And remember, there was a debate over whether the team made a mistake giving up on Zack Kassian.
- Alexander Sulzer came to the Sabres with the following career totals: 74 games played. One goal. Seven assists. In 15 games with Buffalo, three goals, five assists and a good chance to get a nice contract this offseason. Read the rest of this entry
The Sabres were hot, sitting in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot, and the visitors to First Niagara Center were sending their sieve backup goaltender to face Buffalo.
Things didn’t turn out so swell.
Two guys named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were unstoppable for Pittsburgh and even the weakest of goaltending performances was enough to hand the Sabres a 5-3 loss.
Crosby had a goal and three assists and Malkin, the league’s leading scorer, added a goal and an assist to give backup goaltender Brent Johnson enough support to get the win in his first game since being chased on Hockey Day in America back in February.
“We won’t beat this thing to death,” Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold said. “There’s a simple formula, we just move forward. We know we can play better.”
Leopold, Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek scored for Buffalo, who struggled to bury their chances against Johnson, who was shaky throughout the night.
Ryan Miller stopped 29 shots for Buffalo, who struggled defensively without Christian Ehrhoff, out with a knee injury.
- It was Fan Appreciation Night at First Niagara Center, which is great except for the fact that there were about 5,000 Pens fans there. Oddly enough, they celebrated it before the last home game, due to the influx of visiting fans for the finale. More evidence to the problems the organization is having with the crowd and atmosphere.
- By my count, Brent Johnson didn’t actually catch a puck until midway through the third period. How that guy is an NHL goaltender is beyond me. The pure brilliance of Pittsburgh’s defense kept the Sabres to three goals.
- Marcus Foligno was near invisible on the team’s best line. Not taking away anything from what he’s done, but looking individually at this game, he wasn’t very good. 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, well, blow me.)
Sometimes you gotta just say “Fuck it.”
Having a few good friends living in the DC region, a trip to the Verizon Center had been on the docket as a possibility for a while. This week’s game had multiple arguments against the viability of the trip. Leading the way was the fact it was on a Tuesday. It was just something like “Alright, I’ll keep an eye on Southwest Airlines deals into BWI and see if there’s a good deal and then I’ll consider it…” until days kept creeping up on March 27 and all of a sudden the magnitude of the game became apparent. Just a week prior, I’m sitting at work texting a friend about maybe going and a song comes on and it’s time to show a cut from Sting’s new album.
So Monday after work, I hit the road for my friend’s place outside Baltimore. We and a couple of her friends got tickets for a somewhat reasonable price on StubHub over the weekend. So after a brief seven hour drive, it was a good night of sleep that stood between me and the day of the next biggest game of the season.
I had been to Washington and the area multiple times on various road trips over the past few years, including a trip last summer to catch a Nats game and a USMNT game. It’s a beautiful city, tons of stuff to do, a hell of a lot of fun. I had done the basic stops on the pilgrimage all Americans should make before, but it didn’t stop a return visit to the Museum of American History, which is always mind-blowing.
A few hours touring around downtown DC led to pre-game beers led to the game. Oddly, I had little to no stress about the game, mainly due to the fact it was such a mess finding my way down there and the looming overnight drive I had waiting for me. But here it was. Read the rest of this entry
It wasn’t long ago that the Sabres looked at the standings and saw themselves sitting dead last in the East. It wasn’t long ago that they were talking lottery pick instead of playoffs. But tonight, the Sabres will go to sleep sitting in 8th place, in prime position to win the last spot in the playoffs.
(Well, whenever they go to bed, after they spend the night downtown at the bars…)
Fresh off a convincing 4-1 win over New York the night before, the Sabres rebounded from an early deficit and earned a 3-1 win over the visiting Minnesota Wild.
Thomas Vanek tied the game early in the second period, knocking in a loose puck in front of the net. Buffalo would carry play for most of the middle period, outshooting Minnesota 17-5.
The Sabres took the lead 1:45 into the third period, as Tyler Myers ripped a point shot that found the leg of Marcus Foligno before hitting the back of the net to give Buffalo a lead they would never relinquish. Cody Hodgson scored a buzzer-beating empty netter to add the insurance.
Ryan Miller turned aside 24 of 25 shots, earning his seventh win in his last nine games.
Buffalo moved past idle Washington with 84 points, with the Capitals holding a game in hand, which they’ll play tomorrow evening when they host these Wild. The Sabres travel to DC on Monday for Tuesday’s showdown with the Caps.
- Corey Tropp was the well deserved second star. He made the play in the corner that paved the way for the Vanek goal. He was a physical presence all night. That line is developing some nice chemistry. They chipped in two goals tonight.
- Can I copyright the “Travis Turnbull is Adam Mair” comparison? I was on that early. Spent five seconds more on the ice (5:05 TOI) than in the box (5 PIM) tonight.
- Tyler Myers made the play on the Foligno goal with a good point shot, but I thought he was overall bad with the puck. Senseless giveaways, fumbling the puck at the blueline and making poor decisions. It didn’t kill them, but it didn’t help. He can be better. Read the rest of this entry
Approaching this game, the most feasible explanation for how the Sabres could end their 12-game losing streak on the road against a goaltender they’ve had trouble with would be simple: Don’t let the other team score.
(Ed note: The least feasible would be a team of angels assisting them in exceeding their capabilities.)
For the most part, Buffalo took care of that. And it worked.
Riding a horrible stretch of play into the final game before the NHL All-Star break, the Sabres found a way to get it done, stealing a 2-1 shootout victory in New Jersey.
“This is huge for us,” said Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold, who scored in regulation. “The past few week have been tough and challenging and we capped off a long, long road trip with a win. It was not a perfect game. We got outshot and outchanced but in the end we got a couple of big saves from Ryan. He kept us in the game and we were able to win in the shootout.”
Leopold’s fluky goal late in the first period was all the cushion Ryan Miller needed to get them a point, as he stopped 27 of 28 shots through 65 minutes. Jason Pominville scored in the third round of the shootout to extend it, and Nathan Gerbe scored the walk-off winner in round 4.
Buffalo pulled out two points despite registering a mere 14 shots on goal through regulation and overtime.
The Sabres hit the mid-season siesta sitting 14th place in the Eastern Conference, ten points out of a playoff spot with 33 games remaining.
- Ryan Miller, when he plays like this, is worth every penny. He needs to be surrounded with talent. I truly think, as bad as this team is, that he can be part of the solution instead of being considered a problem.
- In the talk about what’s wrong with the team, and how injuries can’t be an excuse, the one valid argument in this recent run of horrible play is how much the absence of Christian Ehrhoff hurt. Tyler Myers is clearly not in a position to carry this team as a #1 defenseman, and without Ehrhoff, the team suffered. Ehrhoff played a team high 24:27 in his first game back. Having him in the lineup makes this team remarkably better defensively.
- Thomas Vanek’s pressing hard and the results aren’t there. The team’s going nowhere if he can’t start getting the results.
- Robyn Regehr’s return was also a big help. He was incredibly solid. Having the veteran presence on the back end was missed.
- With 33 games remaining, the indispensable Sports Club Stats has the Sabres with a 0.6% chance of making the playoffs. To earn a playoff spot, they’ll need to get approximately 95 points. They have 45. It’s going to take at least 23 wins in 33 games. Pack it in, guys. No need for a heroic run to 10th. Read the rest of this entry
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
Things didn’t look too promising coming in to Monday’s game at Joe Louis Arena.
Riding an eight-game losing streak on the road, Buffalo was about to run into a buzzsaw. Detroit was ready to extend their home winning streak to a franchise record 15. The numbers indicated it could be trouble for the Sabres.
While they held them off the board for just over five minutes, there wasn’t much reason to think the Sabres had any chance to get out of there with points, and they dropped a 5-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway.
“We’ve got to wake up,” Buffalo forward Jason Pominville said.
Ryan Miller got chased after allowing five goals on 14 shots in the first 24:32 of action. He expressed his frustration after the game, and, just like many of us have been saying, there’s no magical cure in his eyes.
“If you want to just destroy a team and go out and be reckless and do something, yeah. Then there’s going to be new guys in here. But other than that, this locker room is going to be pretty much the same, if not completely the same and we gotta find it from in here [points to chest]. You can’t sit and wait for somebody else to fucking do it.”
The nine game losing streak shows no signs of stopping, with the team unable to put together a good road game and visits to Chicago, Winnipeg and St. Louis, all arenas where the home team has dominated, awaiting them.
This is what a season slipping away looks like.
- Lindy Ruff decided to mix up the defense pairings and forward lines after seeing the team fail to beat the last place Islanders on Saturday. With Andrej Sekera returning in place of Robyn Regehr and T.J. Brennan replacing Joe Finley, there wasn’t going to be much continuity on the blueline anyways. It turned out to be a disaster. Jordan Leopold and Mike Weber looked lost playing together, both being on the ice for four of the five Detroit goals.
- One of the changes Ruff made was putting Derek Roy between Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek. Defensively not withstanding, that line looked alright in the offensive zone, especially Roy, who I thought looked good in the attacking zone. The trio had 10 of the Sabres’ 27 shots on Detroit’s Jimmy Howard.
- Oddly enough, Marc-Andre Gragnani was even on the night. He’s been one of the team’s shakiest defenseman. Somehow his plus-minus doesn’t reflect that. Read the rest of this entry