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Overreactions, 65th Edition: Sabres light up Luongo, beat Canucks

Enthusiasm for Sabres fans heading into Saturday night’s tilt in Vancouver could only be tentative.

After all, going into Rogers Centre, facing one of the best teams in the league in their own barn, after needing superb goaltending performances to win in Anaheim and San Jose?

Well, the offense decided to take care of that. Chasing Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo after just 5:10 and sitting on a 3-0 lead, Buffalo again weathered the storm, hanging on for a 5-3 win against the top team in the Western Conference.

Ville Leino scored twice in the opening 3:44 to give the Sabres a two goal lead, but it was a Brad Boyes goal, which had to be confirmed by review after play continuing, that chased Luongo and gave the visitors the cushion they’d never surrender.

“I told Ville after the game he’s a better shutdown guy than he is a scorer,” Ruff said. “Ever since we’ve put him in a shutdown line, he’s played well. I thought Ville played a great game. … He deserved what he got.”

Vancouver made it 3-1 late in the second, but Christian Ehrhoff’s goal early in the third proved to be the game winner. David Booth of the Canucks would add his second of the game to make it 4-2 soon after and former Sabre Zack Kassian scored his first as a Canuck with 2:46 left.

Tyler Ennis added an empty-netter with just over a minute left to seal the deal, and push Buffalo to 3-0-0 on their current four-game western trip.

The difference again was Ryan Miller, who stopped 32 of 35 shots and had his shutout streak stopped at 155:37. He held the fort as the Sabres were outshot 13-6 in the second period and 10-7 in the third.

The win sends Buffalo into Monday’s game in Winnipeg just two points back of the team that was ripped away from Atlanta, who heading into Sunday night’s Capitals/Flyers matchup, sit in the final playoff spot in the East.

  • Good for Zack Kassian deciding to show up for the game against his former team and decide to start hitting people. He’s the kind of player who shows up when he wants to, and Vancouver will learn that soon enough. Credited with 7 hits, he now has 16 in three games with Vancouver (5.3 per game). In 27 games with Buffalo, he had 39 hits (1.4 per game). Don’t worry Canucks, he’ll disappear at some point soon.
  • Same can be said for Marc-Andre Gragnani. Dude obviously played above and beyond against the team that gave up on him. Threw a whopping three hits against the Sabres, which is as many as he had in his last 11 games for Buffalo combined. If he would’ve played that motivated while he was here, he’d still be here. Was still a -2.
  • Rough night for the top line. Jason Pominville finished -3 on the night (a season worst), and Thomas Vanek played just 12:09, just ten seconds more than Corey Tropp’s team low total. Both were held off the scoresheet again. The team’s winning, but man, they’re going to have to turn that around. Soon. Read the rest of this entry

Instigator Podcast #6: Codylicious

Please make way for the sixth edition of “The Instigator Podcast” featuring Chris Ostrander of Two In the Box and myself.

This week’s episode breaks down the NHL Trade Deadline, and the Sabres moves. We talk how awesome it is to have Cody Hodgson, how awesome it is that Darcy got a 1st for Gaustad, all the other deals and play Plus/Minus.

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

Sabres pick up Cody Hodgson, ship Kassian & Gragnani to Vancouver

Hey, Darcy… good work, pal.

While many fans were pulling out the pitchforks with 3:00 approaching, Regier was making moves, and while many might’ve been fine with the previous trade with Nashville, he had something up his sleeve.

Buffalo sent rookie Zack Kassian and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani to Vancouver in exchange for Calder candidate Cody Hodgson and German defenseman Alexander Sulzer.

Hodgson, 22, has 16 goals and 33 points in 63 games for the Canucks. He has worked his way into “rookie of the year” talk after playing eight games last season for Vancouver. He made 12 playoff appearances in their run to last season’s Stanley Cup Finals, picking up one assist.

Sulzer, 27, has played just 12 games this season. In 74 games with Vancouver, Florida and Nashville, he has one goal and seven assists. He takes over Gragnani’s role as the team’s #7 defenseman. The Kaufbeuren, Germany native has been on Team Deutschland for the last two Olympic games.

The return was solid, but it was still a shocking move for the Sabres to give up on Kassian, who’d quickly become a fan favorite with his alleged physical play.

In 27 games for Buffalo, Kassian picked up three goals and added four assists. His legendary physicality was largely absent, as he proved to be a more passive big body than people expected. He was the Sabres’ first pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, 13th overall.

Vancouver also gets Marc-Andre Gragnani, a once promising young defenseman who had fallen out of the lineup. In 44 games, the guy who had been penciled in as a powerplay quarterback had just one goal and 12 assists. He had been the team’s leading scorer in last year’s first round series against Philadelphia, and it was his overtime goal against Carolina in April 2011 that helped secure a playoff spot.

Hodgson is currently signed to his entry-level deal, which expires after next season at a $1,666,666 cap hit. Sulzer is a pending unrestricted free agent at $700,000 for the season.

Overreactions, 45th Edition: Detroit Rock Bottom

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.

Surprise, surprise.

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

Overreactions, 43rd Edition: “It was an important game for us.”

On the verge of a seven-game road trip and two and half weeks away from First Niagara Center, the Sabres desperately needed to end the month’s home schedule on a high note.

It wasn’t very high, but high enough.

Thanks to two first period goals from the team’s fourth line, solid goaltending, and the team’s leading scorer coming through as usual, Buffalo was able to secure a split to the home-and-home with Toronto, as they pulled out a 3-2 win at First Niagara Center.

Matt Ellis opened the scoring at 1:05, banking in a shot from behind the goal line. The rare fortunate bounce was followed up by Gaustad ripping a wrister past Jonas Gustavsson less than three minutes later.

“We haven’t got many of those,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff admitted in his press conference, referring to the team’s bad luck of late.

Buffalo’s two early goals were answered by the Maple Leafs before the end of the first, as they scored two goals in just 2:46 to even the score.

The tie was broken with just over five minutes remaining in the second, as Thomas Vanek threaded a beautiful pass to Jason Pominville at the back door for the All-Star’s 15th of the season. The Leafs defense failed to notice the captain sneak around the goal to the backside of the crease.

“We should’ve had the coverage in front of the net,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said after the game.

Ryan Miller made 24 saves for the win, and allowed two goals or less in consecutive games for the first time since October. Jonas Gustavsson allowed three goals on 25 shots to a team he shutout a few days before.

The game wasn’t without the reemergence of the story of the season, as Brayden McNabb left the game with what could be a concussion. Ruff reported that he did in fact visit the “quiet room” and is out for tomorrow’s game on Long Island.

  • Getting goals from guys like Paul Gaustad and Matt Ellis is the difference between this being a competitive team and an average team. That depth in offense is crucial. The second and third lines didn’t contribute any themselves. Thanks to Gaustad, Ellis and Patrick Kaleta (two assists) chipping in, they got two points.
  • I’ll say there were probably a solid 9-10,000 Leafs fans in the building.
  • Derek Roy came out extremely strong and overall had a pretty solid game. He was doing good things with the puck down low, created a couple chances too. 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, 32nd Edition: One step forward, eight steps back

Coming off one of the more uplifting efforts of the season into the second half of a back-to-back (which the team has been strong in this season), one would expect the Buffalo Sabres to come out to play when they visited Pittsburgh Saturday night.

Unfortunately, it appeared to be the complete opposite.

After Ryan Miller gave up four goals in the win Friday night, coach Lindy Ruff decided it might be a good idea to stick with him instead of going with Jhonas Enroth, who had notched a win in Pittsburgh earlier this season.

Miller, who went into the game with a career line against Pittsburgh of 4-9-3 in 17 GP, with a 3.25 GAA and .886 save percentage, apparently was a better choice than Enroth in the eyes of Ruff, despite the rookie’s 1.51 GAA and .950 marks against the Pens.

The choice paid immediate consequences. Pittsburgh’s Jason Williams beat Miller with a 60-footer 2:17 into the game and the Pens led the rest of the way, as Miller surrendered five goals on 15 shots in an 8-3 defeat.

Pittsburgh got a five point night out of Evgeni Malkin, as the superstar’s hat trick and two assists keyed the win.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Miller, 4-10-3 against Pittsburgh. “I don’t think that was anywhere close to good hockey on my part, so I just have to regroup and recover.”

Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam and Paul Gaustad scored for Buffalo, who trailed the entirety of the game after the first goal.

Miller gave up three goals in 9:43 and gave way to Enroth, who finished the first period allowing one goal. Ruff decided to reinsert Miller to start the second period, where he gave up two goals before Enroth took over after the second intermission. The Penguins added two goals in the third to add insurance.

Buffalo also added a few names to the injury report, as Tyler Ennis and Colin Stuart were both banged up and didn’t finish the game. Ennis indicated after the game that it seemed like a short-term injury, but Ruff said after the game that Stuart will be out “in the month range or something like that.”

  • As bad as Miller played, since he admitted he didn’t play well, are we okay with that now? Seems like his attitude after bad games has drawn so much ire in the past, after this effort and his postgame remarks, you’d think it’d be easier to swallow. Nope.
  • Incredible stat of the game: Paul Gaustad was +3.
  • At this point, there really isn’t much the team can do on the ice but battle with what they’ve got. The injury situation is laughable, and until they get healthy, no qualified decision can be made on exactly what the problem is. When they get to that point, they’re going to need to do something. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 30th Edition: Strong start subsides, Sens slip past Sabres

Strong starts have been finding a way to fade lately at First Niagara Center. Less than a week after blowing a first period lead to Philadelphia, Buffalo found a way to do it again.

Despite allowing an early goal, Buffalo was dynamic through most of the first period, generating good opportunities and heading to the locker room with a lead. As we’ve seen recently, those leads tend to get away.

Drew Stafford left Senators defenseman Jared Cowen alone in front to put the puck past Ryan Miller 45 seconds into overtime to hand the Sabres a 3-2 overtime loss.

Miller was strong for Buffalo, making a season high 41 saves.

Buffalo got goals from Paul Szczechura and Tyler Ennis. Szczechura’s was his first in a Sabres uniform.

Now, Friday approaches as the Sabres conclude a five game homestand with exactly one win so far to show for it. Up next is the Toronto Maple Leafs, two points ahead of Buffalo.

  • Tonight was the kind of game that I was expecting from Zack Kassian when he got the recall. Used his body well, did alright in the offensive zone, and didn’t throw his weight around. That’s how his game has always come across to me. He’s been playing atypical of that lately, but he was back to what I’d assume is his old self tonight. Credited with zero hits on the night. Hell, even Gragnani got credited with a hit.
  • Mike Weber was really good in his return to the lineup. Tied for the team lead with three hits and was overall strong for his 16:31 on the ice. With the way some other guys have been struggling and Myers still on the shelf, Weber just needs to play well and he should stay in the lineup for a while.
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani was completely ineffective as a 12th forward. He did get a lot of minutes on the powerplay (3:39) but his lack of use at even-strength renders the viability of him in this capacity to a minimum. Guy needs to sit down for a game or two.
  • Ville Leino, your key offseason addition down the middle: 14:49 TOI, -1, 1 shot and a solid 1-for-10 on faceoffs. By the way, Tim Connolly, who everyone ran out of town out of sheer stupidity, scored two goals tonight for Toronto. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 27th Edition: Grag reflex

It’s enough to make you sick.

With the memories lingering of Philadelphia’s last visit to First Niagara Center, where the Flyers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, the Buffalo Sabres made a concerted effort to make sure that didn’t happen Wednesday night. It didn’t. In fact, it was the opposite.

Unfortunately, a 3-0 lead wasn’t enough to get the win, as Buffalo let an early advantage slip away en route to a 5-4 overtime loss. Early goals by Ville Leino, Zack Kassian and Thomas Vanek were cancelled by Philadelphia before the end of the second period, and it was a goal by Drew Stafford with just 1:35 remaining in the 3rd that saved them from walking away empty handed.

Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux ended the game midway through the extra period, as he intercepted a careless pass by Marc-Andre Gragnani in the Flyers’ end and beat Ryan Miller on the breakaway.

“I’ll take the blame for that,” Gragnani said. “If I saw him, I wouldn’t try that pass.”

Ryan Miller made 29 saves in the loss.

Buffalo seemed to be in complete control early. They a force offensively and a force physically. They responded in kind to dirty play by the Flyers. Joe Finley jumped Zac Rinaldo in the first period after he threw a high hit on Tyler Ennis. Corey Tropp later scrapped with Rinaldo after he backed away from Finley.

In the second period, it was Matt Ellis going after Flyers’ defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon after he buried Nathan Gerbe into the boards from behind. Gerbe would be knocked out for the game, and his future status is uncertain. Lindy Ruff indicated after the game that he’d expect supplemental discipline for the hit.

The Sabres have now won just one of their last seven at home.

  • Good for Ville Leino. The goal was a beautiful effort from that Kassian-Leino-Adam line, which was solid.
  • Speaking of Kassian, whenever you wanna grab #19, go ahead Zack. You should be sticking around a bit.
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani deserves to be benched for that atrocious decision in overtime. Unfortunately for everyone except whoever the Sabres play, Buffalo has no options and can’t sit him down. They need to get healthy. When they do, Marc-Andre’s status in the lineup should be considered tenuous.
  • The powerplay was quietly 2-for-4 and the penalty kill was able to survive the only shorthanded chance from the Finley penalty in the first. Special teams like that should win you games.
  • Rough night for Brayden McNabb. -3 on the night, some awful giveaways, and overall not a great effort. Luckily for him, he wasn’t first on the defensive shitlist thanks to Marc-Andre. Read the rest of this entry

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