Blog Archives

Overreactions with 36 to go: We’ve reached the bottom

461692462_slideIt finally happened.

After an incredible run through November and December, just over a month removed from a streak where the Sabres improbably won 10 of 13 games, they have parachuted to dead last. And despite an improved effort Saturday night against the visiting Flyers, the 4-3 loss, combined with Edmonton’s shootout win over Florida puts the Sabres in 30th place.

Buffalo scored late in the opening period to take a 1-0 lead on a goal by Zemgus Girgensons, but the Flyers would take over in the second and controlled the game from there. Power play goals from R.J. Umberger and Mark Streit gave Philadelphia a lead, and they wouldn’t trail again.

Tyler Ennis would score his 10th of the season late in the second, but the Flyers would add two more in the third. A late marker by Girgensons, his second of the night and 13th of the season wouldn’t be enough.

Michal Neuvirth was solid in net for the Sabres, stopping 28 of 32 Flyers shots in the loss. Rob Zepp made 24 saves for the Flyers.

It’s been three weeks since the Sabres’ last win, and it may be much longer until the next.

  • Maybe Tyler Myers’ best game in a long time. He was good. Logged a lot of minutes (27:33).
  • Very, very quietly, Chris Stewart is racking up points. His two assists tonight gave him 14 points on the year. It was his first multi-point game of the season and he has four points in his last five games.
  • Cody Hodgson played 5:57 tonight. Drew Stafford? 9:05. Who needs offense when you’ve lost 10 in a row? Read the rest of this entry
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Overreactions with 38 to go: A banner night for Hasek is a loss

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It’s been a rough year.

If you’re a Sabres fan, it’s been rough. If you’re a Buffalo Sabres season ticket holder, it’s been even rougher. Every game is draining, both emotionally and financially. It’s long been discussed (here on this blog and increasingly elsewhere) that the organization tends to be sloppy with things like marketing and game presentation, but this was going to be a special night.

It was underwhelming.

After a short, subdued ceremony to honor the greatest goaltender in franchise history and possibly the greatest player to ever wear the uniform, the Sabres dropped their eighth in a row, falling by a 3-1 score to the visiting Detroit Red Wings.

Mike Weber’s second period goal, his first of the season, would be the only offense the Sabres could muster.

Buffa461501680_slidelo fell behind midway through the opening period, as Darren Helm scored shorthanded to give the Wings a 1-0 lead. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar would add second period goals and the result was never in doubt.

Czech native Michal Neuvirth made 27 saves for the Sabres, while fellow Czech Petr Mrazek got the win for Detroit, stopping 25 shots.

One game on the schedule stood out as important for the fans. Tonight was that one game.

The game wasn’t thrilling. Little about the night was.

  • Seriously, the organization should be embarrassed about that. You don’t retire numbers often. This organization has arguably retired some numbers undeservedly. There isn’t a chance to do this better next year. There isn’t anyone close to being a candidate right now. It could be decades before we do this again. This should’ve been a seminal moment in team history, and it was completely underwhelming.
  • Little fanfare for Zac Dalpe’s Sabres debut. Honestly didn’t even notice him on the ice until near the end of the first period.
  • Whoever designed the patches the players wore tonight needs to take a lap. Uninspired and weak design. You’re retiring a number, why is the logo the primary focus of the patch?
  • Twenty years from now, the Sabres will be hit with a rash of injuries and will recall Matt Ellis from the Rochester Americans. The guy will never go away. That’s not an insult or anything. Ellis just seems like he’s always around and he never really hurts you. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 39 to go: Sabres fall to Lightning and don’t blame Neuvirth

461248060_slideThere’s a baseball term called “run support,” referring to how much offense a team produces when a certain pitcher is on the mound, and usually it helps a pitcher’s win-loss record when the team can give him some wiggle room. Michal Neuvirth pitched a gem Friday night, and he had no wiggle room.

Steven Stamkos’ goal with 5:14 remaining proved to be the winner, as the Lightning defeated Buffalo 2-1 in Tampa.

Neuvirth was the star of the night, stopping 45 of the 47 shots he faced, including all 27 (yes, twenty-seven) Tampa Bay threw at him, a Lightning franchise record, in the second period.

“It’s tough to swallow right now, but I thought we gave it our best,” Neuvirth said, per NHL.com. “It was a tough start, and after that I made a couple of saves and settled down.”

Cody McCormick scored Buffalo’s only goal, his first of the season and first career shorthanded goal. McCormick tied the game, beating Bishop after being sprung in alone after Patrick Kaleta collected a turnover in the Lightning zone.

Valteri Filppula scored the first Tampa goal in the opening minutes, but that would be the only offense Tampa could muster thanks to Neuvirth, who’s now lost his last six starts and is 3-11-1 on the year despite a solid .909 save percentage.

Buffalo has lost seven in a row and have won just one of their last 12 games (1-10-1). How about that miraculous playoff run we were talking about a month ago?

  • The difference between this game and every game the Sabres won during that batshit crazy stretch in November-December is puck luck. They didn’t have quite enough. You saw it on the McCormick goal, where a little mistake by Tampa’s defense handed a Sabre a breakaway that they converted. But there was always one other instance where they got a redirect or deflection that turned into another goal, enough to ride the goaltending. Didn’t happen on this night. Ended with a loss.
  • 27 shots against in one period? Good lord.
  • Your only even Corsi player for the Buffalo Sabres was Mikhail “Mike” Grigorenko. But he wasn’t playing with enough grit or something. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 43 to go: Ineffective Sabres shut out by Luongo, Panthers

460980928_slideIt’s hard to explain the mastery over the Sabres by Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo. Yes, the Sabres aren’t good at hockey, but this is something.

Luongo continued his dominant run over Buffalo with yet another shutout, his second this season alone against the Sabres, as Florida won by a 2-0 score.

In his last five games against Buffalo, Luongo is 5-0-0, allowed two goals and has four shutouts while stopping 130 of 132 shots (.985 sv%). The last time he gave up a goal in Buffalo was 2006. He’s been alright.

Nick Bjugstad and Sabres legend Brad Boyes scored for Florida, who moved within one point of the New York Rangers for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Their goaltender turned away all 30 shots he faced.

Michal Neuvirth stopped 31 of 33 shots for Buffalo, who have now won just one of their last eight and are thankfully dropping like a rock to the league basement.

“I’m proud of my mental toughness tonight,” said Neuvirth.

We’re all proud, Michal. All of us.

  • This game wasn’t very entertaining.
  • This stretch against the Sabres for Luongo is kinda crazy. Not absurd, because this team is doo-doo butter and doesn’t score goals much to begin with, but Robbie knows how to lock it down. The Sabres next visit the Panthers on February 28th, right before the NHL trade deadline.
  • The fact Tyson Strachan isn’t undoubtedly the worst defenseman on this team says a lot about it. He was basically signed for Rochester, and he’s getting leaned on as a key veteran. Absurd.
  • Tyler Ennis was the best player on the ice for Buffalo. Ended up with three shots, but he seemed to be the one that created most of the offense. Don’t know if it was in the game plan, but he sure spent a lot of time trying to stretch the defense and catch outlet lobs from his own zone. Read the rest of this entry

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 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 63 to go: Sabres crush Leafs in convincing and hilarious fashion

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Any time the Toronto Maple Leafs are in town, it’s dreaded. Thousands of thousands of the worst, most obnoxious jackasses that come through the doors of First Niagara Center all season routinely leave their mark.

Tonight, they left jerseys on the ice. They left beer cans. And they left without two points.

The Buffalo Sabres, with a home crowd in Leafs gear booing them as they took the ice, played their best and most complete game of the season. With a 6-2 win, the throngs of visitors and their opponent went home angry and disgusted.

It was great. Really. Really great.

Zemgus Girgensons scored twice and Buffalo got rock solid goaltending from Michal Neuvirth, stopping 32 of 34 Toronto shots.

“It’s hard enough when you don’t win games,” said Girgensons. “Today was absolutely different how we played.”

Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson and Tyler Myers also scored for the Sabres.

“It was a fun one,” said Ennis.

David Clarkson and Phil Kessel scored for Toronto, who lost to the Buffalo Sabres.

  • Buffalo registered a season-high 35 shots on goal. The previous high was 32, twice. They registered 30+ just three times before tonight, and won none of those games.
  • Brian Flynn on that second goal was super dreamy. Tyson Strachan ripped the puck around the wall and Flynn took off immediately, beats Reimer to the puck and is cool as the other side of the pillow in finding Girgensons in the high slot. Great play. Super duper.
  • Understated with the goalscoring output is how well Neuvirth played. Made some huge saves early to keep the Leafs off the board until late in the second period. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 67 to go: Neuvirth can’t do everything

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There wasn’t a lot of hope for good hockey with the 29th and 30th place teams in the National League facing off at First Niagara Center, but there was at least a lot of action.

If you were Michal Neuvirth, there was too much.

Neuvirth was impressive, but had to bear the brunt of 52 Edmonton shots, as the visiting Oilers handed the Sabres a 3-2 loss for their first road win of the season.

Noted Oiler-killer Drew Stafford and Matt Moulson scored for Buffalo, with Moulson finally snagging his first of the season. The two goals were enough to give the Sabres a lead in the final ten minutes, but the Oilers finally took control, with Mark Arcobello and Boyd Gordon adding the tying and winning goals.

“They were just throwing it at the net, and sending guys with traffic,” said Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges. “To be honest, we should take a page out of their book.”

Edmonton finished with 85 shot attempts, and their 52 shots on goal were both a season-high for them and a season-worst for the Sabres.

Buffalo is right back at it Saturday night, with the Penguins in town.

  • The Sabres should trade Drew Stafford immediately after the next game against Edmonton, because his stock will never be higher. He always seems to score against them. Should’ve placed a bet on it before the game.
  • Congrats to Oilers rookie Iiro Pakarinen, who scored his first NHL goal and now convincingly holds the title of my favorite name in the National Hockey League. The title was previously vacated by legendary Slovak forward Branko Radivojevic.
  • Neuvirth is going to have an aneurysm at some point this season. He was very aggravated after the game, calling for his post game presser earlier than normal. He seems sick of being bombarded every game. And there’s 67 games left!
  • Absolutely wonderful job by the Sabres on the pregame ceremonies for Hockey Fights Cancer night. The Jim Kelly/Rick Jeanneret puck drop was great. Only thing I would’ve liked to see is the ads on the boards in monotone lavender like other teams have done.
  • It amazes me that Ted Nolan felt that he just had to get Andre Benoit back in the lineup tonight. He was on the ice for a team-worst 41 shot attempts against, as well as the first two Edmonton goals. Play him more and see what happens: goals, for the other team.
  • The look of relief on Matt Moulson’s face was obvious. Hopefully they start going in more often for him. Not too often, we’ve got a tank to worry about. But he’s the kind of guy you like to see succeed. He wants to be here, amazingly. Appreciate that.
  • Attendance was listed at 17,490. In-house was probably closer to 15,500. Lots of empties for a Friday night.
  • Edmonton had 85 shot attempts. 29th place, terrible Edmonton had 85 shot attempts. What a mess.
  • Saw an Oilers beat writer tweet wondering why the Sabres would ever trade Tyler Myers. This means one thing: someone might actually want him. Sell. Sell. Sell.

3MI Three Star Selections
1. Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo
2. Iiro Pakarinen, Edmonton
3. Mark Arcobello, Edmonton

Official Three Stars of the Game
1. Teddy Purcell, Edmonton (2 assists)
2. Iiro Pakarinen, Edmonton (Goal (1))
3. Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo (49 saves, 3 GA)

Quote of the night:

“They wanted to win more than us… good for them.” — Buffalo Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth

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 79 to go: Quack Attack smacks Sabres

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With all the children off for Columbus Day, and a hastily organized “Kids Day” set for the Sabres’ matinee matchup against the visiting Anaheim Ducks, one might expect a light, fun atmosphere.

Yeah, not so much.

With the announced crowd of 18,912 watching, the Sabres were thoroughly and completely hammered by the Ducks, with Anaheim handing Buffalo a 5-1 loss in a game that was never close.

Starting with Andre Benoit’s penalty 18 seconds into the game, the Ducks rolled, outshooting the Sabres 17-3 in the opening period and 44-12 in the game. Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth, making his season debut and looking sharp early, never really had a chance, making 39 saves.

“Five goals against, that’s a lot,” said Neuvirth. “That’s too much. Tomorrow’s a new day, and we all gotta be better tomorrow.”

The Ducks got goals from Corey Perry, Matt Beleskey and Ryan Kesler, as well as the first two of William Karlsson’s NHL career.

Tyler Ennis scored in the third period to make it 5-1, his second goal of the season after tallying in Saturday’s loss to Chicago. Matt Moulson and Drew Stafford picked up assists on that goal, while the rest of the team was pointless, some in more ways then one.

Buffalo heads to Carolina to face the Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

  • I think it’s pretty damn awesome that the Pegulas shelled out the cash to buy 90,000 t-shirts to give out between yesterday’s Bills game and today’s Sabres game. Giveaways are cool. Giveaways that are unsponsored are an effort. Great gesture. Shame that there were a couple thousand unclaimed shirts draped all over the seating bowl.
  • Usually Ted Nolan seems very positive after games. He’ll say some things to show he’s not happy, but in the end he’ll have an optimistic spin on it. After the game, he was as pissed and upset as I’ve seen him since he came in last November. He claimed there would be lineup changes, but there’s only so many moves he can make. Marcus Foligno was scratched with an injury, so there are no spare forwards, and Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Strachan are your spare defensemen. Is that an improvement?
  • Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth will both get hurt in the next month or two. They will not be able to handle this workload all season.  Read the rest of this entry