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Overreactions: Sabres defeat Devils in hockey game

460610051_slideReturning home from a two-game roadtrip where they got worked in two losses, the Sabres hoped the comforts of home would put them back on track. And they did.

Facing a Devils team playing the second half of a back-to-back, Buffalo, on the strength of a powerplay that helped them generate over half their shots and both goals, walked away with a 2-1 win at a sold out First Niagara Center.

Matt Moulson and Matt D’Agostini scored for Buffalo, as they won their fifth consecutive home game.

Moulson opened the scoring late in the second period, jamming home a loose puck from the top of the crease, his 14th of the year.

For D’Agostini, he finally tallied his first goal as a Buffalo Sabre, putting home a rebound with just over eight minutes remaining in the third period. Good work by Steve Ott and Linus Omark, who tallied his first point as a Sabre on the play, created the opportunity.

“I went in there and the puck was just laying there,” said D’Agostini.

The Sabres shockingly got a solid night out of Ryan Miller, who made 21 saves and got the win. Only a Michael Ryder goal on a two-man advantage blemished his outing.

Buffalo is now off until Tuesday, when they face Carolina in the second game of a three game homestand.

  • Tyler Myers should probably get suspended for that hit on Dainius Zubrus in the third period.
  • I hate that Mike Weber or anyone else has to fight after a big hit. It’s ok to hit people. If it’s a cheap shot, knock yourself out, but a good clean hit should be respected and not punished.
  • For everyone in Buffalo that wants to see Ryan Miller start in Sochi, you better start making a bigger deal out of it or it won’t happen. Not one “U-S-A” chant in the first game since the roster was announced, even after multiple impressive saves. Gotta start getting to word out, people.
  • Zenon Konopka was not overly impressive in 11:37 making his Sabres debut. Whatever. We’ll see where it goes.
  • John Scott took a penalty, not for being John Scott, or for being targeted by officials, but for doing something against the rules. It happens. Not everything makes him a victim. 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, 49th Edition: It could happen!

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

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, 18th Edition: Defense is everything

Jhonas Enroth isn’t perfect after all.

In a rare below-average showing from the rookie sensation, the lack of finishing and lackadaisical defense doomed the Sabres in a 5-3 loss to the New Jersey at First Niagara Center.

The Sabres fell behind early, surrendering two goals in the first 5:21 of the game, and they never recovered. Enroth allowed five goals on 19 shots before being pulled in favor of Drew MacIntyre in the third period, who made two saves.

“It wasn’t good enough,” Enroth said. “I’m very frustrated. A real bad game from my side.”

Buffalo got two goals from Tyler Myers and one from Jordan Leopold. The forwards were quiet as they saw a large number of opportunities skitter just wide of the goal late in the game.

It was Enroth’s first regulation loss since November 24, 2010.

  • Tyler Myers was improved in his first game back after being scratched for Monday’s win. He scored two goals, but defensively, was still incredibly shaky. He made a couple horrible giveaways in the defensive zone, made some questionable passes on the powerplay and frequently got caught deep in the offensive zone on transition. He’s been awful for a good part of the season, and tonight was an improvement, but he’s far from where he should be.
  • I thought Jordan Leopold was the team’s best defenseman tonight. He had a very good game, was solid in all three zones, and got rewarded with a late goal, his fourth on the year. He was calm and made smart decisions. Great game for Uncle Leo.
  • Corey Tropp played a team-low 7:42, but he had a great game. Aggressive on the forecheck, strong on the puck. As long as he’s around, they gotta find ways to get him on the ice more. He’s been good. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions from Game 4 of 82: Time to wake up

For those just waking up this morning, the game is over. I’m sure you probably fell asleep watching it. Hell, it seemed like the Sabres were asleep at the wheel for most of it.

Thankfully, the $100 million man took it upon himself to end the misery for all of us. In an early front-runner for the least entertaining game of the year, the high-flying New Jersey devils edged out the Sabres in a (What’s another word for thrilling? Captivating? Ok, the opposite of that.) “dis-captivating” 1-0 overtime decision at HSBC Arena on a goal by Ilya Kovalchuk.

A sellout crowd was on hand to watch the Sabres drop their third straight at home as they failed to beat Martin Brodeur.

The last time the Sabres went through regulation with a 0-0 tie was Jan. 21, 2003, when Buffalo’s Martin Biron and Pittsburgh’s Sebastien Caron kept the opponents off the scoreboard for 60 minutes.

Some musings on the defeat:

  • Ryan Miller, well deserved first star. Team looked good defensively, despite surrendering 35 shots. They were mostly ones Miller could handle, and Ryan did the rest for the first 60 minutes. Read the rest of this entry

Sabres sign Rob Niedermayer

That one came out of nowhere.

Broken by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun on twitter, the Sabres have agreed to terms with free agent center Rob Niedermayer.

Sources tell TSN that Rob Niedermayer has signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the club.

The 35-year old played last season with the New Jersey Devils and recorded 10 goals and 12 assists in 71 games played.

LeBrun also reports the UFA chose the Sabres over Edmonton and Pittsburgh. Niedermayer becomes the only player in the locker room with a Stanley Cup ring, having won it with Anaheim in 2007.

His veteran presence will be a nice addition down the middle. Look for the man with 1,081 games played to slide in as the checking line center with Mike Grier, allowing Paul Gaustad to be pushed down the depth chart to a more physical role.

Rob, despite never playing for the Sabres, does have a history with Lindy Ruff. Niedermayer broke into the league with the Florida Panthers while Lindy Ruff was serving as an assistant coach. Ruff’s first season there, 1993-94, also happened to be Niedermayer’s rookie year. Both were there for Florida’s cinderella run to the Final in 1996, and Ruff left for Buffalo after the ’96-’97 season.

Kovalchuk trade puts Sabres behind the pack

Yes, I see, they’re still in 3rd place. I can read.

But last night’s blockbuster deal sending Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey isn’t going to put the Sabres any higher on the list of Cup contenders in the East.

The Sabres have been struggling of late. Just 3-5-2 in their last ten, and 2-2 since they returned from their recent trip out west. Ryan Miller has been good, but not great. Thomas Vanek has been hitting the scoresheet, but Derek Roy hasn’t. The defense has not been very good, with the third pairing being anything but set-in-stone.

Ok, it seems like the Sabres are kind of a mess. Right now, anyways. That comfortable division lead is now a single point, thanks to Ottawa deciding not to lose any game they play.

It’s just hard to call the Sabres contenders in the East at this point. With New Jersey, who I considered the weakest of the top five because of their offense, picking up a superstar for the stretch run, it’s now hard to argue that Buffalo is ahead of anyone right now.

Washington has won 12 in a row, and is going to run away with the Southeast. Ottawa has won ten in a row, and they play Toronto tomorrow, which should turn that into 11. And Pittsburgh, the defending champions, are right on the Devils’ back for the Atlantic lead.

What acquisition could the Sabres make to jump ahead of any of those teams? I don’t know. There isn’t much on the market right now with so many teams still in the playoff race. Before the Devils swung the deal last night, I figured it’d only take a couple of bottom six forwards to solidify the lineup. I mean, you don’t expect to win with Matt Ellis or Adam Mair in the lineup, do you?

Now it seems like it might not even be worth it if the prices are too steep. The Sabres are well-stocked in young talent, but there’s hardly a surplus. Giving up prospects or high picks for a futile run might do more harm on the franchise than good.

It’s just a tough decision to make with the team’s recent performance. When they were streaking after Christmas, they were playing as good as anyone in the league. Where did that team go? Are they going to make it back to the ice before April? If they don’t, I don’t have too much hope for more than a couple rounds of postseason hockey.

If the Sabres don’t win the division, it would be hard to say they’ll make it out of the first round. It’d be a likely matchup against either New Jersey or Pittsburgh in the 4/5 series. Even if they do, it’d be an uphill battle winning any other series against a top seed. That top 3 seed is huge. The Eastern Conference has a huge dropoff after the top five teams. Division winners should have an easy run to the second round. But whoever is in that 4/5 matchup is gonna have a dogfight.

Would they survive a dogfight? Maybe.

Maybe it’d be a good idea to just let this season play out and run at it next year.