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Overreactions with 46 to go: Sabres storm back in 3rd to beat Isles

460861224_slideFor most of Saturday night’s game, the result looked inevitable. For the final 13:21 of regulation, it became nothing but a bunch of questions.

Three Sabres goals in a span of 5:12 during the third period brought Buffalo back from a 3-0 deficit before Tyler Ennis scored the shootout winner in a 4-3 shootout win over the New York Islanders.

Nick Deslauriers, Zemgus Girgensons and Chris Stewart all tallied goals in the explosive comeback, with Islanders call-up Kevin Poulin, in his second start in back-to-back nights, getting shredded to force overtime.

New York had opened up a 3-0 lead thanks to an early goal by Nick Leddy and two goals from nephew-of-Buffalo-legend John Tavares. They carried that lead into the third period where it all fell apart.

Deslauriers opened the scoring by ripping a rebound past Poulin at 6:39. After Drew Stafford took a dubious goaltender interference penalty, Deslauriers rifled a pass from inside his own blueline to a streaking Girgensons, who made it 3-2 with his second shorthanded goal.

“We always believed, but we got lucky,” Deslauriers said. “The puck just popped out at me. I took a shot and it went in. From there, we built momentum and Girgensons buried a nice goal.”

Less than two minutes later, the lead was officially gone, as Stafford fed Stewart, who cut in front of Poulin and tucked it home to tie the game.

Ennis scored the only goal of the shootout, and Jhonas Enroth stopped all three Islanders attempts after making 33 saves in 65 minutes of play.

Buffalo now heads to Ottawa for a game with the Senators on Monday night.

  • The Sabres lost defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen during the game, as he apparently caught the bug that has been sidelining guys for the last couple weeks. Nolan said after the game there would be a recall coming. (UPDATE: Sabres have recalled Mark Pysyk from Rochester)
  • I don’t see the benefit of having Johan Larsson playing 9:23 on the wing with Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta rather than 18-20 in all situations with the Americans. This team isn’t very good. Pick up a plug off waivers or call up Matt Ellis, let Larsson keep developing with more minutes. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 19/48 Edition: Sabres get shutout in yet another loss

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If you assumed things couldn’t get worse, they couldn’t really. It’s just not getting better very quickly.

On the heels of another loss in Ron Rolston’s debut behind the bench Thursday night in Toronto, the home debut didn’t go any better. In fact, it was worse. The Sabres were inept offensively and, at too many times, defensively in a 4-0 shutout loss to the 12th place New York Islanders.

Ryan Miller was solid again for Buffalo, stopping 28 shots, but got little help from his defense and no help from his offense.

Mark Streit and Michael Grabner scored 1:05 apart for the Isles late in the second period to take what would be an insurmountable lead. John Tavares and Cody McDonald scored in the third to stretch the final margin.

“We can’t point fingers,” said Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, who now has just one goal in his last seven games. “Everyone has to be better. I’m a goal scorer who’s not scoring goals right now.”

With now two games since the deparature of Lindy Ruff, the team has done little to silence the dissatisfaction of the home crowd. The crowd rained down boos for much of the latter part of the game.

“They’re booing for the right reason, we’re not winning,” said Sabres forward Marcus Foligno. “They wanna see a product on the ice that wins, and right now we’re not delivering.”

  • The special teams has been horrid of late. Buffalo was 0-for-6 tonight, stretching their streak of abysmal play to 12 games where they have just two powerplay goals to show for it (2/46 in that stretch). The penalty kill hasn’t been much better, going 3-for-4 tonight, and has now allowed a powerplay goal in 9 of the last 12 games.
  • The exchange of goalie-running at the end was moronic and it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts the final time these teams play, in the final game of the season. I’ll put good money on the fact that that game will be meaningless.
  • Whatever new song they used for the intro video tonight, they can go ahead and never use that again. Who the fuck approves this shit? They sure as shit don’t have a clue what they’re doing. Blame the team losing all you want, but the crowds shouldn’t be this shitty. You need to set a better tone in this rink. The fact they don’t just exacerbates the on-ice issues. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 52nd Edition: Nothing’s over yet

The easy thing to do if you’re a fan is to write off this season.

The likelihood of salvaging this season is slightly above zero, that’s not just based on emotion, but the facts. It would take an incredible run of wins to find a way back into the playoff picture. All it takes is winning, right?

Well, seems they’re figuring that out.

After some lights-out defense and goaltending gave them the edge in breaking out of their extended slump, the Buffalo Sabres survived an early hole, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the New York Islanders in a shootout, winning 4-3.

Ryan Miller broke Dominik Hasek’s franchise record for career wins with his 235th, stopping 35 of 38 shots through 65 minutes and stopping Frans Nielsen in the shootout.

“I played with great teams and many great players, so this is very satisfying,” said Miller, a fifth-round draft pick in 1999 who debuted for the Sabres during the 2003-03 season. “And it was a good comeback win for us. We played a solid game, sticking with it and getting chances.”

Nielsen opened the scoring at just 1:39 of the first period, and after Nathan Gerbe tied the game four minutes later, Buffalo faced a two-goal deficit after 20 minutes. Maligned centers Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad scored in the second and third periods to force overtime.

Buffalo survived an onslaught in overtime, as a too many men penalty allowed the Islanders a chance to win, but Miller stopped all nine New York shots in the five minute extra session.

  • It was a good night for some guys having a rough season. Nathan Gerbe hasn’t been scoring like he needs to. Derek Roy has been taking a beating. Paul Gaustad’s been struggling to justify his role on the team. Hopefully it’s a nice boost for them.
  • Travis Hamonic will have to tell me what it’s like to take a slap shot in the face, because I have zero interest in experiencing it for myself.
  • Congrats to Ryan Miller for breaking the all-time wins mark. He’s had some really good years here, and he’ll likely extend that mark much further. Dominik Hasek could’ve had so much more if he would’ve had more to work with while he was here. Or shootouts. That would’ve helped too. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 44th Edition: Roadtrip of doom starts with disappointment

Opening a seven-game road trip, one would think it’d be prudent to snag what points you can in the games that should be deemed “winnable.”

Facing the 15th-best team in the Eastern Conference should fall into that category. Saturday night’s game in New York didn’t fall into the “win” category, though.

Despite another phenomenal performance from rookie Jhonas Enroth, Buffalo couldn’t get the goal support or the defense it needed, dropping a 4-2 defeat to the last place Islanders.

“When you don’t execute exits out of your zone, you have a hard time generating much at the other end,” Ruff said. “On the bright side, I did think Jhonas was terrific.”

Enroth’s 36 saves were in most instances timely and crucial to keeping the game close. The Sabres got goals from Patrick Kaleta and Derek Roy, but a late goal by New York’s Michael Grabner was the deciding marker.

Buffalo got a chance to tie the game, as Thomas Vanek got a penalty shot with just 1:24 left, but the team’s leading scorer rang a shot off the post behind Isles goalie Evgeni Nabokov. New York added an empty netter with 30 seconds remaining to seal it.

Next up for the Sabres is a trip to Detroit, where they face the Red Wings on Monday night, winners of 14 straight of Joe Louis Arena. Oh boy.

  • Robyn Regehr left with an upper body injury and was deemed as out for the coming games by Lindy Ruff. With Andrej Sekera ready to come back, it won’t necessitate a call-up, but the defense has struggled mightily. Mike Weber has been alright, but right now he’s getting #4 minutes. Marc-Andre Gragnani and Joe Finley looked like a dumpster fire in their own zone for much of the night. Sabres need to get Christian Ehrhoff back badly.
  • Derek Roy came through with a big goal to tie the game right after the Isles made it 2-1. The second line finally chipped one in. Oddly enough, it was on a night where the top line wasn’t making an impact on the scoresheet.
  • The lack of production from the first line can be correlated with Thomas Vanek getting drilled in the side of the head by a Jochen Hecht shot. Vanek has been taking a beating lately. They can’t afford to lose him. If he’s done, they’re done. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 24th Edition: Sabres teach new class, call it “Losing To Shitty Teams 101”

Tonight, the New York Islanders moved two points of the struggling Anaheim Ducks for sole possession of the 28th best record in the NHL. They have one team to thank for it: the Buffalo Sabres.

For the second time in five days, the Sabres lost to a team in 15th place in their conference. Blame the injuries. Blame the bounces. Blame the bad luck. Doesn’t matter what you want to blame it on, it all ends in a 2-1 loss.

Jochen Hecht scored Buffalo’s only goal in the third period, as Islanders goaltending Al Montoya was the star of the night, stopping 30 shots in the win.

“He was sound in the net and he made sure there were no good second opportunities,” Roy said. “That’s partly our fault. We have to get to the net a little better.”

Buffalo looked a combination of listless and disjointed, depending on when you were jolted from the slumber induced by the frequently uneventful play. There were brief moments of intrigue, one being Zack Kassian’s first scrap in the NHL with Matt Martin of the Islanders.

Unfortunately, there was more cringeworthy moments to consider than glimmers of quality. Jordan Leopold, arguably Buffalo’s best defenseman over the last few weeks, left with an upper body injury and did not return. An extended five-on-three late in the third yielded nothing. Ville Leino blew a slam-dunk goal that could’ve tied it with just minutes left. A poor effort all around.

Jhonas Enroth finished with 28 saves for Buffalo.

  • The potential loss of Leopold could be devastating. He’s been superb for weeks. While the strong performance of all Amerks being recalled is encouraging, this is a loss from the top of the barrel, not the bottom.
  • Christian Ehrhoff has been playing his best hockey of the season lately. He was on the ice for 32:48 Tuesday night. That’s more than half the game. The guy is a horse. Andrej Sekera was really good too, and made a nice play that led to the Sabres goal.
  • The First Niagara Center continues to be a place where the Sabres don’t play well. The atmosphere is awful on a regular basis, and it seems little effort is being done to change that. The crowd is always dead. The music is habitually awful. Seriously, in a tie game, midway through the third period, what moron thinks “Oh, you know what would get this crowd rocking? The fucking Chicken Dance!” Is this a joke? Seriously. If I would’ve actually paid for my ticket in, I might be even more disgusted with that. Completely embarassing, and in no way should that idiotic behavior be allowed to happen.
  • At some point, can Nathan Gerbe get called out for doing nothing? Hasn’t scored a goal in almost a month, and other than an inspiring effort against Boston last week, hasn’t brought much energy. He was flat out awful Tuesday night.
  • The Ville Leino signing looks worse by the day. The idea of Leino being here for another five seasons after this one is borderline vomit-inducing. He’s been better, but his style is frustrating and the results aren’t there. This guy is supposed to be a key cog. He’s been anything but.
  • Jhonas Enroth made the saves he needed to. Like with any goaltender, it’s all about goal support. If you can rely on a goalie to hold the other team to two goals, you should be able to win a lot of games. Not when the offense is M.I.A. Read the rest of this entry

Sabres acquire rights to Christian Ehrhoff

Did anyone see this one coming? Didn’t think so.

In a surprise move, and an encouraging one, word broke tonight that the Buffalo Sabres have acquired the rights to pending unrestricted free agent Christian Ehrhoff.

Ehrhoff’s rights were acquired from the New York Islanders in exchange for a fourth round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. The move comes after the former Canucks defenseman was acquired by the Isles Tuesday from Vancouver. The Islanders, not exactly a premier destination, tried in vain to sign him before Friday when he hits the market, but could not get a deal done.

Snow would not divulge to Newsday how much he offered Ehrhoff, but the number was “well north” of the five-year, $23 million contract Vancouver gave to defenseman Kevin Bieksa, according to the newspaper.

“We made a significant offer,” Snow told the newsaper. “I don’t want to get into specific numbers, but I felt like we made a good offer and a good run to get Christian to sign.”

Snow added: “We took a step in the last 24 hours to get a quality player signed. It didn’t work in this instance, but we’ll keep trying to get top talent here.”

Now the clock is running for Darcy Regier to get the German-born defenseman to sign. Ehrhoff had a solid season for the Western Conference champions, registering 14 goals and 50 points in 79 games. He was key for the Canucks in their run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, but had a rough Finals, going -7 over the seven games. In his two seasons with Vancouver, he was +55 in 159 games.

Obviously the move indicates that the Sabres have had their eye on him. The question is if they can convince him to join the roster. The Isles’ offer of approximately $33 million over 6 years wasn’t enough to convince him, but possibly a similar offer along with the prospect of playing with a fellow countryman and opening next season in his homeland might be enough to sway him.

Overreactions, Edition 54: No man is an island

When was the last time the Sabres scored six goals in a game and looked that awful?

After a promising streak of three wins (side note: kinda sad that we’re at the point where three games is promising), all it took was a goaltending mess at HSBC Arena to put questions back in the forefront.

The New York Islanders walked away from Sunday’s game with a 7-6 overtime victory on the strength of Michael Grabner’s winner. Combined with Carolina’s win over Atlanta, Buffalo falls to four points back of the 8th playoff spot.

It was an extremely disappointing result on a day where there were two points there for the taking. Facing rookie netminder Mikko Koskinen, the Sabres’ offense did their job, chasing him after scoring four goals. It was backup Al Montoya making his Islanders debut who held the Sabres to two more goals for the rest of the game to get the win. Ryan Miller was, to put it nicely, a sieve in his 31st consecutive start, making 19 saves on 26 shots.

“Give me a break, they scored goals,” Miller said, after being asked how he felt. “I’m just frustrated.”

With a back-to-back coming up starting Tuesday night in Montreal, do we finally see Patrick Lalime?

  • Can we keep the Tim Connolly that came to play in the first period? He had a good game, but wow, he was awesome in the first 20 minutes. Read the rest of this entry

Every game is a big game

The mantra is going to be similar for each game that remains on the schedule. I don’t think “must win” is quite applicable yet, because I equate “must win” with needing to “win out”, and we’re far from that point. I’d say the points are needed, but we’re not at “must win” quite yet.

To guarantee a playoff spot, 100 points are going to be needed at the end of the season. If the Sabres get to 100 points, there’s no way they’ll miss. That’s not realistic though.

Realistically, the number is a little lower than that, but not by much. I tweeted last week that the Sabres needed 20 wins in their last 32 games to get into the playoffs. With the teams they need to catch (and pass) not exactly setting the league on fire, it should be enough to sneak in.

Saturday night’s win over the Leafs was the first of 20. But to break it down into smaller increments, they gotta win two out of every three games.

So, let’s forget Saturday, and look at the next three: tonight at Tampa Bay, Thursday at Florida, and Sunday against the New York Islanders.

Read the rest of this entry

Spat with GM leads to Ted Nolan being fired. Color me surprised.

If you haven’t heard by now, the New York Islanders have fired their head coach, the Buffalo “legend” that is Ted Nolan.

Although there had been a growing rift throughout last season between Nolan and Snow, the somewhat surprising midsummer move was made after a morning meeting at Nassau Coliseum before the opening of a rookie training camp.

“The process for me was something that took a lot of time to come to terms with,” Snow told The Associated Press. “We all know we probably weren’t all on the same page in certain areas.

“It wasn’t going to work if two people aren’t on the same page. That’s why the meeting was healthy because we both realized that there were differences in philosophy.”

Honestly, I don’t see how anyone could see this as a surprise. You knew it was a matter of time. It started looking like an eventuality when the Isles shipped out Nolan’s homeboy Chris Simon last season. Now it’s public and just as ugly as his last divorce from an NHL team. Read the rest of this entry