There’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
With pregame rumors of a Johan Larsson call-up circulating, there was speculation as to what could possibly necessitate the move. Turns out Matt Moulson’s late scratch due to being sick would be what is referred to as a “harbinger.”
Missing their top left winger, and losing Patrick Kaleta due to illness and Tyler Myers to injury, the Sabres were on their heels all night and dropped a 5-1 decision to the visiting Colorado Avalanche.
In a fitting tribute to the discourse around the team this season, 2006 first overall pick Erik Johnson took a pass from 2013 first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon and beat Jhonas Enroth just 2:23 into the game.
It was all downhill from there. Colorado’s Cody McLoed would score shorthanded five minutes later. That 2-0 lead would hold through the third period, when Alex Tanguay and John Mitchell would score to put the game away.
Larsson made his whirlwind night memorable, burying his first career NHL goal with 6:33 left to make it 4-1. Tanguay would add an empty netter and the Sabres fell 5-1 for the second straight game.
Enroth made 22 saves in his first loss since December 4th. Calvin Pickard stopped 28 of 29 for the Avs.
- Good for Johan Larsson to finally pick up his first NHL goal. Tonight was his 34th National Hockey League game. He’s not supposed to be some elite goalscorer, but at some point the points had to come. Nice way to cap off the day for him.
- Ted Nolan brushed off the idea that it could be mumps that ailed Moulson and Kaleta. Could just be a flu bug, but hey, who knows. He’s not a doctor.
- Missing Tyler Myers for an extended period of time will really aid the tank. Not so much in the way the team will be worse per se, but that guys like Andre Benoit and Andrej Meszaros might have to get more ice time.
- The Sabres did a great job with the Make-A-Wish kid who dropped the puck for the ceremonial face-off. The kid was in the locker room helping interview players after the game. Really cool experience for him. Read the rest of this entry
The season is still young enough where the expected results don’t yet match the sample size. The Sabres, by far the worst team in the league in just about every category, somehow can’t find a way to get run over on a nightly basis where it matters most.
The regression is coming, but we’re not there yet.
Getting outshot 45-19 and out-attempted 76-36, the Buffalo Sabres, on the strength of a huge night from their top line, defeated Calgary 4-3.
Matt Moulson scored his second of the night with 7:29 remaining to give the Sabres a tenuous lead they wouldn’t surrender. Tyler Ennis would finish with three assists and Latvian god Zemgus Girgensons added a third period goal and an assist to pace the Sabres. Marcus Foligno scored Buffalo’s other goal.
“It wasn’t one of our better games,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan. “But, it does show that the belief factor is starting to creep in.”
Jhonas Enroth was the workhorse again, stopping 42 of the 45 shots he faced. He’s come away with a win in 7 of his last 9 starts.
Buffalo has now won 8 of their last 11, and continue their homestand Saturday night against noted division rival Florida.
- Tyler Myers and Josh Gorges… they did not have a good game. On the ice for every Calgary goal, Gorges himself was responsible for two of them, losing battles that quickly ended up behind Enroth. Myers was on the ice for 36 shot attempts against by the Flames.
- Good that Marcus Foligno tallied a goal, but besides being smart enough to stand by himself on the back end of the goal crease, that goal was all Drew Stafford. Stafford made a great play to defend the puck behind the net and slide it cross-crease to an awaiting Foligno.
- Really, really phenomenal game from Tyler Ennis. The top line has been playing very well and the result tonight is mainly on them. Read the rest of this entry
You’d almost expect the Sabres to come out flying, riding a three game winning streak and having one game in the last eight days. But you’d be disappointed.
Buffalo came out flat, surrendered an early power play goal, and eventually fell to the team now called the Jets by a 2-1 score.
Patrick Kaleta‘s celebrated return to First Niagara Center ice was a storyline through the night, as his roughing penalty at 3:06 led to the opening Winnipeg goal.
Late in the second period, he was drilled into the boards from behind by Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry, drawing a major penalty. Buffalo wasted no time, surrendering a shorthanded goal 14 seconds into the penalty, with Michael Frolik taking advantage of an Andre Benoit giveaway.
“It was tough,” said Sabres defenseman Andrej Meszaros. “The puck was bouncing. We didn’t execute. We didn’t do anything on the power play.”
Chris Stewart would pull the Sabres within one at 5:30 of the third period, cashing a breakaway for his second of the season. But Buffalo couldn’t find a way to get the equalizer and dropped back into dead last in the league.
Jhonas Enroth made 24 saves for Buffalo, falling to 3-9-1 on the season.
- Rasmus Ristolainen was fantastic. Him and Nikita Zadorov were by far the Sabres’ best defense pairing.
- Andrej Meszaros on the other hand was solid. Solid in the way that he played the Andrej Meszaros game that we’ve grown to expect, and that he was both awful and sometimes barely competent.
- Announced attendance was 18,442. Couldn’t sell out the night before Thanksgiving? That’s weak. Read the rest of this entry
Real hockey was finally back at First Niagara Center for the first time since April on Tuesday night. Well, if you count preseason as real hockey. It kind of is. But it doesn’t count.
The scoreboard said 2-0 in favor of the Buffalo Sabres, who used a strong 35-save performance out of goaltender Jhonas Enroth to earn the victory over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.
Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis scored for Buffalo, as their line with Matt Moulson combined for both goals. All three were on the score sheet on each tally, with Ennis and Stafford finishing with a goal and assist each and Moulson assisting on both.
“We’ve got great chemistry, there’s not really much else to say,” said Stafford. “I think we can be an extremely effective line, from here on.”
Neither team made it through the game without incident (surprisingly not involving Patrick Kaleta) as Buffalo defenseman Mark Pysyk was injured on his first shift of the game, and Carolina lost forward Jordan Staal in the third period. Coach Ted Nolan said after the game that Pysyk would be “out a little while,” which could mean anything. The news seemed more dire for Carolina, as Staal was seen on crutches after the game, and if the play was any indication, could be out for months.
Buffalo returns to action Friday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs visit for the first of a home-and-home set.
- Patrick Kaleta made his return to the NHL lineup (if you think preseason counts) and made it through the game without any remarkable issues. He did try to run a Hurricanes player through the Zamboni doors in the corner during the third, but otherwise behaved himself. You’d have to assume Nolan wants him around, and it’s on him not to screw up.
- Kaleta’s linemate, Mikhail Grigorenko did an admirable job making it look like he wasn’t annoyed having to play with him and rookie Brendan Lemieux. Grigorenko’s strong play could help make the decision to send Reinhart back to junior. Just throwing that out there now.
- Sam Reinhart didn’t shine, but later in the game, you began to notice some solid play. He made a very patient play with the puck in the defensive zone, the kind of confident move you’d expect of a savvy veteran, not a recent draft pick. He might end up playing every preseason game to help get him up to speed, but I’m still not sure he needs to be in the NHL quite yet.
Then the third period of the team’s fourth preseason game started.
Blowing a two goal lead in the final ten minutes of regulation, the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t beat James Reimer in time to save the win as they fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The game was decided by a shootout after a spirited overtime, and it took 30 (yes, 30) shooters to decide the winner. Jhonas Enroth was beaten by Jay McClement in the 15th round of the shootout, and Reimer stopped all 15 shooters he faced.
“I thought our game for 50 minutes was really, really strong,” said Sabres forward Steve Ott. “The last ten minutes, we cost ourselves.”
Enroth was solid in net for Buffalo, stopping 32 of 34 shots in addition to 14 of 15 in the shootout.
The Sabres got goals from Mark Pysyk and Marcus Foligno, while Jamie Devane (sounds fake to me) and McClement scored for Toronto. Reimer made 38 saves for the Leafs.
These teams meet again tomorrow night in Toronto, in what should be the last chance to impress for at least a few players.
- Brian Flynn really picked up his game from the other night, and his hustle gave him a few chances to make a mark. He needs another game like this to really make his case to stick around with a guy like Zemgus Girgensons in a good spot to make the team.
- People really hate Patrick Kaleta. Man, he was running around trying to hit anything the first few shifts of the game.
- Jamie McBain had a pretty solid game, but I’m not sure he’s going to make the team still. It’s obvious they were really trying to give him a solid look, as he had a team high 27:02 TOI, but I think that shows more that he’s on the fence than that he’s got a spot. Read the rest of this entry
Sabres forward Steve Ott did score the game deciding goal, but he did a better job summing up the night in the locker room after the game.
“That’s fun,” said Ott.
Buffalo came back from an early 2-0 deficit to tie the game at three before the end of the second and held on in the third to get the game to overtime before they eventually downed the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5-4 shootout win in front of 19,070 raucous fans, in both teams’ colors, at First Niagara Center.
“Honestly that’s easy energy you can take from the crowd,” added Ott.
The game got off to a wild start as Buffalo John Scott dropped the gloves with Toronto’s Fraser McLaren as Leafs tough guy Colton Orr tried picking a fight with Sabres pest Patrick Kaleta. Orr was booted from the game and Buffalo started off with a four minute powerplay which they failed to capitalize on.
Toronto would open up the scoring with two goals 1:16 apart just minutes later, beating Ryan Miller twice on five shots in the opening period. Tyler Ennis scored late in the period to cut the deficit to one.
The physical play continued to escalate throughout the game, and Toronto regained their two-goal lead on Mikhail Grabovski goal about nine minutes in. Buffalo would storm back on goals 0:45 apart by Marcus Foligno and Jason Pominville to tie the game, and then take the lead early in the third on a Christian Ehrhoff powerplay goal.
Leafs leading scorer Nazem Kadri would tie the game six minutes later, and except for a lot of hitting, the game was unresolved through 65 minutes of play.
“It was nasty and chippy and that’s the way it should be,” said Foligno.
Drew Stafford tallied in round 2 of the skills competition and Ott would score the shootout winner as Miller stopped 5 of 6 Leafs shooters, complementing his 30 saves through regulation and overtime.
Buffalo, with the win, sits just four points out of 8th place with 17 games remaining. Just when you thought they were out, they suck you right back in.
- John Scott, as much as he gets bashed, may have had his most effective game as a Sabre in 3:02 of ice time. He was able to bait Leafs forward Phil Kessel into a coincidental minor, which is a trade you take any day. And he had some fun after the game.
- Marcus Foligno always seems to step his game up when they play Toronto. Not just on the scoresheet (has six points in six career games) but as a physical presence. Makes you wish they played the Leafs more often.
- The drumline in the arena looks dumber and dumber each game. Yes, having someone lead chants is great until they stop, and then everyone else does. You’re creating sheep instead of putting the onus on the fans to make their own noise. Band-aid over a bullet wound. Read the rest of this entry
At least the whole country got a taste of this mess.
In a battle of two struggling teams trying to maintain any semblance of playoff hopes, it was the Capitals who walked away with two points and the Sabres walking away with a 5-3 loss in our glorious global superpower nation’s capital.
Searching for another strong start, Buffalo was able to keep the Capitals off the scoreboard for a respectable 19 seconds, as legendary hockey GM Mike Milbury’s favorite player, Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring. That was actually the high point of the first period, which was an overall craptacular period of hockey.
Buffalo would tie it just 12 seconds into the second period, as Cody Hodgson scored his 11th of the year. Washington came back with three straight before Brian Flynn scored his third to make it 4-2 after two.
Hodgson would add another in the third to cut the deficit to one before Washington’s Mathieu Perrault added an insurance marker for the Caps, who jump the Sabres in the Eastern Conference standings. The Sabres now sit in 14th, while the Caps move up to 13th.
Ryan Miller made 20 saves for Buffalo.
- Mark Pysyk looked pretty solid in his NHL debut. Really came out calm and make some smart plays in the first. He looked bad on the fifth goal, but that was really his only hiccup in 14:55 of TOI.
- The game Steve Ott played tonight is the game you really want out of him when he’s not scoring. He was a pest all night, drew a couple penalties and really was all up in Washington’s shit. He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but he was effective.
- Personally, I would’ve gone with Jhonas Enroth in goal tonight. His last performance merited another start. This was the best situation you could ask for. Don’t know when he gets in again. Maybe on the Florida road trip? Read the rest of this entry
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
As soon as the schedule came out, you looked for it. You looked for the opener, and it was home. Then you looked to see when the first game against Boston was.
Tonight, the demons await.
Ever since Milan Lucic brazenly ran over Ryan Miller in TD Garden, the cloud hanging over the franchise still has yet to dissipate. It’s not just they haven’t won there since that 6-2 loss, including two late season losses by scores of 3-1 and 4-3 that surely could’ve improved the Sabres’ playoff chances. It’s not just that they’re in the midst of a four game losing skid in a shortened season right now.
It’s that this franchise had all their faults exposed in one night and have yet to prove that they’re past it.
That game showed a lack of strength amongst the Sabres, not only to stand up for each other, but to avoid being rattled by it. Ryan Miller wasn’t the same for months. The skid the team went on was a major factor towards another year outside the top eight in the East.
And most notably, the changes to the roster since have all been with that game in mind.
It wasn’t long until they decided it was time for alleged-Lucic-in-waiting prospect Zack Kassian to fill that role in the NHL. They brought him up and saw what few had been trying to point out all along, that he wasn’t that guy. And then Marcus Foligno came up and filled the role better, so Kassian was dealt while his stock was still high.
And they traded Paul Gaustad, who was supposed to be the leader on the ice that night, but stood by idly by. He was gone at the deadline. It was clear that whatever toughness the Sabres thought they had, wasn’t enough. Or at least wasn’t the kind they needed.
It continued over the summer, with Steve Ott being acquired for talented center Derek Roy, and the “enforcer” John Scott being signed as a UFA.
There was no skirting around what this was supposed to be. This was supposed to make the team a group that didn’t allow things like the Lucic hit from ever happening.
So far, that hasn’t worked out well. Read the rest of this entry