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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
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What to watch for at 2015 World Junior Championships

HKO World Juniors USA Canada 20130103It’s the most wonderful time of the year. While the NHL takes a short holiday break at Christmas, it serves as a short respite before two of the best weeks of hockey of the year.

The yearly IIHF World Junior Championships, an exciting tournament of good hockey that has become a referendum on whether or not Canada is a failure as a nation, begin today. By the time the gold medal is awarded January 5th, we’ll have a look at some of the best young hockey players in the world.

With the Sabres in a precarious rebuilding phase, this tournament takes on a greater importance. Not only is there a desire to see your players succeed, like Rasmus Ristolainen did last year, scoring the overtime game-winner in the final as he was named the best defenseman in the tournament, but it’s a glimpse at some of the best draft-eligible players. Unless you’re living under a rock with no access to the internet, you can guess that would mean Canada’s Connor McDavid and American Jack Eichel.

But with Buffalo’s draft position being nothing beyond speculation and hope at the moment, we can look at the top young players who already are in the Sabres’ system.

Unfortunately, despite the depth in the Buffalo prospect pool, the team will have a small number of players participating in this year’s tournament. Russia’s Nikita Zadorov is stuck with the Sabres, not getting released for the World Juniors because he’s pretty much the second best defenseman on the NHL roster. Czech forward Vaclav Karabacek was cut after he overslept and was late to a team meeting. Swedish goaltender Jonas Johansson had to drop out due to injury, and Canada’s Nick Baptiste didn’t survive the first round of cuts in their camp.

That leaves us with four guys to keep an eye on, so here’s what to look for:

Hudson Fasching, RW, #22, United States

F11C1994Who is this guy? Fasching wasn’t drafted by the Sabres, but thanks to Tim Murray’s dealings at last year’s trade deadline, he’s in the pipeline now. Acquired from Los Angeles with Nick Deslauriers in exchange for Brayden McNabb and two second round picks, hopes are high for Fasching. The Minnesota Golden Gopher is a big kid (6’2″, 207) who plays a big game and projects as a powerful forward. He’s got an incredible back story and could find himself in Rochester next season developing as a pro.

Fasching should get top minutes in all situations for the Americans, which will put him in a position to be a game-breaker. Hudson had two goals and two assists in five games in last year’s tournament, and should be counted on as a veteran on the team.

Best case scenario: Fasching dominates physically and emotionally while coming up with some clutch goals and assists. He finishes with 7-9 points in the tournament and has a strong performance in the final as the Americans claim the gold they deserve.

+ + + +

Victor Olofsson, LW, #12, Sweden

Victor+Olofsson+Sweden+v+USA+White+Sg3wy_OLaj9lWho is this guy? Buffalo’s seventh round pick (181st overall) in the 2014 draft, Olofsson could be a late round gem, but he’s still a ways off from being a top prospect. Currently playing in Sweden, he’s known for his shooting and scoring. Offensively, the tools are there, but word seems to be that he needs to develop the rest of his game as well.

Olofsson has been seeing time on the Swedish team’s third line, so he’ll get solid minutes and an opportunity to make a difference for a team that’s looking to avenge their defeat in last year’s final.

Best case scenario: Olofsson chips in 4-5 goals throughout the tournament, enough to get noticed and leaned on a bit as the games get bigger.

+ + + +

J.T. Compher, C, #7, United States

J+T+Compher+USA+Blue+v+USA+White+08omLVqERUllWho is this guy? Compher is one of the more exciting prospects in the Sabres’ stable. A fantastic two-way forward out of the University of Michigan, he was pegged to be a part of last year’s team before he injured his foot blocking a shot in practice. Drafted by the Sabres with a second round pick acquired from Carolina in the trade that sent Andrej Sekera to the Canes, he’s been having a solid sophomore year with the Wolverines.

Compher should play in all situations for the Americans, and his speed and all-around game should make him a valuable part of the squad.

Best case scenario: Compher chips in a point or so each game while being reliable against top players on opposing teams. He goes off in the final, racking up three points and helping the United States sneak out a 9-2 win in the gold medal game.

+ + + +

Sam Reinhart, C, #23, Canada

F11C1596Who is this guy? Buffalo’s second overall pick in this past draft, he’s got both NHL experience from the start of this season and World Junior experience from last year’s tournament, where he picked up two goals and three assists in seven games as the Canadians lost hilariously in the bronze medal game. Sam’s already been named an assistant captain for the Canadian squad, and he’ll get top-6 minutes and be leaned on in key situations.

Reinhart will be considered one of the top players in the tournament, and he’ll be expected to stand out and perform. He struggled offensively in his stint with the Sabres (like the rest of the team), but his 27 points in 15 games with Kootenay since being returned to junior shows he’s still a force at the junior level.

Best case scenario: Reinhart dominates, leading the tournament in scoring with 14-16 points while developing an intense on-ice and personal chemistry with Connor McDavid, to the point that McDavid expresses his desire to go full-Lindros on whatever team drafts him and demands a trade to Buffalo. They become best bros and a reality television series is developed and they win Cups on Cups for years. Meanwhile, despite the All-Tournament Team performance of Reinhart, Canada loses their battle for Canadian Gold (bronze) and in their medal-less devastation, the nation to the north realizes that winning this tournament is pretty much meaningless, so they relax and learn to enjoy good hockey.

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 52 to go: Zadorov’s OT winner extends Sabres’ streak

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For once, as this has been a rare occasion this 2014-2015 season, you can look at a game that the Sabres won and say to yourself, “They deserved the win.” Tonight was just one of those nights.

Nikita Zadorov‘s goal 29 seconds into overtime was the gamebreaker, as the Sabres defeated Florida, 4-3.

“I probably never had that big a goal in my life,” said Zadorov. “It’s a great feeling and I’m going to try to do it again.”

The young defenseman, fresh off a debate about whether or not he’ll be allowed to go play for Russia in the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championships in Toronto and Montreal, received a cross-ice pass from Tyler Ennis and ripped the winner past Panthers goaltender Al Montoya.

Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta also scored for Buffalo, which has now unreasonably won nine of their last 12.

Hodgson, who was stuck in the press box last game due to his lack of production, broke things open just 2:06 into the game, taking a pass from Patrick Kaleta and ripping it past Montoya.

“He got exactly where goal-scorers have got to get to,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan.

Sean Bergenheim, Jimmy Hayes and Jussi Jokinen scored for Florida, who turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead before Gionta’s equalizer. Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth stopped 25 of 28 shots for the win.

Buffalo closes their four game homestand Monday against Ottawa.

  • This was just the third time this season that the Sabres outshot their opponent. Buffalo finished with 32 shots on goal, just ahead of Florida’s 28. They are 3-0-0 when outshooting their opponent.
  • Seriously, just three times in 30 games. That’s ridiculously terrible.
  • Nikita Zadorov is a star and he’s rapidly moving up the list of “Easiest guys to root for.” Kid is very charismatic and more importantly he’s very good at playing hockey. Part of the Sabres’ surge is due to the fact he’s been getting minutes.
  • That Tyler Myers breakout pass to Brian Gionta’s tying goal was fantastic and the finish was beautiful. That’s a hell of hockey play. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 59 to go: But really, how about that Ennis goal?

459693712_slideWhen the season is going like it is, it’s hard for a lot of fans to convince themselves to turn on a game. Some might not see the value in it if the team’s this bad. Some just don’t care to unless the team is good.

But then something will happen, like Tyler Ennis‘ ridiculous acrobatic goal, and reaffirm that there’s a reason to tune in every night. You don’t know what you’re going to see, or in the case of someone who didn’t take the time to watch or sold their tickets, what you’re going to miss.

Ennis’ goal early in the first period gave Buffalo a lead they’d eventually surrender, but a fortunate bounce in the final minutes gave the Sabres a 2-1 win over the visiting Canadiens, snapping a winless skid against Montreal.

Matt Moulson tapped home a loose puck into a vacated net after a stanchion on the boards knocked it away from Habs goaltender Carey Price.

“It must be a lucky day, so I’ll take it,” said Moulson.

P.A. Parenteau scored a powerplay goal early in the third period to tie the game, poking in a puck from underneath Jhonas Enroth’s skate.

Buffalo has now won four of five and is undoubtedly a lock for a playoff spot.

  • Obviously we don’t want this team to be winning too many games this season, but I’ll take a dumb luck, last second win over Toronto/Montreal at First Niagara Center eight days a week.
  • Maybe the best game Andrej Meszaros has played as a Sabre. Was solid in both ends.
  • The Nikita Zadorov-Rasmus Ristolainen pairing has been on the ice for one goal against all season, Jori Lehtera’s second in the 6-1 loss to St. Louis. That was November 11th.  Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 60 to go: Sabres get back on right track, lose to team that was the Thrashers

459625692_slideYou’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

Overreactions with 66 to go: That Crosby guy is an okay hockey player

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The best hockey player in the world was at First Niagara Center tonight, and spoiler alert: he doesn’t play for Buffalo.

Sometimes, it’s just a joy to watch a generational talent just light it up, and Penguins forward Sidney Crosby did just that. Crosby tallied an assist on each of Pittsburgh’s first five goals, as the visiting Pens cruised, leaving the hometown Sabres with a 6-1 defeat.

Zemgus Girgensons scored late in the second period to make it 5-1, but it was answered by a goal by Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh also got two goals each from Kris Letang and Predators legend Patric Hornqvist. But it was the Crosby show.

The game looked a lot like this:

Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth was thrown to the wolves, giving up six goals on 39 shots. The Sabres struggled to generate offense, getting outshot 11-4 in the opening period and 26-12 through two periods.

  • Enroth didn’t even speak after the game, but it’s not like there’s much for him to say. He’s 1-7-1 on the season and on average is facing almost 37 shots a game.
  • The locker room after games is turning into a contest of “How many guys are left in the room when they open the door?” Guys don’t want to talk, and it’s usually the same things being said. Tonight, it was Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Drew Stafford and Zemgus Girgensons who really spoke. Cody Hodgson and Torrey Mitchell milled around. But everyone else just got the hell out of there. What can they say?
  • Gionta had a team best 17 Corsi For and a team best 4 Corsi Against. Good game for him. He assisted on the Girgensons goal. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Sabres score goals (plural), fall to Bolts in overtime

183664516_slideOne of the storylines through the Sabres’ 0-3 start was the ineffective powerplay, which came in at sparkling 0-for-13 after three outings. They fixed it. But the win column… that remains uninhabited.

Twice jumping out to one-goal leads thanks to the man-advantage, the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t close the deal thanks to a dubious tying goal in the third period and an overtime winner to Tampa’s Alex Killorn as the Lightning handed the home team a 3-2 defeat in extra time.

Cody Hodgson and Jamie McBain both scored their first of the season for Buffalo, who drops to 0-3-1 on the young season. Both assisted on each other’s goals, while Thomas Vanek got helpers on both as well.

What ended up being the turning point in the game was a confusing play in the third period. As Buffalo controlled the puck in the Tampa end, one of the officials raised their hand for a delayed penalty. Seconds later, McBain ripped a shot on goal that Vanek deflected past Tampa goalie Ben Bishop, but a whistle blew before the puck entered the net. Confusion reigned before Vanek was sent to the box for high-sticking, not only which should’ve stopped the play much earlier, but that replays indicated was an awful call.

“I thought he was a little bit off today,” said Vanek, when asked about the officiating. “It happens. Too bad.”

22 seconds later, Lightning forward Teddy Purcell tied the game at 2-2, and the overtime result followed.

Jhonas Enroth was solid in goal for the Sabres, stopping 31 shots as Ryan Miller remained sidelined with an injury.

  • Our goal song is “Song 2” by Blur. Uninspired but solid. I’m ok with it. Signature goal songs come when teams go on deep playoff runs. This team isn’t making one of those. Better than “Lonely Boy” at least.
  • At some point we should really start getting concerned about Mikhail Grigorenko and his ability to develop in Buffalo. Playing him with John Scott and Patrick Kaleta isn’t helping anyone.
  • In his season debut, I really liked what I saw out of Marcus Foligno. Threw some big hits early, including one on Valtteri Filppula that incited a fight between Foligno and the inexplicably named Radko Gudas. Disappointing to see him pass up the golden opportunity he had in the third period as he walked down the slot only to attempt to feed Drew Stafford at the goal mouth. Sometimes it’s better to be selfish. Read the rest of this entry

Delayed Overreactions: Sabres drop home opener as Miller stops many pucks

183125572_slideRyan Miller did more than he needed to for the Sabres to get a result. They didn’t. And so begins the issues.

Playing their first game of the season at First Niagara Center, the Buffalo Sabres were shutout by Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson, as he out-dueled Miller and helped the visiting Senators hand the Sabres a 1-0 loss in front of a sellout crowd.

Ryan Miller stopped 45 of 46 shots, surrendering a goal to Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson with 1:35 remaining in regulation.

“Would’ve been nice to grind one out and get an ugly one,” Miller said. “You just have to gain points where you can get them. I just needed to make one more save there. It’s disappointing.”

Buffalo peppered Anderson with 35 shots, failing to beat him at all. Thomas Vanek registered nine shots on goal himself, but came up empty.

The Sabres also went 0-for-4 on the powerplay.

“I thought both teams deserved a point,” Vanek said. “We were the first team to break at the end, which is disappointing, but the effort was good again.”

  • Considering I’m the guy who incessantly talks about game presentation, I need to point out that the pregame was pretty damn good and there were noticeable improvements throughout the game. The bracelets they gave away added a nice effect, but overall, it’s better. There’s still some things they can do better, but it’s not like it’s still as bas bad (#unfollowBuffaloWins) as it was. We’ll see what they do for the next game, when there’s not the season opening festivities.
  • Thomas Vanek got killed by many after the game for losing Karlsson on the game’s only goal, but after watching the replay, Tyler Myers has to do better. As Clarke MacArthur came into the zone along the boards, Myers had him closed off before he inexplicably backed off and allowed him space to wait for Karlsson to jump into the play. If he plays MacArthur more aggressively, maybe the play doesn’t even happen. Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis were standing around as well. One bad play, one goal, one loss.
  • Vanek just didn’t have his touch. Had numerous glorious chances, but some bad decisions mitigated some of the opportunities. A few passes were just off. But he’s getting those chances at least. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Preseason Edition: Kids help Sabres beat Hurricanes

It’s good to be back.

In the Buffalo Sabres’ return to their home rink for their first home game of the preseason slate, a squad littered with young talent overcame a sloppy first 30 minutes to storm away with a 5-2 win over visiting Metropolitan Division rival, the Carolina Hurricanes.

Johan Larsson, acquired at last year’s trade deadline in the Jason Pominville deal, scored twice for Buffalo, who moved to 3-0-0 on the preseason campaign.

Trailing 1-0 after one period of play, Joel Armia scored his first of the preseason to tie the game. After surrendering another goal just minutes later, Larsson scored his first of the game, tipping in a Brayden McNabb point shot to deadlock the score after two periods.

Buffalo would go on to score three unanswered goals in the third, led by Cody Hodgson’s redirection of a Thomas Vanek pass with just under six minutes to go. Larsson and McNabb (who finished with a goal and two assists) would score insurance goals before the clock ran out.

The Sabres also got a very strong performance out of Ryan Miller, who played his first full game after splitting duties with Matt Hackett in Wednesday’s win over NHLBettingTips.com Metropolitan Division underdog Columbus. Miller stopped 34 of 36 shots to get the win.

While an undefeated record in preseason only means so much, the Sabres now face a home-and-home with Toronto. The Leafs will visit First Niagara Center on Saturday night for a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

  • Really like Johan Larsson’s game tonight. The guy does everything you’d want him to do. He goes to the net, wins draws (71% on 17 draws) and shows a lot of hustle. He could force his way into a roster spot, but if he doesn’t, he won’t be in Rochester long.
  • Best guy on the ice for Carolina tonight? You guessed it: Andrej Sekera. Led Carolina with 23:03 of ice time, showed a lot of possession of the puck, and save for the two third period goals he was on the ice for, was really, really good. The Canes are gonna love him. Compher better pan out.
  • Brayden McNabb’s game has been hit-or-miss for a little while, but tonight his work in the offensive zone is evident in the boxscore. That shot can generate a lot of opportunities, whether it’s going straight in, or he’s putting it in places that guys can tip it. He needs to show that if he wants to stick. Read the rest of this entry