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Overreactions, 28/48 Edition: Sabres lose in Sabres fashion to Sens

163808165_slideThe Buffalo Sabres played one of their best first periods of the season on Saturday.

Their opponent had limited quality scoring opportunities and good work in the offensive zone gave them a solid 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. But this is the 2012-2013 Buffalo Sabres.

Ottawa stormed back in the second period with three goals, and scored the winner in overtime as they defeated Buffalo by a score of 4-3. Kyle Turris won it with the Senators enjoying the extra man thanks to a Christian Ehrhoff penalty halfway through the extra period.

The Sabres salvaged a point thanks to a third period equalizer by Drew Stafford, who scored his second of the game with approximately eight minutes left. It was his second of the game, doubling his season goal total.

“We gave them a point tonight,” said defenseman Mike Weber, who tallied his first goal of the season. “It’s extremely upsetting. I don’t know what else to say.”

Goals by Patrick Wiercioch, Chris Phillips and Kyle Turris turned the game around for Ottawa, who outshot the Sabres 15-9 in the second. Buffalo, by virtue of the point earned in overtime, temporarily moved into 12th place in the East.

Ryan Miller stopped 30 shots in the loss.

“We’ve got to put together a hell of a stretch here just to have a chance to get in the playoffs. To go to sleep there for 20, it’s extremely disappointing,” said Weber.

  • Ville Leino looked really good in his season debut. He picked up an assist on the Weber goal, and was in position to get a piece of it on its way through. It’s hard to gauge how his absence has effected the team. As much as he draws the ire of many, the team is better with him than without him.
  • Not sure I’d have called it “interference,” but Christian Ehrhoff definitely earned that penalty in overtime.
  • Hopefully, Drew Stafford gained some confidence with his two goals. He earned them how he should be earning them regularly: going to the front of the net and getting pucks on goal. If anyone could use a little hot streak, it’s him. 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, 1/48 Edition: Thomas Vanek is all man, baby.

20130120 vanek

There may have been some reason to worry about the fact that the Buffalo Sabres were about to play their first game in nine months. Of course, their opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers, had a chance to shake off their rust beforehand, and they were motivated by their loss to Pittsburgh the day before.

Didn’t really matter.

Sabres LW Thomas Vanek had a career night pitching in on every goal as Buffalo dispatched the Flyers with a 5-2 victory in front of a national audience on NBC. The Austrian superhunk scored twice and added three assists to take over the NHL scoring lead on day 2 of the 2013 season.

“That’s one team I really like to beat, and it’s one team I really hate to lose to, so I feel pretty good right now,” coach Lindy Ruff said after the game.

Buffalo took an early lead on a powerplay goal by Sabres newbie Steve Ott. Philadelphia stormed back early in the second, scoring twice to take the lead. Then it was all Vanek. With less than five to go in the second, he deked Ilya Bryzgalov out of his jockstrap to tie the game. Then Vanek added helpers on a go-ahead goal by Tyler Myers and the insurance marker by Cody Hodgson late in the third.

He also added an empty netter for good measure, and linemate Jason Pominville tallied three assists.

“We scored timely goals,” Vanek said after the game. “It’s nice to get a win obviously, but if we would’ve lost, we would’ve talked about ‘It’s just one game with many more to go,’ so it’s the same mindset really.”

Buffalo was the beneficiary of two goals wiped out by the officials, one for goaltender interference and another because the official blew the whistle prematurely. Ryan Miller stopped 27 other shots to earn the win.

Sitting atop the Northeast Division, the Sabres head to Toronto tonight for tomorrow’s game against the Leafs.

  • First and foremost, kudos to the Sabres PR department for the additional access for bloggers this season. A few selected, premier sites were given full locker room access, this esteemed one included. There’s also open voting for the three stars of the game, which I will now include my selections and the actual ones in each Overreactions. Pretty surreal experience for me personally, but I’m not complaining.
  • Tyler Myers had the game winning goal and was overall terrible for the entirety of the night. Ended up with a team high 23:11 TOI and only credited with two giveaways. Was extremely shaky all game. If he’s gonna be the horse, he has to tighten it up.
  • Scott Hartnell is a piece of shit. Any time your team faces him, remind your players “Heads up, don’t duck,” because they’re gonna end up being boarded at some point. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 66th Edition: Sabres lose game, win because they get to leave Winnipeg

Sure, looking at the standings, Monday night’s game in Winnipeg (a vacation destination listed somewhere between Sarajevo and Chernobyl on the countdown of “Most Desirable Places To Visit”) looked like a big game. The Sabres, just two points behind the 8th place Thrashers-at-heart, could’ve jumped ahead with a regulation win.

Had it not been at the conclusion of a roadtrip that helped resurrect the team’s season, it might’ve been a do-or-die situation. But thanks to wins at Anaheim, San Jose and Vancouver, arguably, they were already playing with house money. Four-for-four wasn’t in the cards. Oh well.

Buffalo surrendered a lead for the first time in more than two weeks and rarely looked threatening in a 3-1 loss to the team they renamed the Jets.

Ryan Miller, who was sublime for the first three games of the trip, looked solid, but his 28 saves on 31 shots was not enough to steal any points.

Corey Tropp scored for Buffalo.

The Sabres looked lifeless for most of the game, showing signs of wear after three hard-fought wins before getting sent to play in poor conditions against a rested team.

Buffalo now sits four points out of a playoff spot, while still maintaining a game in hand. Winnipeg, clearly a better team in their AHL-sized home rink, plays just six games there for the remainder of the season. They have the 25th best road record in the NHL. Needless to say, the 8th spot is there for the taking.

  • Pretty shocked Lindy Ruff didn’t juggle lines a bit to find something other than the fourth line that might’ve shown something. The top line of Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville looked atrocious. They were each -2 and played under 17 minutes. Your top line is supposed to step up. They didn’t.
  • Seriously, when you’re down two in the final minutes and Matt Ellis is on the ice, your team has problems. Read the rest of this entry

Delayed Overreactions, 64th Edition: Miller fends off circling Sharks

We’ve seen games like this before.

Sure, they were 15 years ago and Dominik Hasek was in net, but it’s the same thing. A Sabres team struggles offensively and their goaltender stands on his face and steals a game. Just like the good old days, right?

A first period Drew Stafford goal was all that Ryan Miller needed to get the surging Sabres another two points, as Buffalo stole a 1-0 win in San Jose.

Miller made 39 stops for his second straight shutout. He was the first star and the story of the night.

“It’s unbelievable to see a guy be this good in net,” forward Tyler Ennis said. “You never think a guy can be that good and make that many saves, but he does.”

The Sabres grabbed the lead thanks to a quick counterattack from the dynamic line of Stafford, Ennis and newbie Cody Hodgson. A turnover in the neutral zone by San Jose’s Brent Burns created a chance for Ennis to find Stafford streaking into the slot, where he blew one past Antti Niemi.

Miller made all the saves necessary to make that goal stand up, include withstanding a third period barrage where the Sharks outshot Buffalo 17-5.

  • Was that review near the end of the second period the most unnecessary review ever? The puck wasn’t even close to being in. What a waste of time.
  • Really like the whole Ennis-Stafford-Hodgson line already. Fun to watch, they do such a good job keeping possession in the offensive zone. There’s some chemistry there.
  • Not too worried about the fact that Thomas Vanek has just one goal in his last seven games. Or that Jason Pominville has no points in the last four, a season worst. The rest of the team is picking it up. Should the goaltending falter and they remain off the scoresheet… then you panic. Wins are wins are wins. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 58th Edition: Where’s the dynamite?

Here we are.

With only ten days until the NHL trade deadline, the Buffalo Sabres aren’t in the position they expected to be. No one expected this.

Buffalo now sits 15th in the Eastern Conference with 24 games remaining as they dropped a 4-3 shootout loss to Montreal at First Niagara Center on Friday night.

“I’m obviously very disappointed,” said coach Lindy Ruff after the game. “Embarassed.”

Twice in the first period, the Sabres grabbed leads on goals by Robyn Regehr and Tyler Myers. Both were cancelled by the Canadiens, who tied the game 2-2 with under 14 seconds remaining in the opening frame.

A second period goal by Montreal’s Chris Campoli gave the visitors what seemed like the deciding lead, but Tyler Ennis’ goal with just over eight minutes left in regulation was enough to get it to overtime.

Failing to capitalize on a truncated powerplay in overtime, Brad Boyes and Jason Pominville were both stopped by Carey Price in the shootout as Montreal’s Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais sealed the win.

“This is a game we should’ve put away but didn’t,” Ruff said.

Ryan Miller made 16 saves on 19 shots for the Sabres. With Carolina defeating San Jose, Buffalo is tied with the Hurricanes at 55 points, but sits last thanks to tiebreakers.

  • Andrej Sekera had a phenomenal game. He was strong and responsible defensively and was a beast in the offensive zone. He made a great play to set up Robyn Regehr in the second period that Regehr couldn’t put away. Sekera was great early in the season, but hasn’t been as good the last couple months. Tonight was a step forward.
  • Zack Kassian’s fumbling of that 3-on-1 rush in the second period that preceded the Campoli goal is a sign of a kid who isn’t confident enough to make a play himself or a passive guy being indecisive. The fact he’s a part of this awful team should be worrisome. He’s got a bright future if he develops right.
  • The Sabres would have the third pick in the NHL Draft if the season ended today, and a 14.2% chance of winning the lottery to move up to #1 overall. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 55th Edition: Turn out the lights

With time winding down on the Sabres’ window to reinsert themselves into playoff contention, there are games that carry more weight than others. Facing a Tampa Bay team two points behind them in the standings, this was one of those games.

That window slid a bit further towards the closed position tonight.

Coming out flat after an inspiring win last night, in front of a lifeless crowd, the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t overcome another two goal deficit, falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 2-1 defeat.

Ryan Miller was solid in net, stopping 26 of 28 shots, but the goal support wasn’t quite there.

Jason Pominville’s third period goal, his 20th of the season, cut the deficit in half, but a late surge, including a shot off the crossbar by Christian Ehrhoff, couldn’t find an equalizer.

“We didn’t play well enough,” said head coach Lindy Ruff after the game.

With the night’s results, Buffalo falls to 14th in the East, eight points behind 8th place Toronto with a game in hand.

The Sabres’ unbeaten-in-regulation run came to an end after going 5-0-1 in their last six. They next face 6th place New Jersey at home on Tuesday.

  • Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff were on the ice and out of position on both Tampa goals. They were eventually split up, and then reunited. Myers led the team in ice time with 23:02.
  • Made mention of it on twitter during the game, but Tampa’s 2nd goal, the eventual game winner is a look at what could be soon. The goal, scored by Steven Stamkos, a #1 overall pick in the draft, was set up by Teddy Purcell, part of the return from trading pending a pending UFA at the deadline a couple years back. A few more losses, and the Sabres might be looking at having guys like that on their team next year.
  • Thomas Vanek looked pretty good, and his efforts set up Pominville’s goal. His unreal goal count in his career against Tampa (23 goals in 26 career games coming in) was not augmented tonight. 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, 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, 34th Edition: Sabres fall to Leafs

The NHL shuts down for the holidays at this time every year. It’s a safe bet Sabres fans are looking forward to the two days off as much as the players are.

It was another excruciating result for Buffalo, falling 3-2 to Toronto and losing Thomas Vanek to injury midway through the game. Vanek is reportedly day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Ryan Miller was fairly solid, making 28 saves in the loss. He was spectacular in the first period and seemed to get hung out to dry on a couple occasions.

Jason Pominville and Derek Roy scored for Buffalo, who have just one win in their last six.

The Sabres took a second period lead as Pominville opened the scoring, but the Leafs answered with two quick goals. Roy tied it early in the third period, but a goal by Nazem Kadri was enough to give Toronto the win.

Buffalo is now 1-4-1 in their last six games.

  • Seriously, if Thomas Vanek misses any time, or this is a nagging injury, this team is screwed.
  • Brayden McNabb had a really good game. Created a lot offensively, played solid defensively and made an impact physically. If he can string a few of these games together, he should be able to stay in the lineup even after Tyler Myers returns. Being the only defenseman who’s waiver-exempt, he’s going to have to play his way in every night.
  • After a strong debut, Derek Whitmore wasn’t as effective tonight. He didn’t seem to be on the same page as linemates Paul Szczechura and Drew Stafford. The team’s lack of centers renders any discussion about whether Whitmore or Szczechura is next to head down the 90 moot. Read the rest of this entry