Blog Archives

Overreactions with 39 to go: Sabres fall to Lightning and don’t blame Neuvirth

461248060_slideThere’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
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Overreactions with 57 to go: Latvia defeats Tampa in a shootout

459856786_slideRiding a hot streak coming into Tuesday night’s game against the first-place Lightning, anyone could’ve respectably expected the Sabres run to come to an end. The team’s winning ways have been marked by stellar goaltending and puck luck, things that people who use logic and evidence would consider “unsustainable.”

But Ted Nolan knows how to get his boys to grit out wins, so the streak continues.

A late Zemgus Girgensons goal forced overtime, and the Buffalo Sabres walked away victorious in the shootout, defeating Tampa Bay 2-1.

Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis scored in the shootout for Buffalo, who’ve now won six of their past seven. But the star was goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who made 26 saves and kept the Lightning off the board for the first 49 minutes of the game.

“Obviously the confidence is a little bit higher now,” Enroth said.

Ondrej Palat scored for Tampa Bay, who were limited to two shots as a team in the opening period.

“The one thing we are doing is we’re getting better and we’re working on certain things,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “Part of getting better is that resiliency, to keep going and keep going.”

The teams head to Florida to complete their back-to-back on Thursday.

  • That game was absolutely brutal to watch. Forget the result, that wasn’t entertaining hockey. But that’s Ted Nolan for you.
  • One of the few players who jumped out at me as playing well was Nikita Zadorov. Kid has been really good all year. In fact, he’s been so good it might be a good idea to let him go play in the World Juniors.
  • I get that Girgensons has been playing well, but let’s take a step back on the All-Star talk. It’s a bunch of Latvians voting like crazy. If every team gets a guy, then maybe he’s that guy. But he’s not even top 100 in scoring. Relax. 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

Overreactions, 73rd Edition: Sabres bolt ahead and beat Tampa

Games have tended to slip away from the Sabres lately.

There was the “give up a late goal to force overtime and lose in the shootout” one last Wednesday. And then the “come back to tie it and blow multiple chances to seal the win in a shootout” one in southern Florida on Saturday.

Tonight, the Sabres made sure that wasn’t happening again.

Holding a two goal lead after 20 minutes, Buffalo used a four-goal second period to pull away en route to a 7-3 win over Tampa Bay.

Jason Pominville and Marcus Foligno each scored twice for Buffalo, who kept pace with the victorious Washington Capitals and sit just two points behind them for the final playoff spot in the East.

“We were able to capitalize on a couple of rushes and made some good plays on our power play,” Pominville said. “When they have to change their game plan and open the game up, I think it falls into our style of play. We’ve got guys that have speed and can make you pay, and we did.”

Drew Stafford, Corey Tropp and Brad Boyes also scored, as the Sabres defeated the Lightning for the first time this season.

Ryan Miller made 24 saves to get the win, as his counterparts, starter Dustin Tokarski (four goals allowed on 15 shots) and Dwayne Roloson (three goals allowed on 23 shots) didn’t fare as well.

  • Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno are absolutely sublime right now. A combined three goals and four assists tonight, these guys look phenomenal together. Ennis’ move to center has singlehandedly rejuvenated Stafford, and Foligno has probably played his last AHL game, unless the Sabres miss the playoffs.
  • Good to see Jason Pominville pick up a couple nice goals, getting him to 27 on the year. He’s had a great season, and he should have a good look at breaking the 30-goal mark. Hey, somebody ought to be able to get that many.
  • Corey Tropp with an absolute beauty on a nice setup from Thomas Vanek. Tropp is the future of the bottom six on this roster. Decent size, good energy and solid hands. He’s developed into a hell of a player. 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

3MI LIVE: Sabres vs. Lightning: Game Presentation Edition

It’s been almost two months since the first time I did this, instead of doing a typical blogger live blog, which has been done extensively before, I’m gonna focus on something a bit less obvious: game presentation.

More than ever, it’s become a lightning rod of conversation, thanks to media (local and out-of-town) being extremely critical of the crowd and the energy at the arena. The organization has clearly taken it to heart. They’ve made an obvious point to acknowledge that things aren’t right, and that’s the first step.

They have been listening. They’ve made some changes, many positive.  Considering my strong feelings towards what needs to get done, it’d be pointless to demand change and then not point the good things out and react. However, there’s still things that need work.

There’s a new introduction video featuring Rick Jeanneret. They’ve got a new goal song, “Lonely Boy” by the Black Keys. They’ve been dimming the lights here and there. These are improvements, but things aren’t perfect. Things will never be perfect, which can’t be looked at as a negative thing to say, but trying to be better is the important thing.

So for tonight’s game, this will be an attempt to analyze, provide criticism (constructive when possible) and look at what’s been changed and what needs to change.

Pregame

  • It’s about quarter to 6:00 (game time is 7:00) and while the seating bowl is not open yet, the 200 level and suites are getting a trickle of spectators. Zamboni is out on the ice, arena lights are fully on, and soft rock is playing quietly. Looking at the scoreboard, the new “We Live Hockey” graphic is everywhere. I see the emphasis on that marketing initiative since the team returned from the roadtrip. Funny how that’s the catch phrase now and people are arguing on twitter about why you’re allowed to leave games early. Anyways, nothing flashy really going on. I know in the past they used to show old games against the night’s opponent on the scoreboard at this point of the night. I think that’d be a better direction. And please dim the lights. It’s not showtime yet!
  • Well, here we go. 5:59 and the arena goes dark and the music goes up. “Stranglehold” by Ted Nugent is playing. A little subtle, but could be worse. It’s not Christopher Cross at least. One of the improvements I was key on, and they’re doing it.
  • 6:01, and fans are just entering the bowl. This is their first taste of the environment. This is where the tone gets set. Much better now than it was in the past.
  • They’re playing some featurettes, including an NHL Rewind done by NHL Network. Thumbs up. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 8th Edition: Sabres fade early, fall to Lightning

It looked like the homestand was off to a fast start. Too much, too soon.

After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first two and a half minutes of the game, the Sabres let Tampa back into the game before the first period was out, and the Lightning ended up leaving Buffalo with two points as the home team lost 4-3.

Thomas Vanek and Brad Boyes scored early for the Sabres, who fall to 5-3-0.

Tampa got a rebound goal from Vincent Lecavalier and Nate Thompson was credited with a late first period goal that went off a defenseman’s skate to tie it. A second period Steven Stamkos tip-in and a late Ryan Malone insurance goal were enough, as Nathan Gerbe’s last minute marker didn’t change the outcome.

Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon was able to bounce back from the rough start and earn the win, stopping 36 shots. Ryan Miller made 19 saves in the loss.

While the team looked underwhelming at times, the Sabres created a lot of pressure in the third period in an effort to tie it up. Buffalo outshot Tampa Bay 17-7 in the final 20 minutes.

  • If you had a “what Sabre will score a goal tonight” pool, and you didn’t take Thomas Vanek, you’re a mess. It’s almost like he just wanted to get the first one out of the way. He had a bevy of chances, including a second period breakaway, but failed to convert.
  • Robyn Regehr was a beast. Whether that’s a carryover from something that happened Saturday, or the man just deciding that he’s going to beat the crap out of anyone wearing white, the guy had an impact. The hit on Lecavalier was spectacular. Read the rest of this entry

3MI Live Blog: Sabres vs. Lightning

Well, I can’t say when I opened up a WordPress account over three years ago that I expected to be sitting here in the Ted Darling Memorial Press Box at First Niagara Center for a game, but, here we are.

The Sabres take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, their first home game in 11 days. In honor of the occasion, we’ll be live blogging during the game, and still offering “Overreactions” after.

And, of course, thanks to the Buffalo Sabres and the PR/media staff for allowing us bloggers a haven above the action.

Check out Sabres.com for all your game information. Faceoff is at 7:30. Check back then and often, as well as @3rdManIn for insights.

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Pregame skate // Sabres led out by Ryan Miller, Lightning by Mathieu Garon, as expected. Matt Ellis is on the ice. I smell two points.

Pregame // I saw a lot of negative reaction on twitter about the advertisement banners hanging from the rafters at First Niagara Center. Honestly, I’ve sat here for over an hour and just noticed them, and they’re basically right over my head. It’s not that horrible. If the Sabres can recognize a sponsor that’s been good to them and make the sponsor feel good, more power to them. It’s a business. I’m not offended by it whatsoever.

Lineups // Sabres scratches are expected: Mike Weber, Jochen Hecht, and Tyler Ennis. Key Lightning scratch is Mattias Ritola.

18:27 1st // Pat Kaleta with a great first shift. Two big hits, including one on Lecavalier. Great tone setter.

17:14 1st // Thomas Vanek and Brad Boyes get on the board quick. 2-0 Sabres. Vanek steals the puck from Eric Brewer and walks in alone. Brad Boyes pounds home a loose puck. Could be one of those nights.

12:03 1st // First television timeout, and it’s been all Sabres so far. Shots 7-4. Each line has had at least one good shift. Great start.

10:48 1st // Thomas Vanek takes the first penalty, with a careless hook. The game had started getting a little grabby, so it was only a matter of time before something got called.

6:58 1st // Vincent Lecavalier gets Tampa Bay on the board, jamming his own rebound past Ryan Miller.

6:40 1st // Pat Kaleta drops the gloves with Steve Downie. Entertaining period to say the least.

3:43 1st // Andrej Sekera with a nice play to cancel out Steven Stamkos. Guy just keeps playing well.

Read the rest of this entry

Looking Ahead: Previewing the Sabres’ homestand

With seven games under their belt in the 2011-2012 season, the Buffalo Sabres head into somewhat-unfamiliar territory: an extended stay in Buffalo.

To this point, the team has played exactly one game at their home rink this month, a loss to Carolina on October 14. They’ve been superb on the road, sweeping a set overseas and winning their first three away games in North America before Saturday’s loss in Tampa.

Now, the Sabres will face that same Lightning team as they open a five game set at First Niagara Center. Only a point back of Toronto (yes, Toronto) for the division lead, a strong showing at home could be extremely beneficial to widening the lead on the rest of the Northeast Division, which, heading into Tuesday, sits 12th (Boston), 13th (Ottawa) and 15th (Montreal) in the East.

The Sabres have plenty to be happy about and plenty to be unhappy about. Thomas Vanek is scoring goals like they want him to, leading the team with six. The top line of Vanek, Jason Pominville and Luke Adam have combined for 11 goals and 25 points in the team’s seven games to date. At 5-2-0, they are getting to a solid start.

But there’s other stuff that is of some concern. The team was awful on Saturday in Tampa, so they’re coming off their worst outing of the year. Tyler Ennis is out for a few weeks with a high ankle sprain suffered in that loss. Ville Leino, the key offseason addition at center, has been relatively atrocious and asked Lindy Ruff to be moved to the wing.

So, they got that going for them. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 7th Edition: Lights out.

Well, that was, to borrow a line from Jim Lahey, “shit-tacular.”

With a four game road-trip winding to a close with a Saturday night tilt in Tampa Bay, the Sabres, winners of three straight, came out flat and played easily their worst game of the campaign to date. The Lightning cruised in handing Buffalo a 3-0 loss, winning the first half of a home-and-home set which concludes Tuesday at First Niagara Center.

Tampa goalie Mathieu Garon, who entered the game with a 1-7-0 career record, .878 save percentage, and 3.61 goals against versus Buffalo, pitched the shutout, stopping all 21 shots.

Ryan Miller stopped 23 of 25 shots for Buffalo, grabbing his second loss of the season.

“It’s one of those nights where we didn’t deserve the points, and we didn’t get them because we didn’t create enough,” Buffalo right wing Jason Pominville said.

Buffalo failed to generate much offensively, as indicated by the score. The powerplay went 0-for-3 and trailing heading into the third, managed just five shots in the final 20 minutes.

It was also the first game away from the 716 area code that the Sabres lost this season.

  • The worst loss of the night may be Tyler Ennis. The dynamic forward, while pointless on the season, can be a huge part of the team’s offensive threat. Although he has been languishing in the black hole of suckage known as “whatever line Ville Leino is centering” for most of the season, he looked great as soon as he was rescued to a line with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford. Ennis played just 35 seconds before getting hurt, and it’s unknown whether it will be long-term as of now.
  • Lindy Ruff had maintained since Jhonas Enroth’s win in Pittsburgh that the backup would get another start on the roadtrip. At least until Ryan Miller pitched a shutout in Florida. I said it before the game, and even with the lackluster effort from the skaters, I still maintain that Enroth should’ve started. Read the rest of this entry