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Preseason Overreactions: Sabres crush Capitals in final home exhibition

With the Washington Capitals leaving their stars out of the lineup, it looked pretty easy for the Sabres. 201410012104758804558-p5.jpgUnfortunately, every team they play this season won’t be doing that, so they’re still pretty screwed.

On a brisk Wednesday night in Buffalo, the Sabres jumped ahead early and rolled to a 6-1 victory over the visiting Capitals, wrapping up their home preseason slate.

Buffalo got two goals from Matt Moulson, as well as markers from Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and Sam Reinhart, who all scored their first of the preseason. The Sabres led 5-0 before Washington got on the board in the third on a goal by Jason Chimera.

“It was a good game all around,” said Ennis. “It was nice to see Reinhart get his first goal. Everyone contributed.”

Jhonas Enroth was a stud in net again, making 22 saves and solidifying himself as the likely starter for the season opener. Coach Ted Nolan wouldn’t confirm that after the game, but he acknowledged that Enroth is in a good position to be the team’s top goalie.

Buffalo wraps up their preseason on Friday in Carolina.

  • This was by far the best game Sam Reinhart has played this fall. I commented early how he looked like he belonged, and he followed that up with a goal in the third period. Before I wasn’t sure he deserved a look once the season starts, but he does now.
  • Marcus Foligno had a nice game. His goal was good work, as he basically got a free pass to the goal crease and walked it around Washington’s Braden Holtby. It’s good that he’s contributing. He’s going to need to do that regularly at some point.
  • Jhonas Enroth might end up getting 60 games this year if he plays this well. Hard for Nolan to turn elsewhere when he’s getting strong performances like this.
    Read the rest of this entry
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Overreactions: Capitals’ stars Ovechkin & Green star in overtime win over Sabres

465692425_slideThings didn’t start well for Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth. They didn’t end well either.

Three times the Buffalo Sabres erased deficits to force overtime, but the Washington Capitals prevailed in a 5-4 overtime loss at First Niagara Center.

Enroth was beaten twice early by Washington’s engimatic star, Alexander Ovechkin, to give the visitors a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes. Ovechkin would add two assists, including the set up of Mike Green’s overtime winner exactly one minute into the extra period.

The Sabres did show a lot of compete, as they battled back from 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 deficits to force the game past regulation. Cody Hodgson scored twice, once to tie the game at 2-2 and later to make it 4-4. Buffalo also got goals from Christian Ehrhoff and Phil Varone, who scored his first NHL goal in the second period.

Enroth battled throughout the night, but in the end, came up with another loss to fall to 1-10-5 on the season, making 30 saves.

It’s hard to win with this team, I guess.

  • Few things are more enjoyable than being at a game and seeing a kid score his first goal in the National Hockey League. It’s the greatest milestone in hockey, and it’s a lifetime of hard work coming full circle. Congrats to Phil Varone, who’ll keep that puck the rest of his life.
  • I’m not sure if Ted Nolan knows or supports line matching. I wonder because he willingly put the fourth line featuring noted shutdown winger John Scott out against Washington’s top line. Almost bit them in the ass, as Washington got a great opportunity but didn’t score. If you’re worried about winning, that shouldn’t happen.
  • Also on Nolan, I’ve taken the time to focus and wait for him to say the word “compete” during a postgame press conference. The buzzword of all buzzwords wasn’t a focus. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 35/48 Edition: Sabres lose again, should trade everyone

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The day started with a blueliner leaving the building, and it ended with the defense nowhere to be found.

In another episode of “This Team Is Not Good This Year,” the Buffalo Sabres blew leads of 2-0 and 3-1 en route to a 4-3 shootout loss to a Washington team they never trailed for a minute of the 65 played on the night.

Buffalo jumped out to an early lead on Christian Ehrhoff’s fourth of the season just three minutes into the game. Ville Leino would register his first of the season just 1:19 into the second to stretch the margin to two, before Washington star Alexander Ovechkin cut it in half just over a minute later.

Leino would add another midway through the second. And it was all down hill from there, starting with Troy Brouwer’s shorthanded goal early in the third period with American hero John Carlson in the box for the Caps.

“It’s disappointing,” said Leino. “That is a big goal to give up and after that they were fired up and wanted to win the game and that’s just things that shouldn’t happen.”

Mike Green would tie the game in the final minute with the extra attacker, and took the game in the shootout on goals by Matt Hendricks and the aforementioned Ovechkin.

Jhonas Enroth, despite stopping no shots in the shootout, was sensational for much of the 65 minutes before that, stopping 35 shots.

“No excuses for it,” said Ehrhoff. “We’re up 3-1 and put this game away and… we didn’t.”

  • Drew Stafford, without being on the scoresheet, played a hell of a game. One of his best efforts in recent memory. Showed a lot of hustle and created some good opportunities. Maybe he knew the scouts were watching, but I had to get him a vote for three stars. He deserved it.
  • You guys in game presentation can be done with the drumline anytime. You’re missing the point.
  • Enroth has been stringing together some nice starts. While the wins aren’t piling up, it’s usually not due to poor goaltending. With a baker’s dozen of games left in the season, he should be getting a fair share, at least four or five of them. But that’s not considering what might happen by Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 29/48 Edition: Loss with a Capital “L”

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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

3MI Roadtrip Recap: Washington

(In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, well, blow me.)

Preamble

Sometimes you gotta just say “Fuck it.

Having a few good friends living in the DC region, a trip to the Verizon Center had been on the docket as a possibility for a while. This week’s game had multiple arguments against the viability of the trip. Leading the way was the fact it was on a Tuesday. It was just something like “Alright, I’ll keep an eye on Southwest Airlines deals into BWI and see if there’s a good deal and then I’ll consider it…” until days kept creeping up on March 27 and all of a sudden the magnitude of the game became apparent. Just a week prior, I’m sitting at work texting a friend about maybe going and a song comes on and it’s time to show a cut from Sting’s new album.

So Monday after work, I hit the road for my friend’s place outside Baltimore. We and a couple of her friends got tickets for a somewhat reasonable price on StubHub over the weekend. So after a brief seven hour drive, it was a good night of sleep that stood between me and the day of the next biggest game of the season.

I had been to Washington and the area multiple times on various road trips over the past few years, including a trip last summer to catch a Nats game and a USMNT game. It’s a beautiful city, tons of stuff to do, a hell of a lot of fun. I had done the basic stops on the pilgrimage all Americans should make before, but it didn’t stop a return visit to the Museum of American History, which is always mind-blowing.

A few hours touring around downtown DC led to pre-game beers led to the game. Oddly, I had little to no stress about the game, mainly due to the fact it was such a mess finding my way down there and the looming overnight drive I had waiting for me. But here it was. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 37th Edition: Long December continues for Sabres

For Sabres fans, there’s been plenty of reason to have the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls.

Of late, it’s hard to come up with new things to say about this team. The pervasive use of “injuries” as an excuse for the team’s poor play has masked many of the team’s problems. Those problems have led to the team losing five of the last six thanks to an absence of offensive depth and the

Friday night, it was just another loss, with the Sabres’ top line being the only effective unit and goaltending that wasn’t going to steal anything. When the clock expired, it was Buffalo on the wrong end again, falling to Washington 3-1.

Struggling superstar Alex Ovechkin scored twice for the Capitals, who got a strong game from former Montreal Canadien Tomas Vokoun.

“I mean, they got a fortunate one on the first one,” right wing Jason Pominville said. “We kind of would like to get a few of those go our way, but that’s just the way it’s been going for us.”

Jochen Hecht scored Buffalo’s only goal, being set up by team MVP’s Thomas Vanek and Pominville.

Unfortunately, the injury excuse just got a little more support, as defenseman Christian Ehrhoff went down with an upper body injury, and could be out “weeks” according to coach Lindy Ruff. Having lost Andrej Sekera the game before, the team’s defense is now decimated with Tyler Myers still on the shelf and no sign that the goaltending will pick up the slack. Ryan Miller stopped 18 of 21 shots against the Capitals.

Buffalo’s last win on the road was December 3rd in Nashville. A team that’s been struggling at home and had the road record to compensate for it isn’t getting wins anywhere. With one game left against Ottawa, the Sabres are 4-7-2 in the month.

Injuries have kept a many players out for extended stretches, but the core of the team has remained in the lineup. Outside of Vanek and Pominville, none of them are contributing.

It’s been a long December, and there’s not much reason to believe right now.

  • Derek Roy got killed immediately by fans and media for that awful turnover at the blueline. He’s the new Tim Connolly. I’m not justifying his poor play, I’m just pointing out that he’s going to draw the most ire from fans now. Especially with Ville Leino out.
  • Jochen Hecht is producing. He’s honestly been pretty good whenever he’s been healthy. That said, I think it might be a good idea to get him off the top line. Vanek and Pominville are gonna produce with just about anyone in the middle between them. If Hecht is going good and you can put him with Derek Roy or Drew Stafford and get them going, it might be worth a shot. The team’s not winning. Something has to change.
  • Mike Weber is a solid #6 defenseman. May eventually be a good #5 blueliner. But right now, he might be the third best defenseman that’s healthy. Yikes. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 35th Edition: Sabres bust a cap on Washington

That was a hell of a start.

The previous statement isn’t facetiousness, as one would expect with the way the Buffalo Sabres have been playing, especially at home. No, that’s legit.

Opening the scoring just 51 seconds into the game on a Jason Pominville powerplay goal, Buffalo stormed out to an early lead with four first period goals en route to a 4-2 win over Washington.

The returns of forwards Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes from injury proved to be of great benefit, as the team’s persistent attack in the opening 20 minutes made the difference.

The Sabres chased Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth after Christian Ehrhoff made it 3-0 just eleven minutes into the game with a snipe to the top corner. Brayden McNabb tallied his first NHL goal to close the scoring in possibly the best period of hockey Buffalo has played all season.

“We got everybody going early, we got the fans into it, and we got the bench going,” Pominville said of the early spurt. “You always want to get that first goal, and for us to get it that early was huge for the team. To generate more chances and score more goals after that was big. We limited their chances, and probably could have put a few more away.”

Ryan Miller made 20 saves in the win. Matt Ellis also scored for Buffalo.

  • One of the team’s biggest problems since they’ve been struggling has been the lack of scoring outside of the top line. Tonight, it was two defenseman and a fourth-liner providing the margin. But even with them chipping in, look at the scoresheet: all the top offensive players made an appearance. Pominville got the goal, but Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes all picked up assists. When the guys you rely on come through, good things happen.
  • Boyes was really good in his return to the lineup. That additional firepower outside of the first line has been desperately lacking of late. He picked up an assist on the McNabb goal.
  • He was named the second star, but I would still like to point out that Jordan Leopold had another phenomenal game.  Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 23rd Edition: Did the Caps fire Bruce Boudreau yet?

If many in Vegas took the Sabres to win tonight, I’d be surprised. If any took them to cover, I’d be shocked.

But for a team that has struggled at home and showed up with a list of injuries longer than their list of wins in First Niagara Center, they made no mistake. With two players making their season debut for the reeling Sabres, Buffalo came out solid and played strong from start to finish, beating Washington 5-1.

Luke Adam scored twice for Buffalo, as he reaped the rewards of good efforts from Sabres newbie Paul Szczechura and Ville Leino, who each garnered two assists and one assists, respectively. The line dominated for much of the night on the forecheck, a surprise for two guys who’ve struggled of late and a guy just recalled from Rochester.

Zack Kassian scored his first NHL goal, while Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht also tallied for Buffalo in their first home victory in 15 days.

Jhonas Enroth rebounded from his putrid performance in Columbus, stopping 26 of 27 shots. Washington’s Jason Chimera scored the only goal for the Caps on a penalty shot in the second period.

Buffalo improved to 13-9-1, while Washington lost their fourth straight road game.

  • Lindy Ruff seemed to downplay the injury to Drew Stafford, which was unknown officially until game time, in his post-game press conference. If it’s not that serious, that can only be construed as good news for a team that’s getting hit hard by injuries. With only a game Tuesday against the Islanders between now and a back-to-back next weekend, that’s plenty of time to rest up.
  • Very impressed with Szczechura’s work tonight. That line was superb. Kid showed a lot of grit, some good hands, and a lot of effort. He’s no rookie, with 83 NHL games under his belt before tonight, but it was a refreshing surprise to see him acquit himself so well, so quickly.
  • Congrats to Kassian on the goal. He asserted himself physically like no other game I’ve seen him play in the preseason or the one I saw in Rochester. Completely superceded what I had expected out of him, and he was rewarded with a goal. He still has some issues to clean up, but he’s off to a hell of a start.
  • With Szczechura’s strong play, a great game from Kassian, and a good game out of Corey Tropp, even if someone does come back from injury, who do you even take out at this point? If Stafford’s healthy Tuesday, or someone else, how do you justify taking one of those three out right now? A good problem to have, but with the cap situation, unfortunately, it won’t be Matt Ellis, whose play has been underwhelming. Read the rest of this entry

3MI LIVE: Sabres vs. Capitals

Finding a way to persevere through adversity is the key to being a successful team.

Whether it’s a fanbase ready to bail on their franchise goaltender because of a hot rookie, a crisis of character because of backing away from a challenge, getting blown out by the worst team in the league, or just having your soldiers fall one by one… there’s plenty of adversity to go around for the Sabres tonight.

Coming off last night’s “shitnami” of awfulness in Columbus, the Buffalo Sabres, already devastated by injuries, are facing an underachieving Washington Capitals squad with an even more depleted lineup.

Robyn Regehr, as well as an unnamed forward, were injured in last night’s loss, prompting the recall of Brayden McNabb and Paul Szczechura from Rochester.

McNabb, wearing #81, will make his NHL debut, and Szczechura, wearing #58, will make his Sabres debut.

Washington, tied with the Sabres with 25 points and holding a game in hand, are 3-6-1 in their last 10. For a team expected to run away with their division again, things aren’t going swimmingly in the Beltway.

Tough test for Buffalo at First Niagara Center tonight.

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Warmups // Drew Stafford is the surprise scratch for Buffalo. He’s not on the ice.

Capitals wearing their alternates from last year’s Winter Classic. They’re flagrant.

At the end of warmups, Ville Leino takes a shot down the ice at the empty net after the Capitals leave the ice. Missed it by about ten feet.

Lineups // Karl Alzner, John Carlson on defense, with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer up front for Capitals. Tomas Vokoun gets the start for the visitors. Lindy starts Jochen Hecht, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Andrej Sekera, Jordan Leopold and Jhonas Enroth.

19:08 1st // Roy centering Gerbe and Kassian. Interesting.

17:58 1st // McNabb and Szczechura get their first shifts at the same time. Szczechura with Luke Adam and Ville Leino.

12:24 1st // Pretty uninspiring play so far. Buffalo’s getting a few chances but it doesn’t seem like either team is out to kill tonight. Interesting to see how a goal will change the flow. Read the rest of this entry

Sabres announce 2011 preseason schedule

The countdown is now on: 90 days until the Buffalo Sabres hit the ice to begin the 2011-12 season.

This morning the organization announced their preseason schedule, a move that comes weeks before it has in the past.

The Sabres will begin their preseason slate at home on Monday, September 19 when the Carolina Hurricanes visit HSBC Arena. The Sabres will then travel to Montreal to play the Canadiens on Wednesday, September 21. The team will participate in a home and home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs starting at the Air Canada Centre on Friday, September 23 and then at HSBC Arena on Saturday, September 24. After a game on the road in Columbus the following day (Sunday, September 25), the team will travel to Washington on Friday, September 30 to face the Capitals.

The Buffalo Sabres will also play an exhibition game against Adler Mannheim at SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, as part of the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Challenge to complete the 2011 preseason schedule.

As expected, you have your home-and-home with Toronto, with one of them likely being a blowout win for the Sabres. You have your Wednesday night TSN game against Montreal, which will probably be on NHL Network as well.

Full credit to the Sabres for doing this earlier this year. Last year, the preseason schedule was announced by the team on July 8. Fans in recent years have been able to piece together the entire slate based on other teams beating them to the punch. Not so much this year. Good to see. Read the rest of this entry