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Overreactions with 67 to go: Neuvirth can’t do everything

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There wasn’t a lot of hope for good hockey with the 29th and 30th place teams in the National League facing off at First Niagara Center, but there was at least a lot of action.

If you were Michal Neuvirth, there was too much.

Neuvirth was impressive, but had to bear the brunt of 52 Edmonton shots, as the visiting Oilers handed the Sabres a 3-2 loss for their first road win of the season.

Noted Oiler-killer Drew Stafford and Matt Moulson scored for Buffalo, with Moulson finally snagging his first of the season. The two goals were enough to give the Sabres a lead in the final ten minutes, but the Oilers finally took control, with Mark Arcobello and Boyd Gordon adding the tying and winning goals.

“They were just throwing it at the net, and sending guys with traffic,” said Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges. “To be honest, we should take a page out of their book.”

Edmonton finished with 85 shot attempts, and their 52 shots on goal were both a season-high for them and a season-worst for the Sabres.

Buffalo is right back at it Saturday night, with the Penguins in town.

  • The Sabres should trade Drew Stafford immediately after the next game against Edmonton, because his stock will never be higher. He always seems to score against them. Should’ve placed a bet on it before the game.
  • Congrats to Oilers rookie Iiro Pakarinen, who scored his first NHL goal and now convincingly holds the title of my favorite name in the National Hockey League. The title was previously vacated by legendary Slovak forward Branko Radivojevic.
  • Neuvirth is going to have an aneurysm at some point this season. He was very aggravated after the game, calling for his post game presser earlier than normal. He seems sick of being bombarded every game. And there’s 67 games left!
  • Absolutely wonderful job by the Sabres on the pregame ceremonies for Hockey Fights Cancer night. The Jim Kelly/Rick Jeanneret puck drop was great. Only thing I would’ve liked to see is the ads on the boards in monotone lavender like other teams have done.
  • It amazes me that Ted Nolan felt that he just had to get Andre Benoit back in the lineup tonight. He was on the ice for a team-worst 41 shot attempts against, as well as the first two Edmonton goals. Play him more and see what happens: goals, for the other team.
  • The look of relief on Matt Moulson’s face was obvious. Hopefully they start going in more often for him. Not too often, we’ve got a tank to worry about. But he’s the kind of guy you like to see succeed. He wants to be here, amazingly. Appreciate that.
  • Attendance was listed at 17,490. In-house was probably closer to 15,500. Lots of empties for a Friday night.
  • Edmonton had 85 shot attempts. 29th place, terrible Edmonton had 85 shot attempts. What a mess.
  • Saw an Oilers beat writer tweet wondering why the Sabres would ever trade Tyler Myers. This means one thing: someone might actually want him. Sell. Sell. Sell.

3MI Three Star Selections
1. Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo
2. Iiro Pakarinen, Edmonton
3. Mark Arcobello, Edmonton

Official Three Stars of the Game
1. Teddy Purcell, Edmonton (2 assists)
2. Iiro Pakarinen, Edmonton (Goal (1))
3. Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo (49 saves, 3 GA)

Quote of the night:

“They wanted to win more than us… good for them.” — Buffalo Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth

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Overreactions, 48th Edition: Shock and awful

First off, credit to the Sabres, carrying a double digit losing streak on the road, for actually holding a lead in this game. That was a shock.

(Ed. note: That was stated with sarcasm.)

For as bad as the team has been playing (and they’ve been awful), this is the game on the roadtrip of death that they seemed least likely to win. And they didn’t.

The St. Louis Blues moved to 21-3-3 at home on the season, the best mark in the National League, as they defeated the basement-dwelling Buffalo Sabres by a score of 4-2 Saturday night.

An early goal by Mike Weber rewarded the Sabres for a strong first period, after which they led 1-0. St. Louis took over in the second, and by the time Tyler Myers scored to get back within one in the third, it was too late.

St. Louis got two goals and two assists from David Backes, whose empty netter sealed it.

Ryan Miller made 23 saves on 26 shots in the loss.

“It kind of got away from us in the second period,” Miller said. “We didn’t do some of the things we needed to do. It turned into a period that gave them back the edge.”

Again, like many of these now 12 straight road losses, Miller has made the saves early and failed to see the team take control offensively. A one goal head-start lasted into the second and was never recovered.

Buffalo next heads to New Jersey on Tuesday for a date with the Devils.

  • Lindy Ruff reunited the Luke Adam with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville to start the game, and their first few shifts were pretty solid. Unfortunately, the line didn’t produce much. Pominville added an assist on Myers’ late goal, but Adam finished -2 and Vanek -3.
  • Brad Boyes had a very good game, albeit one where he failed to score yet again. He generated some good pressure offensively, and played 19:00 in his return to St. Louis. It was the first time this season he broke 19:00 in TOI. He’s had more than 17:00 of ice time just five times this season.  Read the rest of this entry

Delayed Overreactions, 47th Edition: They can’t even beat Winnipeg!

In a shocking development, the Buffalo Sabres lost another road game. The streak of futility outside the 716 area code has now reached 11 in a row.

Yes, 11.

This time, it’s a 4-1 defeat to the team formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers at an AHL arena somewhere in Canada.

Drew Stafford scored the lone goal for Buffalo. Failing to beat goaltending icon Ondrej Pavelec more than once isn’t going to get anyone very far.

Special teams wasn’t an area of strength on this night either, with the powerplay leaving empty handed after two opportunities and the penalty kill allowing two goals on four chances.

“You’ve got to win that battle,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said about the special teams. “We had a tough time getting shots through. They got theirs.”

The solution to the team’s problems getting points continues to elude the roster and coaching staff, and the season continues to slip past the point of saving. Ryan Miller, who started extremely strong in this game, stopping 18 of 19 shots in the first period and making key stops on many of the 30 shots he faced through two periods, couldn’t have stolen this one.

Another game, another search for answers.

  • His play of late hasn’t been stellar, and his name keeps popping up when talking trades, but Derek Roy made a subtle and crucial play on Buffalo’s only goal. With Nathan Gerbe and Drew Stafford charging ahead with a two-on-one break, Roy made a nice positional play that prevented a second Jets player from getting back into the play. Roy cut right in front of the defender to open up the passing lane that Gerbe was able to use to get the puck over. If Roy doesn’t make that play, that puck doesn’t get through, and there’s no goal. Watch the replay. Didn’t seem like anyone else noticed it.
  • Ryan Miller did play extremely well early, but without any offense, he’s not going to be able to sit back and weather the storm the whole game. The inability to carry offensive pressure is putting more on him to do everything to keep the game close. He faced 19 shots in the first period. That’s on the team defensively to limit that number. 19 is embarrassing. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 45th Edition: Detroit Rock Bottom

Things didn’t look too promising coming in to Monday’s game at Joe Louis Arena.

Riding an eight-game losing streak on the road, Buffalo was about to run into a buzzsaw. Detroit was ready to extend their home winning streak to a franchise record 15. The numbers indicated it could be trouble for the Sabres.

Surprise, surprise.

While they held them off the board for just over five minutes, there wasn’t much reason to think the Sabres had any chance to get out of there with points, and they dropped a 5-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway.

“We’ve got to wake up,” Buffalo forward Jason Pominville said.

Ryan Miller got chased after allowing five goals on 14 shots in the first 24:32 of action. He expressed his frustration after the game, and, just like many of us have been saying, there’s no magical cure in his eyes.

“If you want to just destroy a team and go out and be reckless and do something, yeah. Then there’s going to be new guys in here. But other than that, this locker room is going to be pretty much the same, if not completely the same and we gotta find it from in here [points to chest]. You can’t sit and wait for somebody else to fucking do it.”

The nine game losing streak shows no signs of stopping, with the team unable to put together a good road game and visits to Chicago, Winnipeg and St. Louis, all arenas where the home team has dominated, awaiting them.

This is what a season slipping away looks like.

  • Lindy Ruff decided to mix up the defense pairings and forward lines after seeing the team fail to beat the last place Islanders on Saturday. With Andrej Sekera returning in place of Robyn Regehr and T.J. Brennan replacing Joe Finley, there wasn’t going to be much continuity on the blueline anyways. It turned out to be a disaster. Jordan Leopold and Mike Weber looked lost playing together, both being on the ice for four of the five Detroit goals.
  • One of the changes Ruff made was putting Derek Roy between Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek. Defensively not withstanding, that line looked alright in the offensive zone, especially Roy, who I thought looked good in the attacking zone. The trio had 10 of the Sabres’ 27 shots on Detroit’s Jimmy Howard.
  • Oddly enough, Marc-Andre Gragnani was even on the night. He’s been one of the team’s shakiest defenseman. Somehow his plus-minus doesn’t reflect that. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 24th Edition: Sabres teach new class, call it “Losing To Shitty Teams 101”

Tonight, the New York Islanders moved two points of the struggling Anaheim Ducks for sole possession of the 28th best record in the NHL. They have one team to thank for it: the Buffalo Sabres.

For the second time in five days, the Sabres lost to a team in 15th place in their conference. Blame the injuries. Blame the bounces. Blame the bad luck. Doesn’t matter what you want to blame it on, it all ends in a 2-1 loss.

Jochen Hecht scored Buffalo’s only goal in the third period, as Islanders goaltending Al Montoya was the star of the night, stopping 30 shots in the win.

“He was sound in the net and he made sure there were no good second opportunities,” Roy said. “That’s partly our fault. We have to get to the net a little better.”

Buffalo looked a combination of listless and disjointed, depending on when you were jolted from the slumber induced by the frequently uneventful play. There were brief moments of intrigue, one being Zack Kassian’s first scrap in the NHL with Matt Martin of the Islanders.

Unfortunately, there was more cringeworthy moments to consider than glimmers of quality. Jordan Leopold, arguably Buffalo’s best defenseman over the last few weeks, left with an upper body injury and did not return. An extended five-on-three late in the third yielded nothing. Ville Leino blew a slam-dunk goal that could’ve tied it with just minutes left. A poor effort all around.

Jhonas Enroth finished with 28 saves for Buffalo.

  • The potential loss of Leopold could be devastating. He’s been superb for weeks. While the strong performance of all Amerks being recalled is encouraging, this is a loss from the top of the barrel, not the bottom.
  • Christian Ehrhoff has been playing his best hockey of the season lately. He was on the ice for 32:48 Tuesday night. That’s more than half the game. The guy is a horse. Andrej Sekera was really good too, and made a nice play that led to the Sabres goal.
  • The First Niagara Center continues to be a place where the Sabres don’t play well. The atmosphere is awful on a regular basis, and it seems little effort is being done to change that. The crowd is always dead. The music is habitually awful. Seriously, in a tie game, midway through the third period, what moron thinks “Oh, you know what would get this crowd rocking? The fucking Chicken Dance!” Is this a joke? Seriously. If I would’ve actually paid for my ticket in, I might be even more disgusted with that. Completely embarassing, and in no way should that idiotic behavior be allowed to happen.
  • At some point, can Nathan Gerbe get called out for doing nothing? Hasn’t scored a goal in almost a month, and other than an inspiring effort against Boston last week, hasn’t brought much energy. He was flat out awful Tuesday night.
  • The Ville Leino signing looks worse by the day. The idea of Leino being here for another five seasons after this one is borderline vomit-inducing. He’s been better, but his style is frustrating and the results aren’t there. This guy is supposed to be a key cog. He’s been anything but.
  • Jhonas Enroth made the saves he needed to. Like with any goaltender, it’s all about goal support. If you can rely on a goalie to hold the other team to two goals, you should be able to win a lot of games. Not when the offense is M.I.A. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Edition 68: Blowing it

Okay, it’s not that big of a deal. They lost a game. They lost a game they were winning. They let a third period lead slip away.

To Toronto.

Just when the Sabres had an opportunity to go for the jugular and get Toronto out of the playoff picture, they let the Leafs stick around too long, and Toronto is still alive. Buffalo fell at the Air Canada Centre by a score of 4-3.

The lack of killer instinct is really the issue here. The Sabres had many chances to add insurance but they couldn’t get it done. Even with an injury depleted lineup, missing Paul Gaustad, Drew Stafford and Chris Butler, the team was in position to win.

But even after allowing an equalizer, it took Phil Kessel banking a shot in off the skate of Steve Montador for Toronto to take the lead they needed.

“They got lucky,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said about the Leafs. “(The) puck went off the skate, sometimes you’ve got to live with that.”

Buffalo now heads home to play their first home game in over two weeks against the awaiting Ottawa Senators.

  • Jochen Hecht had a really good night for being out for four games. A goal, +1, six shots on goal and he was the Sabres’ best faceoff man.
  • Mark Parrish got the recall for the game with all the injuries. He was -2, had 0 shots and 0 points in almost 13 minutes of ice time. He’s not going to contribute much, it doesn’t look like he has anything left. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions from Game 3 of 82: At least Pommer ain’t dead.

It’s crazy how one vicious hit can pop the balloon of a team with momentum.

After storming into a quick 2-0 lead against a young goalie making his first start of the season, the Sabres’ train got literally derailed when forward Jason Pominville got jacked up from behind by Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson late in the first period of Monday night’s game.

Not only was Pominville carried off in a stretcher, the Blackhawks carried off a 4-3 win, rebounding from the shakiest of starts to keep the Sabres winless inside the friendly confines of HSBC Arena. Pominville suffered a concussion and cut on his face, but appears to be relatively alright.

“That was a terrible hit,” said Thomas Vanek. “It was a hit to the head from behind. [Hjalmarsson] is not a dirty player. That was just a bad hit obviously. He got penalized for it  and I’m sure they’ll look at it again.”

Quick hits on the second loss of the season:

  • Derek Roy is officially a superhuman and apparently has decided he would like a shot at Alexander Mogilny’s single season goal mark. Only 72 more to tie, Roysie!
  • Drew Stafford, it is much appreciated that you decided to show your face on the scoresheet tonight. Make it a habit, please. Read the rest of this entry