Big McLargeHuge

Tonight’s game is the biggest game of the Sabres’ season, since the last one.  And until the next one.  I actually started writing this last week, but never finished it, yet it still can be considered correct.  One new positive is that the Sabres can now narrow their focus down to two teams, as they are 6+ points clear of every club below them.  It’s all about Washington (tonight’s opponent) and Ottawa (4 points ahead, Buffalo with a game in hand).

Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Kaleta are both cleared to play tonight, though it remains to be seen if either gets back in tonight.  I think it’s pretty safe to assume Marcus Foligno is going nowhere, so some combo of Tropp, Turnbull or McCormick would be sitting or sent back to Rochester.  Barring any oddities like sitting Boyes or whatever.

7pm tonight, appointment television.  Recording it, kicking the wife off the big TV, the whole nine yards.  I’m finally feeling some excitement.  Let’s do this.

Gameday LIVE – Rangers at Sabres

Getting set up in the pressbox for tonight’s visit from Martin Biron and the New York Rangers.  It’s the Sabres’ first game against the Rangers, and Jhonas Enroth gets the call after Miller played in the win last night.  Leino comes back from his suspension, but Hecht (‘lower body’) and Corey Tropp (concussion) are both out, so Colin Stuart gets the recall from Rochester.  The wheel turns, does it not?  Eventually all of this focus on head hits might mean you don’t have a new player concussed every night.

Some notes from the Sabres’ gameday crew:  Vanek has only been held scoreless in consecutive games twice, gaining a point or more in 20 of 28 games.  Stafford has 1+1 in the past two games.  Ehrhoff leads the team in ice time with 24:33 per game on average.

I’ll be updating this post after each period with my thoughts.

1st Period:

Buffalo begins the game by taking a high-sticking penalty, Robyn Regehr 9 seconds in.  PK is no big deal for this team, and with some help the lineseman’s leg, they get a break.  Biron almost mishandled the puck right in front of him.  The penalty was killed.  Beautiful play from Kassian to Adam but it didn’t go in.  Enroth is absorbing shots, good sign.  Ehrhoff joins Gragnani with early giveaways.  The Sabres aren’t generating zone time or chances, though Drew Stafford is working hard.  Excellent opportunity from Chewie/Vanek/Pominville, then another partial break by Vanek afterwards.  Play picked up after the 8 minute mark, with the top three lines finally getting some chances.  Enroth had a big save on Brad Richards.  Cody took a number after getting knocked down in front of the net shortly after.  Rangers and Sabres trade interference penalties.  Vanek with a near-beauty out of the box.  Buffalo got a little scrambly at the end but managed to avoid the late goal being allowed.  Scoreless after one.

2nd Period:

Stafford/Ennis/Roy some solid work to start the period.  Seems to be more balanced early, Buffalo making some plays.  Not so many stoppages.  Good steal by Roy, and save by Biron.  Nice breakup by Ehrhoff coming back on a Rangers rush.  On the power play Vanek seems to forget how to puckhandle for a minute.  The Rangers score on a short handed rush when Hagelin picks his corner on Enroth.  Vanek answers not long after on a ‘fuck you I’m scoring’ blast from between the circles.  Brandon Prust took exception to Vanek giving old friend Marty Biron a show shower.  This is fun.  Not so fun when Callahan scores another shorty.  Ehrhoff has to knock him down there.  The crowd let’s the Sabres hear it at the end of the second for that second shorthanded goal.  2-1 Rangers.

3rd Period:

A few good chances to start the period.  Adam just missed on a great pass from behind the net.  And then Enroth lets in another softy.  Just a killer, that one.  Not even sure what really happened.  Ennis and Stafford had some great chances not long after that but to no avail.  Just don’t seem to be making good decisions when the puck.  Vanek has 2 great chances, then Kassian decks a dude along the boards and gets a penalty.  PK letting too many Rangers stand in front of the net.  Puck possession is a problem.  The Rangers ice the game on the power play, whistling a shot past Enroth’s glove hand.  It’s Gaborik.  There is a baby crying nearby, I don’t blame him or her.  4-1 Rangers.  Your three stars:  3 – Callahan, 2 – Biron, 1 – Hagelin.  Biron got a big cheer.

Postgame Thoughts:

Lindy felt the powerplay was too stationary, not making the defenders change their angle of attack.  He also felt that they had more and better chances than last night, but made more mistakes.  There were a lot of shots missed high, he noted that they had discussed shooting high on Biron, but they couldn’t make it happen.  Marc-Andre Gragnani had been coached to join the rush more, but he still made some tough plays.

I’m honestly not sure where to go with this tonight.  They weren’t terrible, though maybe Enroth was in the second and third.  Some blame can be laid on his teammates on a couple of the goals, but none of them were impossible stops.  It’ll be interesting to see if Miller starts to get more starts or if Lindy sticks with The Schedule.

Gameday 2011-2012 – Devils at Sabres

It feels like a really strange night tonight.  The Devils don’t exactly excite anyone, and there’s so much other stuff happening around the Sabres it really feels like this game is an afterthought.  They players are all answering questions about their injured goalie, the injured goalie is snarking at the media, and some of the media is snarking right back (looking at you, Sully).  Add in a few other injuries (Cody McCormick is out, Corey Tropp is back), a goalie ‘controversy’ now on simmer thanks to the concussion, the return of Tyler Myers (Grags sits) and you’re one ring short of a circus.

The Devils might have Kovalchuk back tonight if he feels OK during the pregame activities.  New Jersey played in Boston last night, losing on a late goal, so for once Buffalo will be (slightly) more well rested.  Enroth is firmly entrenched in the net, though I’m curious about what happens this weekend.  It’s a 7:30pm Versus game, though Dave Strader is calling it and he’s solid.  We do get more Pierre though, so look for Rob Ray to ‘accidently’ elbow him in between the benches tonight if he starts close-talking.  Let’s go.

The New Boss

The Sabres won last night, though it still wasn’t pretty and took overtime and stupid penalties by the Thrasherjets to do it.  So it pretty much ‘solves’ nothing about the Miller/Enroth debate.  As I was watching the game last night, I think I came up with a good analogy for what is happening.  It’s like when your boss retires, and some new guy comes in from another department to take over.  You stop surfing the net, or goofing with your phone, or flirting with the hottie that sits a few cubes behind you.  Look at ME, you are saying, this company is my LIFE.

But after a few weeks, you ease the throttle back a notch.  Your work’s getting done, so there’s no harm in checking those NFL injury reports.  You find yourself standing next to the hottie’s desk chatting away after you get coffee.  It happens, you’re human.  That’s where the Sabres are with Enroth, though.  It’s still New Boss Mode.  They sit up straight and pay attention for Jhonas in a way they don’t for Miller right now, and make no mistake, Miller needs the D to do just that.  He needs to find his game, so they need to quit cheating, making bad passes, and generally expecting Miller to make the save.  He isn’t right now, so they need to put their phones away, leave the hottie alone (she’s got a boyfriend anyway guys) and get to work.  In the long run it’ll make them a better team when Ryan does get his game back on track.

Cody damaged Glass's hand WITH HIS FACE

As for the game last night, I missed the first period, and when I saw the score I thought “darn, I missed all the fun”.  Yeah, not so much.  Thomas Vanek scored twice (although the second one was ricocheting a goal in off him in his office), and Roy had two goals, including the one that tied the game late to send it to overtime.  It was a penalty-filled affair, with the Jets taking some dumb penalties in particular.  I thought Gerbe embellished to get the penalty in the OT.  Pominville played half the game.  A special nod to Gaustad for the super-sweet pass, and Cody McCormick for the epic bout with Tanner Glass.  Commander Cody got cut, possibly by Glass hitting his helmet as Tanner had to ice his hand in the penalty box afterwards.  Oh, and congratulations to Corey Tropp for his first NHL goal.

See you Friday when the Sens come to town.  May be in the pressbox for that one.

Gameday 2011-2012 – Jets at Sabres

It’s going to be quite a night at the FNC tonight.  Dale Hawerchuk and Rick Jeanneret will be inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame (hey, that means they get swords right?  COOL).  The newfangled Thrasher-Jets are in town for the first time, and we are all waiting impatiently to see which goalie gets the nod tonight for Buffalo.  Ryan Miller provided some choice quotes regarding the situation:

“I’m here to win,” Miller said Monday. “That’s the emotion you get from me. If I’m discouraged, if I’m pissed off, that’s just how it is. I want to win. I don’t want to be out there getting scored on. I don’t want to be pulled out of a game. I want to, you know, I want to fucking win the game.”

I put the bad words back in, those weren’t in the News story.  Could you imagine all the letters (hand-written!) they’d get from the old people that still get a physical copy of the paper?  Heh.  By the way, love this bit from Lindy Ruff at the end:

“There’s a lot of fire there,” Ruff said. “He’s emotional about his game, and that’s what you like. I like him the way he is.”

I keep hearing the chorus to “Just the Way You Are” now.  Aww.  Moving on, Ennis and Hecht are still recovering, and Kaleta is still suspended, so I imagine Corey Tropp will still be in tonight.  As an aside, wasn’t his name being pronounced like it was spelled ‘trope’ in the preseason?  Or maybe at Traverse City.  Whichever way it’s said, he hasn’t looked out of place out there to me.  It’s a 7pm game, but expect it to start a bit later with the pre-game festivities.  Adjust your DVRs accordingly if you need to record the game.

Gameday 2011-2012 – Flames at Sabres

Well, that was an interesting week.  We see line shuffling, Miller chased in less than 7 minutes, Enroth holding the line for a comeback try, but ultimately still losing at home to the Flyers.  Kaleta gets suspended 4 games, and Corey Tropp is up to take his spot in the lineup.  Ready your Tropp-ic Thunder or Tropp-ical Storm puns now.

So, Kaleta.  He definitely hit the dude in the head, I don’t know that he was trying to head-butt ’em, but it was a reckless play that contacted the head, so 4 games works.  The people spoke and Kaleta was the popular choice for most suspended Sabre, and now he’s got quite a lead.

The Flames come in tonight for another 7:30pm start, off a 4-1 win in Detroit last night.  That’s right, Buffalo gets to be the rested team tonight.  Calgary is pretty much on par with the Sabres right now, with solid wins surrounding painful losses.  They’ve at least had the decency to win more than one at home, though.  Lindy is playing coy about which goalie plays tonight, as for Calgary, they play Kipper into the ground so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Kiprusoff out there.  Doesn’t help that backup Henrik Karlsson is 0-1-1 with a 3.32 GAA in his limited appearances.  We’ll probably know more after practice today.