Backup Goalies, Man

The Buffalo Sabres beat the Boston Bruins last night.  They scored FOUR goals, which is a ton for this team.  It helps that Chad Johnson was the goalie (not the football player), and let in a couple of butter-soft goals.  Of course, it seemed that Miller was going to match him with a rough patch of ‘tending, with two goals by Marchand but those were it for the night.

The goal-scoring came from a variety of sources, and included some hard work in front of the net.  Foligno took a Jamie McBain shot off the chest and tapped it in, for instance.  I like that Myers scored, even if it was a “hey, might as well try it – it went IN??” goal.  Stafford had the game-winner on a wraparound.  It was that sort of night for the B’s backup goalie.

Special recognition to Ville Leino for the dive of the week, drawing a tripping call on Milan Lucic.  On the downside, karmic retribution came on short-handed goal.  Marcus Foligno had the Gordie Howe hat trick.

Buffalo and Boston do it all again on Saturday, with 12:30 tussle in Beantown.  I imagine we’ll see Tuukka Rask this time.

Sabres and Leafs – Weekend Warriors

I was at the Sabres/Leafs game on Saturday night with my son, saw a bunch of fights, goals, and an epic shootout.  And that was the LESS interesting game.  Sunday’s game in Toronto saw Tropp possibly concussed, John Scott and Phil Kessel sort of fight (I guess), Miller and Bernier fight, slashing, spearing, bench-leavin’ and pretty much everything else you can think of.

I’m not going to place blame or throw stones at any particular team, coach or player – there really isn’t anybody who comes out looking good in that mess.  It may have been entertaining to watch when it happened, but it doesn’t leave a good taste in your mouth once there’s some distance on it.  Let’s just shake our heads and move on.

On the actual hockey side of things, I really liked what I saw from Zemgus Girgensons Saturday.  I thought he played hard and wasn’t afraid to hit.  He could be a fan-favorite here if he sticks.  Cody Hodgson was solid, too.  Jhonas Enroth was great, that shootout was crazy.  By round 15 I probably would’ve been ready just to skate off.  I’m ready to see what these young guys can do.

Aside from the game, I have a few comments on the upgrades to the First Niagara Center.

  • The new food options are nice.  Even the existing stuff, like the hot dogs and hamburgers were much improved.
  • However, if you get popcorn, and they ask if you want butter, SAY NO.  I was expecting the machine at the movie theater that drizzles a little bit on.  NOPE, IT’S A LADLE.  The solid lump in my stomach was not fun.
  • The game presentation was better.  There was genuine laughter at the Celebrity look-alikes thing with Foligno/Fabio.
  • I wonder if that changes when all the sponsored stuff is back in.  Recycle bins!

Looking forward to real hockey.  Getting excited!

Sabres Gameday LIVE – Leafs at Sabres

I am blogging from the press box tonight, so this post will be updated after each period (and maybe once or twice before the game) with my thoughts as I have them.

Pre-game thoughts:

  • Grigorenko stays.  It makes the most sense.  He hasn’t been out of place, and it isn’t like he’s keeping somebody else important from playing.  There’s plenty of time to lock him up if he’s good.
  • Passed RJ while getting a hot dog.  That never gets old.  Good to see him up here.
  • Still cold.

First period thoughts:

  • First few minutes has some good pressure for Buffalo.  Foligno and Scott both involved.
  • Good clear by Pominville when they needed one.
  • Myers showing his physical side a bit.  Love that.
  • On the Leafs goal, Miller had the stop but there was nobody around to clear McClement away.  Should’ve caught it, though.  Letting Kessel skate right in afterwards too for a chance.
  • Great patience by Pominville to wait for the traffic to clear before shooting. And as @BNHarrington said, great keep in by Ehrhoff.
  • Weber’s fight was a great response, though Brown is a tough customer.  Kaleta went to the locker room, not what you want for a guy that has neck issues.

Second period thoughts:

  • Ott keeps winning faceoffs.  Is he the only one?
  • No Kaleta yet.
  • Just after I complained about Stafford being weak on the puck, he deals to a streaking Sekera who shelfs a backhander.  Nicely done.
  • And then they give it right back.  Typical of the D this year.  Ugh.
  • The Sabres D has quickly melted down and can’t clear.  3-2.
  • Some small signs of life at the 7 minute mark.  Probably means another Toronto goal is forthcoming.
  • Vanek trying to dig the puck out from under Reimer there.  Can someone else show up?
  • Ott stuffed on a breakaway…should’ve deked.  Hindsight of course.
  • 4 minutes of penalty by Hecht.  One down, one yet to be killed.

Third period thoughts:

  • Grigorenko back at it after being benched for a while, had a solid shot.
  • Foligno shows what to do when you lose the draw – paste the opposing player to the boards and try to get it back.
  • Great rebound clean-up by Mikhail Grigorenko for his first goal, and a great celebration with Foligno.  Great job, kid.  Tie game.
  • Sabres are working harder on the puck  now, and it shows.
  • Myers is not right.  Had a chance to wind up and blast one from the point, and Reimer snagged it easily.
  • Heartbreaker.  Miller doesn’t seal the shortside and the goal sneaks in with a fraction of a second left.  Frattin.

Anger Leads to Hate

I’m certainly not going to tell you not to react poorly when your favorite team plays poorly – it’s an understandable reaction.  The short season makes every game feel important right from the get-go, so losing points hurts.  Still, it’s worth looking at the big picture here.  This season is one tenth over – that means NINE tenths are yet to be played.  The problems are many, but fixable.  The D has been a train wreck at times, that won’t last.  The Sabres finally scored some goals without Vanek on the ice, though of course that was because he couldn’t play due to an injury.  So while I tossed down the remote in disgust at the end of the game today, I also know there’s time yet to pick things up.

In other news, I hope Grigorenko sticks around.  He hasn’t gone all Tarasenko on us, but he hasn’t looked out of place.  If Lindy is willing to play him as much as he did today, there’s no reason not to kick one of the scrubs to the press box and keep him in the lineup.  I like Foligno’s game today, and Kaleta as well.  Saw a few good plays by Myers so I’m hoping he gets things rolling in the right direction.  See everyone on Tuesday.

Thus Ended

The Sabres can no longer make the playoffs, and have one more meaningless game.  In the short term, I was ticked about it last night, but today, not so much.  It was a very difficult season in many ways, with injuries, underachievement, and media sniping.  The highs were really high, and the lows were rock-bottom.  We saw veterans and prospects leave (Gaustad, Gragnani, Kassian) and got a few new contributors (Hodgson, Sulzer).

How do I feel about this season?  I’m disappointed that it won’t be going on to the playoffs, for sure.  There is talent here – and I think the deadline improved that overall – but injuries and some questionable play overrode that.  Next year’s roster won’t be that different, barring trades, as there are already 20 players under contract.  Hecht, Boyes, and the surprising Sulzer are UFAs, with TJ Brennan, Tyler Ennis and Patrick Kaleta as RFAs.  I can’t imagine either Hecht or Boyes being back.  Sulzer is interesting, though.  I’d love to keep him, as he showed some decent skills and kind of took that 6/7 D spot from Weber.  Ennis is a no-brainer, and I imagine Kaleta gets a deal.  That’s 13 forwards, including Marcus Foligno and Corey Tropp.  If Brennan and McNabb start with Rochester, that leaves Regehr, Ehrhoff, Myers, Leopold, Sekera, and Weber as the D pending something with Sulzer.  Of course, Miller/Enroth in the net.

Do I think that’s where we end up?  I do not.  The Pegula era Sabres have already shown they are willing to deal guys to get guys, and we have parts and pieces other teams would covet.  July 1 is going to be interesting.  Buffalo will be a player again, a destination for players who hopefully see the improvements and potential here.

I might post about the draft, and July 1, but expect this space to be fairly quiet in the offseason.  I’m planning on blog maintenance, such as trying different themes, stuff like that.  Might post up about the playoffs if the mood strikes, too.  I’ll still be on Twitter, and please check out my non-hockey gadget/movie/TV/book talk at Honk if you Love Justice.

I Admit It

I didn’t see the comeback.  The last one, I mean.  When it went 5-3, I let my wife turn the game off.  In my defense, my daughter was up sick with a horrible stuffy/snotty head so snuggling her was a bigger priority.  So imagine my surprise when Jen switched the game back on for a minute and we saw it was tied!  One of the goals was a smidge controversial, but whatever – they completed the comeback with a dynamite snipe from Derek Roy in OT.

After the trade deadline, I was sparring on Twitter with Jimmy Murphy,’s Bruins wonk.  He was perplexed as to why Buffalo would trade away our ‘answer to Lucic’.  Seeing as how no one currently on the team had ever really ‘answered’ Lucic, I was perplexed.  He said that came from a ‘Bruins source’.  Ha.  I replied that Marcus Foligno already played a ‘bigger’ game than Kassian had done in his time as a Sabre, so trading BZK was a non-issue.  Murphy went on to show his ignorance when he assumed I meant Nick Foligno.  I hope that after the past month, he’s figured out there’s another Foligno brother he might have to account for. 6G 7A +8, only 3 games in that stretch without a point.  And then there’s this:

A “Hornet’s Nest”, indeed.

Gameday 2011-2012 – Canadiens at Sabres

We all know what’s at stake for the Buffalo Sabres right now.  Every point is important, being 2 back of Washington (also playing tonight).  The improbable run Buffalo’s on (slightly more improbable than last year) is coming to a close, with only 8 more games left after tonight.  The Sabres have gotten a lot of help – the other contenders for the 8th spot have been doing a LOT of losing, so that even when Buffalo only picked up 1 point in a few games recently, it didn’t hurt.  They weathered Tyler Myers being out, and get him back tonight.

So why isn’t there more buzz about this team?  Well, for me, I’m just enjoying the ride.  Trying not to get too wound up in case they falter.  Even if they make the playoffs, there are some juggernauts they might end up facing (Penguins look deadly right now).  Much like Gerbe’s second-half last year, I’ve loved watching Tyler Ennis develop.  I want to see more of this rough and tumble Tyler Myers.  I’m very much enjoying the success of the young guns on their call-ups, with Foligno in particular showing why we were okay with trading away Zack Kassian.

I might just get to watch tonight, and while I’m not jumping-up-and-down excited like some people seem to be expecting, I’m happy.  Take it or leave it.

Gameday 2011-2012 – Sabres at Senators

The Buffalo Sabres (well, mostly the Amerks) are in Ottawa to face the Sens tonight, and it seems the media there really like the idea of the two Foligno kids playing against one another.  Buffalo needs to come out swinging after getting their asses handed to them by the Penguins the other day, and beating the Senators, who currently sit 1 point behind the Sabres, would be huge for their place in the standings.

I wish I could get all ‘venomous’ on the team, but they are (barely) in a playoff position, dealing with an almost laughable amount of injuries, I pretty much only feel sorry for them.  It’s a miracle that they are only a tire fire some of the time.  I’m perfectly happy watching whatever happens now, with the hope that they can get healthy enough (Myers practicing!) to push for a higher seed.  There is time, though it’s hard to remember that in the midst of a season.  The young players aren’t going anywhere.  There’s plenty of time to make changes if things continue to spiral down.  I’ll still be here.  Go Sabres.

You Gotta Wear Shades

As in, the future is bright, man.  I watched a good portion of the Traverse City Tournament championship game that the Sabres prospects played in last night, which they won 5-2.  The most amazing thing to me, despite the Rangers-centric broadcast, is how much praise the Sabres were getting.  Our boys were being treated like the class of the tournament, the team the others were benchmarking themselves by.  It might even be right to do that, as they won several games in fairly resounding fashion (6-3, 6-3, 5-2).  There was one loss sandwiched in there but overall they were the class of the tourney.  Fun to watch.

The other fun story from yesterday was the Season Ticket delivery.  Buffalo invited several of my fellow bloggers along for the ride, and you can read about Kate and Heather’s takes on it at their sites.  I need to ensure my email address ends up in Ted Black’s hands.  I want in next time!  I have very cute kids who could accompany me!  Seriously though, what an amazing adventure they had, and it’s great publicity for the Sabres to boot.  Good job, guys!

Sabres Sign Foligno

Marcus Foligno, that is.  Combine Foligno with Kassian and an increased role from Weber (and a few others on the roster now), and this is a Sabres team that is getting tough in the next few years.

Foligno posted career highs in goals (23), assists (36) and points (59) for Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League. The league’s coaches also named him the best body checker in the Eastern Conference.

Best body checker?  I’ll take that.  Buffalo has some strong, talented players in the pipeline, and think I might love how this team looks and plays in a couple of years.  This year too, maybe, depending on how the offseason goes.  Let’s make some moves!