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.

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.

Beatings Literal and Figurative

The Buffalo Sabres beat the Boston Bruins.  Badly.  They tried two goalies, both of who allowed 3 goals.  The Bruins took a bunch of stupid penalties.  When they couldn’t solve Ryan Miller, they tried to get dirty.  That didn’t work, either.  Buffalo stood in and took the physical pounding, and won the game.  My positives:

Ville Leino.  What a game he had last night.  He’s a puck possession beast, and we might finally be seeing what we hoped to see from him.  Great fun watching him right now.

Patrick Kaleta.  That was about as close to a perfect Kaleta game as we’ve seen in a long time.  Scored, fought (well, mostly held on for dear life), and was a prime agitator.  Bruins were after him all night, including Chara trying to elbow him in the head.  This is what we expect when he’s in the lineup.

Ryan Miller.  His stellar goaltending performance could almost get lost in the shuffle, with all of the other stuff going on.  But we won’t let it, because it was awesome.  It seemed like there were long stretches where he wasn’t challenged, but he made 36 saves anyway.

Tyler Ennis.  The only guy above 50% at the faceoff dot (other than Luke Adam’s single faceoff win), he had a goal and an assist to boot.


The officiating.  I think that the Boston goal probably should’ve counted, that was a reputation call based on the previous games in this series.  I’m glad it didn’t count, though.  The refs also didn’t seem to have a good feel for the rough stuff and how to control it.

NBC Sports Network.  I love Doc Emrick, so I don’t think it’s his fault, but it seemed as if the broadcast and studio show were ready with all sorts of stats and facts and video to show how awesome the Bruins are…and had no idea what to do when the Sabres dominated them.  Milbury was an idiot again (no surprise), and as mentioned on Twitter last night, I find it really funny that someone who once beat a fan with a shoe would think that someone fighting on the ice with a visor on is some terrible person.

What’s next:

Buffalo currently sits 9 points back of Ottawa for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, but they have to leapfrog a few other teams to get there.  The Senators have lost seven straight, though, so a run by the Sabres now might just get them back into contention.  Still, I think the focus should be on getting past the Islanders (who they are tied with) and Winnipeg (4 points up).  Then we’ll talk about 8th place.

Woo, I guess

Seems like the Sabres won last night.  They even got some secondary scoring from Gerbe and Stafford.  Huh.  Wish I had seen it.  In the battle of two banged-up teams, the one that hadn’t travelled from Long Island to Chicago to Buffalo for 3 in 4 won.  Amazing.  It would be just like this team to start winning during a stretch where a good portion of people can’t easily see them.

Bright spots would be Stafford (1G 2A), Gerbe (1G 1A) as above, and I’d toss in Brayden McNabb who picked up two assists.  Buffalo is 4 points out of 7th in the East with that win.

By the way, the Edmonton media is a bunch of whiny annoying bitches.  Whether declaring that Kaleta is worse than Matt Cooke, or lamenting a quiet arena on a weekday for an underachieving team with a Western opponent, they all came off as super lame last night.  Cover the game, man.

Gameday 2011-2012 – Senators at Sabres

The moderately disliked Ottawa Senators visit Buffalo tonight for a 7pm game against the Sabres.  The Senators currently sit in 12th place in the East, though that’s only 2 points behind Buffalo.  Ottawa has lost 3 straight games, giving up 14 goals in the process.  Buffalo, of course, has been treading water of late, alternating wins and losses while dealing with a ton of injuries.  There are some improvements in that regard, with Gaustad, Kaleta and Weber all practicing and possibly playing tonight.

Paul Szczechura has been a good story over the past few games, and John Vogl at the Buffalo News has it laid out here.  He gets to center the top line again most likely, which is nice work for a callup to get.  I may not be able to watch tonight as I may be looking at a new vehicle, but I’ll be checking Twitter (as usual).

Prep Time

The Sabres split the weekend, shutting out the Canes 1-0, while losing to the Coyotes 4-2.  Other than suffering the ignominy of allowing Biz Nasty to score, the worst news came in the third period on Saturday, when Tyler Myers didn’t return to the ice.  He’s got an ‘upper body injury’ that we should hear more about today.  He had just picked his game up after his benching (though he still had a few bad decisions) so losing him now (if indeed they do) would be tough.

All of this becomes background noise as Wednesday approaches, and the rematch with the Boston Bruins looms.  I talked before about the likely scenarios we’ll see for that game, though we now have even more injuries that make brawls and fights even less likely.  Cody McCormick is still sitting, he’d be the most likely to go after Lucic on his own.  If Myers is out, I don’t think I’d want any defensemen to take themselves out of the play challenging Lucic (Weber or Regehr…obviously Leopold isn’t stepping in there).  So barring a Commander Cody recovery or callup cannon fodder, what we’re probably going to see is a bunch of hard hits, Kaleta-style charges, and a shit-ton of after the whistle tough-guy posturing without punches.  It’ll be annoying until the refs start tossing guys into the box to discourage it.  I’d much rather just see Buffalo win the game and keep their players upright and available for future games at this point.  Get Lucic later.  The anger will keep.

Head Games

The plot, it does thicken.  After a resounding win over the Senators, Buffalo went to Boston and let the Bruins run roughshod over them (literally).  A lot has already been said about Lucic and Miller and responses.  I think Nick Mendola summed up the immediate reaction best for me:

The Sabres immediate response to the offense was mostly fine in my book, given their personnel. Miller tried a blind baseball swing back at Lucic. Thomas Vanek tried to knock the train over. No dice. Andrej Sekera shoved Lucic and looked around for reinforcements. Not seeing any coming, he buried his head and hoped for the least beating possible. I’d like Paul Gaustad to look more interested in getting to Lucic, and maybe it’s above Tyler Myers’ weight class right now.

While I did wonder where the Gaustad is that came off the bench to attack Ovechkin for cheap-shotting Briere, but the officials got their arms on guys as quick as they could and Goose apparently didn’t see it happen.  As for not taking care of Lucic later, well, for the rest of the 1st and 2nd periods, the game wasn’t out of reach (though those two goals later in the 2nd off stupid defense AGAIN had to drive even a concussed Miller crazy).  Would I want a full-on brawl to develop?  Would I have wanted Kaleta to run Tim Thomas?  Or the usual suspects to charge Lucic whenever they could, late/dirty or not?  I might’ve had a positive visceral reaction to events like that at the time, but after the fact, I’d be a bit disappointed.  I like Tim Thomas, and I wouldn’t like to see him get hurt, even in retaliation for a stupid shot on a Sabre.

So, what happens next week when these two teams meet again, here?  There are a few scenarios:

  • Scenario One – The Sabres call up Kassian, roll out a line featuring Cody McCormick, Gaustad and BZK (backed by Regehr and Weber), and they brawl with whoever they are on the ice with, Neil/Drury game style.  EXTREMELY UNLIKELY.
  • Scenario Two – Cody McCormick fights Lucic, Kaleta hits him a few times.  Beyond that, a normal game.  MORE LIKELY.
  • Scenario Three – Gary Bettman or Colin Campbell attend the game, and the teams are on their best behavior.  SOMEWHAT LIKELY.

There is one wild card in this – a Sabres player truly running a Bruins player.  Maybe Myers bounces Horton’s head off the boards accidently with his elbow.  Maybe Kaleta does the usual Carubba worthy hit near the boards on a guy in an awkward position.  It might even be an accident, and have nothing to do with the recent history.  But that’s the one thing that will kick that next game into clownshoes territory.  Still, the most likely one is the ‘one fight and done’ thing.  ‘The next game’ is always a disappointment.

Miller is concussed, and Drew McIntyre will be the door opener for however long that lasts.  Jhonas Enroth is the man now, and it’s no easy stretch coming up, in Montreal tonight, home for NJ Wednesday, then another set of back to backs this weekend (Friday in Carolina, Saturday here for Phoenix).  You have to think Darcy and Lindy are hoping Miller is ready for the weekend but with a concussion, you just can’t know.  The team needs to pull together here and rally.

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.