Vanek Downs Flyers

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Buffalo Sabres pulled away from the Philadelphia Flyers and won 5-2 today at First Niagara Center.  Thomas Vanek was in on every goal, scoring 2 of them, and Steve Ott scored in his first game.  Tyler Myers and Cody Hodgson had the other tallies.

It felt like Buffalo came to play in the first, always close to the puck and pushing play up the ice.  They fell away from that early in the second period, however, and that’s when the Flyers took over and got their 2 goals.  Vanek tied it later though, and the Flyers’ dead legs didn’t do them any favors in the third.

Who I liked:  Vanek, of course, and Cody Hodgson came on as the game went on, too.  Drew Stafford attempted to fight Scott Hartnell the second time the stupidest Flyer tried to ram a Sabre into the boards from behind.  Miller was very solid in the net, with both goals being deflected or screened.  He wasn’t grabbing as many pucks and freezing it as often as he usually does, but that may be the rust.  Ennis won 64% of his faceoffs, and Hodgson and Grigorenko were both positive as well.

What I didn’t like:  John Scott was on the ice for 3 shifts totaling 2:10.  Why?  I realize Gerbe and Leino are both out but if you don’t trust him to play, dress someone else.

Things I still don’t believe:  Vanek played 19 minutes, and took 9 shots.  NINE.  SHOTS.  I dream of games like that from him.

I’ll see you again tomorrow night, as Buffalo is heading to Toronto to face the Leafs.

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.

Pain and Suffering

I’ll admit it, I quit watching this game after the second period, listening to it in the background.  I picked it back up partway through the third, just in time to see Stafford tie it.  This game went from an easy win for Buffalo after the first, even if they give up that late goal, to a performance so bad that I don’t even think they deserve the loser point.  I mean, Leino, Kassian and Vanek scoring in one period is basically a fan’s dream.

Ryan Miller.  He’s got all the eyes on him still, after all the hits he’s taken (a few more last night, including the puck when his helmet came off), and to see 5 goals given up might give you pause.  Shitty defense is to blame here, though, and not Miller.  Maybe he could’ve saved a goal here or there, but when your D is giving up odd man rushes and breakaways with wild abandon, not to mention passing the puck straight to the Flyers’ best players (Gragnani to Giroux), there’s only so much he could do.

Were there positives?  Zack Kassian seems legit, both with the sick passing with Adam on the Leino goal to start things, and his own snipe.  Corey Tropp handled Rinaldo (I’m reading that they have a history, have to check that out).  The boys sticking up for Ennis and Gerbe was great, I don’t think we have to worry about that anymore.  That’s about it, though.

I was impressed with Jaromir Jagr, that was the first time I had really seen him play since coming back.

If there’s one person I’ll feel bad for today, it’s Brendan Shanahan.  He’ll be forced to watch swaths of this game to look at the hit on Gerbe and the elbow by Leino, and hopefully whoever hit Ennis in the head.  The Sabres host Florida tomorrow, let’s hope they play like the first period for oh, say, the whole game.

Gameday 2011-2012 – Flyers at Sabres

The Flyers visit the Sabres tonight, for a 7:30pm Versus game.  Ilya Bryzgalov gets the start for Philly, and I haven’t been following Twitter closely today, but I’m assuming there’s been at least three snide weather/city remarks by Philly beat reporters.  I haven’t seen any lines/practice notes for Buffalo today but with the way injuries are, I don’t think it’s nailed down until the puck is dropped.  Will we see Miller again?  Yeah, I bet we do, as there are (surprise!) back to back games this weekend, though both are at home.  Enroth Friday against the Panthers makes sense to me.

The other bit of news is Jordin Tootoo’s 2 game suspension for bowling over Miller.  I am not surprised, though I thought it might go 3-4 games.  At least he’s established as a repeat offender for the next time he doesn’t mean to take a stroll right through a goal crease, I didn’t mean to, honest!

Gameday 2011-2012 – Flyers at Sabres

Hmm, so not only do we have former Flyer Ville Leino centering the first line, but Roy is at the point on the power play, with Gragnani out of the equation.  Might we get a Mike Weber sighting?  Lindy wouldn’t say, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise.  The Flyers come in without Danny Briere who is nursing sore ribs.  Sorry, boo-birds, your ownly chance to boo him will be when they announce the scratches.  Pronger is also out after nearly having his eye scooped out.

I know that it’s the first meeting after the Flyers eliminated the Sabres from the playoffs, but I just don’t feel any great anger at them for it.  I mean, I always dislike the Flyers, and that didn’t increase it any.  Maybe it’s the hangover from the Pegula effect.  Leino will doubtless have some butterflies playing his old mates, perhaps moreso because it hasn’t gone that well here.

It’s another 7:30pm start time tonight, and it’s on Versus, so plan accordingly.

Leino, Richards and You

In the end, the Sabres went higher-risk/high reward by picking Ville Leino over Brad Richards.  Can Leino be a center again?  He was very good in limited faceoff duty last year.  He played the position until he was 23, so we have to hope it’s like riding a bike.  Ville has to be happy about potentially being with some solid young talent, whether it’s Gerbe or Ennis or Stafford or Pominville.  I’m willing to give this a try and get behind Leino.  Add in Ehrhoff and Regehr, hope for solid full seasons from Gerbe and Ennis, and this year should be a solid step up from the last.

Or, Darcy Regier could trade several of the players currently on the roster away, and completely up-end my thoughts here.  Isn’t it fun?

May You Live In Interesting Times

Well, this had to be one of the most interesting Sabres seasons in recent memory.  Buffalo started the season with a whimper, losing at a pace that had more of us thinking draft lottery than playoffs.  The first hints of Terry Pegula gave a vague hope for the future, but we didn’t know anything about him yet, so it was only a small distraction.  November was better than October, but not by much.

December finally had a good game or two for Ryan Miller, and the Terry Pegula rumors picked up steam.  The Sabres’ best offensive player at the time, Derek Roy, went down with an injury and only just now was able to return.  After that, many of us (myself included) counted Buffalo out.  They’d only gotten 30 points in the first 33 games, Miller was not the Vezina Miller, and Myers was looking more like a rookie this year than last.

January, things got VERY interesting there.  You’ll remember that’s when Stafford-mania began, as Buffalo came home for a game in the middle of the WJC road trip and beat the Bruins 7-6, on the back of a Staffy hat trick.  The beginnings of the upward swing were showing, with the Sabres going 4-0-1 after a sort of bottoming out loss to CalgaryNathan Gerbe suddenly found his way, earning his spot in the lineup and coming up huge (er, sort of) as the team inched their way back up the standings.  The month ended with the long all-star break, but the real story was still Terry Pegula, who kept appearing in all the right places as the team sale picked up steam.

February, yeah, February was kind of fun.  Terry Pegula really did buy the team, Thomas Vanek was in Atlas mode, Twitter met the Pegula daughters, and Tyler Myers was an OT hero.  Pegula day was AWESOME, and the team was rolling.  March was much of the same, with Buffalo in the playoffs and controlling their own destiny.  Even their deadline day acquisition contributed for more than one game.  We fell in love with these guys, and never wanted the ride to end.  The Sabres won a bunch of games to end the regular season, looking primed to upset some dudes in the playoffs.

Well, we all know what happened there.  They took the Flyers to 7, but couldn’t get it done.  Injuries to key guys didn’t help, but in the end, it was a 2 seed over a 7 seed.  So what now?  It’s hard to say.  This is Terry Pegula’s first off-season, and the team has ‘no financial mandates’.  Buffalo will have a lot of cap room (as high as $21 million thanks to the new TV deal) but also a lot of spots up for grabs.  Defense in particular could look very different, with only 3 guys under contract (one of them Shaone Morrisonn).  Will they make a big trade?  Go hard after the biggest names?  Fill spots with guys from Portland that should get a shot?  Do Kassian and Foligno figure in?  What do they do with Enroth (RFA)?  The ride will continue, and I can’t help but think the outlook continues to be bright.

What will happen here?  Locker cleanout usually has some interesting bits, where we find out who was injured, especially.  I may comment on the other games and series, and then it’s off-season mode.  Future posts will look at the roster, the spots and free agents.  Thank you Sabres.


Hey, I thought the title was appropriate with all the ‘mass murder’ and ‘getting away with murder’ comments going on…We’ve got the first game seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs coming up, after Buffalo came up short in game six.  I didn’t get to watch game five or six, being on the road or busy with family/Easter obligations, so no in depth discussion of what an asshole Mike Richards is.  Everybody knows, now.  I feel for Tim Connolly’s gray matter, and am thrilled to hear “That’s great, Derek” Roy might be back.

The Sabres should have some advantages here, though whether they’d agree or not, I’m not sure.  Philly is ‘supposed’ to win as they are the 2 and Buffalo is the 7.  This season is a success no matter how you slice it, going from basement to playoffs, giving a high seed a run for their money (and maybe eliminating them!), and getting an owner with deep pockets and a deeper commitment to winning.  They had young players stepping in and stepping up, showing a brighter future there also.  These guys should just roll out there in Philly on Tuesday and have fun.  I want to see Myers with that grin on his face he had after games last year, the “holy crap, I do this for a living? AWESOME” look.  I want the Goose that dumps Briere on his ass at the faceoff dot.  I want the Gerbe who will slam into the bigger Flyers.

I will be watching Tuesday, but my stress level is such that I may not be able to keep the game on the whole time if it’s close.  I hope to catch up with things a bit more in depth tonight, if I don’t fall asleep as soon as the kids do.

About that booing…

Collecting my thoughts on the game, but I need to address this.  I was there last night, heard the cheers and the boos.  I’d like to offer an explanation for the latter, which may not be true for all who participated but I think it will cover most.

I think the seeds of it starts back in the first period.  Buffalo carried the play, got one goal, and seemed to have the game in the bag.  The second period was more even but there were signs of trouble – too many giveaways and failed entrances to the Flyers’ zone.  We were living and dying with every save.

The elbow by Richards gives the Sabres a chance – a chance to break the game open, plow the Philly jerks under and ride off into the sunset triumphantly.  Take the pressure off Miller.  Oh, but that power play.  I don’t think we could understand how a team that looked that good even strength in the first, could look that atrocious up a man in the third.  The frustration came to a head as, over and over again, Buffalo couldn’t even get the puck in the Philly end.  Where was this dominant first period team?  Every second that passed on that power play was more bewildering than the last.  Whether you agree with it or not (I didn’t boo), there’s only one way for people in a crowd to voice their displeasure audibly.

It’s funny…we were exhorted by media and fans to be ‘loud’.  There was a concerted effort from all in attendance to do just that.  The crowd was all in, with deafening cheers, helpful whistles, and yes, boos.  I find it difficult to expect a crowd to be boiling with emotion…except for the 10 minutes where the team is playing like Keystone Kops.  When that happens, just sit quietly and politely.  Right.