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.

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.

Preseason – The Best Time to be a Leafs Fan

I watched both Leafs games over the weekend (including the one here in Buffalo in person) and it struck me, watching the drunken obnoxious Toronto fans, that this must be their favorite time of year.  There is hope, manufactured by their fever dreams about their prospects.  Any win is an indication that things will go well this year, and a close loss is the Leafs ‘standing toe to toe with the “contender” Sabres’.  Can’t forget the quotes around that.  You can bet your ass they’d tout Buffalo as a contender (no quotes) if the Leafs had won either one of the games.  They are the first to try an smirk at the Sabres’ offseason pickups, so it was GREAT to see Ehrhoff being so instrumental in their defeat.  Oh, I almost forgot how much the Leafs fans enjoy snarking about the Sabres relying on Miller to win games, when their faint playoff hopes are basically on ‘Optimus Reim’ not being a Steve Mason-esque one year wonder.

So crow while you can, Toronto.  Take close losses in the preseason as fact that you are ‘closer’ to your betters, but remember your place in the regular season.  Which is 4th in the division (hey, Ottawa won’t be any better).  At least you have that.

One Small Step Back

Yes, the team looked like crap much of the game.  Yes, Miller whiffed on a few.  And Yes, it was the Leafs, who I will ALWAYS hate losing to.  At the end, it’s still one game.  The Sabres are still solidly in their playoff position, and can improve their chance to hold on to it immensely tonight by beating the Rangers.  It would help if the Habs could beat the Hurricanes, too, but they should focus on what they can do.  Besides, the game after is against the Canes, best to look at beating them directly when the time comes.

Any positives?  Vanek and Pominville scored, putting the Population at 20.  Drew Stafford was noticeable again, and so were Gerbe and Ennis.  Reimer made some big stops on those guys at times, and they missed on their own a few others.

I would like to give a big eff you to the officials last night.  They didn’t cause the Sabres to lose, though they tried, but their inconsistency was almost laughable.  They went most of the game calling very little, then called a very weak hooking penalty on Vanek.  That was followed by an obvious make-up call in Buffalo’s favor when they called the same penalty on Boyce a few minutes later.  There were blatant dives and embellishments missed, again on both sides, but it’s got to be tough for the players to play in a game where you have no idea what’s going to get called.

I’ll be away from home tonight as my son’s Cub Scout troop is going to Lasertron.  I’ll DVR the game and check in on it between matches.

Gameday 2010-2011 – Leafs at Sabres and Clarke MacArthur

It’s a post turkey day game tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have former Sabre Clark MacArthur as their leading scorer.  You are hearing a lot out of this article by James Mirtle, with this as the money quote:

“In Buffalo, I didn’t really have the opportunity to do this,” MacArthur said. “You look at the minutes I was playing, like 12 minutes a game on average. What are you supposed to do with 12 minutes a game?”

As you might imagine, this generated some snarky responses from Sabres fans.  Let’s deconstruct this a bit, shall we?  Clarke showed promise in his early cups of coffee with Buffalo, in particular getting 8 goals and 15 points in 37 games in 07-08.  He followed that up with an uneven 08-09 where MacArthur would show up for a few stretches and then vanish.  That included a 17 game and 20 game goalless streaks.  He had 5 goals in the last 8 games of the year, and 6 goals in the first 13, and ended up with 17.  His average TOI was actually 13:50, though he was definitely getting the Lindy doghouse treatment at times with some 6-8 minute games.  Those are balanced out though, even during the bad streaks he was given ample playing time (16min + more than once) to get going and couldn’t.

His 09-10 season was more of the same, a burst of goals to start the season, then long stretches of inactivity, which lead to Clarke getting traded to the Thrashers for a couple of mid-round picks.  Atlanta didn’t accept the arbitration agreement (they specifically allowed the arbiter to set it high so they wouldn’t have to do a Tim Kennedy-style buyout) and he signed with the Maple Leafs.  MacArthur currently is on pace for 28 goals and 73 points for them, and good for him.  I just take issue with him acting like 187 games and 12 minutes 14 minutes a night is not enough to prove yourself.  The Tiny Tyler is making quite an impression with 15 a night, is that extra shift that huge a difference?

Anyway, Miller and Roy are both in tonight as per the esteemed Mike Harrington.  Rivet is still sitting in favor of Weber.

Some Random Thoughts

I have a few rare minutes to sit and write, but of course, I didn’t get to see the win against the Leafs.  I am a big fan of Enroth, saw some of his World Jr. work, so I was glad to see him do well.  Watching the highlights and reading random stuff:

  • Love that even the Leafs’ arena crew were fooled by Jhonas’s stop on MacArthur.
  • Love Enroth’s mask even more.
  • Hey, Komisarek, I know fights after clean hits are stupid, but man up and actually fight.  Montador never wins, anyway.  Don’t wrestle him down and then punch.
  • Nice chipshot, Roy.
  • Enroth had to make some tough, tough saves on breakaways and 2 on 1’s.  Is Lalime making those?
  • Really need to work on that ‘The Two Tylers’ shirt concept.  Ennis!

Should hopefully get to see most of the games this week.

Sabres Fall To Leafs 5-4

Didn’t end up getting to see this, but I didn’t want it to pass without comment.  The big three for the Sabres (Miller, Vanek, Myers) sat this one out, among others, while the Maple Leafs iced what amounts to their regular season lineup.  Nathan Gerbe scored twice, including one on a penalty shot, while Stafford and newcomer Jordan Leopold had the other tallies.  The power play went 2 for 5.

One thing I like seeing, Buffalo poured on the shots again, putting 39 on Jonas Gustavsson.  That comes after pelting Gustavsson and Rynnas with 44 shots in the previous tussle two nights before.  Hopefully this continues into the regular season, as one thing that bugged me the past couple of years is the Sabres’ tendency to make one too many passes.  Part of the improvement comes from Ennis and Gerbe, who have 13 shots between them in the two games (with Ennis not playing last night for personal reasons).

Tonight, we get the Kraft Hockeyville game, facing the Senators in Dundas, Ontario.  It’s a neat event, and this might just be viewable for us, unline the rest of these games.

Preseason Leafs Smackdown Thoughts

I went to the Sabres’ 3-1 win over the Leafs on Saturday, and have a few thoughts on what I saw (my phone was out of commission so no pictures, sorry):

  1. Kassian is a beast.  Too bad there won’t likely be a roster spot for him.
  2. Vanek glove-punching a guy was great.
  3. Ennis is going to be good, could be a good addition to the top 6.
  4. Stafford didn’t look out of place on the top 6 either, though, he had some physical plays.
  5. Gerbe knocked down Luca Caputi.  He gives up 9 inches to him (save your ‘That’s what SHE said’ jokes, please).
  6. Guy who whistled like a bird all game:  no one likes you.
  7. To the Leafs fan who whined that we had to use our ‘regular lineup’ to beat their rookies:  HA-HA!  I actually gave Toronto more of a chance with some of those guys in, since they weren’t corrupted by the pre-Burke/Wilson Leafs organization.

If I can manage to find the game on TV tonight, I’ll be watching from home.  Probably.  Here’s the lineup for this game, courtesy of the Buffalo News.  Maybe that Leafs whiner will be happy, since they will have a more ‘regular’ lineup for tonight.

Top 10 Goalies of the Northeast Division

We looked at the defensemen, so let’s follow that up with a look at the goalies of the Northeast division.  The goaltender situation in the Northeast is interesting, with surprising changes (Halak out) and a whole mess of veterans running out of time to regain form.  All stats are from last season.

10.  Pascal Leclaire, Ottawa Senators (3.07 GAA .877 SP)

Leclaire was brought in by Ottawa to compete for a starting job with Brian Elliott, but inconsistent play and some hard luck injuries have relegated him to the bench.  Even the bench wasn’t safe for poor Pascal, as a stray puck nailed him in the jaw while he was chatting idly.  At least he had a sense of humor about having surgery for it:

“I don’t know I might try to get calf implants or abs or something. We’ll see what the prices are.”

9.  Alex Auld, Montreal Canadiens (2.96 GAA .895 SP)

Auld was brought in to back up Carey Price after Client Jaroslav Halak moved on to the Blues.  Auld is a journeyman who is not a threat to take Price’s job, which is good for him, I guess.  He’s played well for short stretchs but has never been able to turn in a season that could win him a job.  If he sees significant time this year, Montreal is in trouble.

8.  Patrick Lalime, Buffalo Sabres (2.81 GAA .907 SP)

Ryan Miller was pushing for Lalime to be back as his backup, and he got his wish.  He’s a great guy, and Miller likes him, which is good enough for me.  He hasn’t always gotten goal-scoring and defensive support the way Miller has, but Lalime plays better with more playing time.  I would expect a few appearances by Jhonas Enroth, and if Miller were to go down, I bet they’d split time.

7.  Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Toronto Maple Leafs (2.85 GAA .907 SP)

Giguere is basically in a dead heat with his partner, both are solid goalies on a team that was bad last year.  Improved play around them could see one of the two jump up the list, though I give the edge to Gustavsson because of his youth.

6.  Jonas Gustavsson, Toronto Maple Leafs (2.87 GAA .902 SP)

See the above, I guess.  Jiggy has the name recognition, but Gustavsson should get a solid shot at being the goalie of the future.

5.  Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (2.77 GAA .912 SP)

The former Jesus Price lost playing time to Jaroslav Halak last year, before getting handed the starting gig by default for this one.  He only won 1/3 of his games last year, on a team that went on a decent playoff run.  Pretty shaky situation for a team under a ton of scrutiny.

4.  Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins (2.56 GAA .915 SP)

His unorthodox style and the wild saves that come with it make for some fun video, Tim Thomas gained popularity quickly once he finally earned a starting job in Boston.  It comes as quickly as it goes, though, with Tuukka Rask taking over from the former Vezina winner and starting every playoff game.  Still, he can make plays and can rebound if Rask falters under the heavier load of a full season.

3.  Brian Elliott, Ottawa Senators (2.57 GAA .909 SP)

This guy absolutely KILLS the Sabres, going 4-0 with a 1.81 GAA against our hometown club last year.  He also went 4-0 against the Sabres the year before that.  He never seems to be playing that well, just always well enough to win versus Buffalo.  It’s good enough to put him below the top two.

2.  Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (1.97 GAA .931 SP)

As I mentioned above, Rask took the reins and the Bruins rode his success into the playoffs and past the Buffalo Sabres.  I’d want to see him in for 60+ games but he was great for a team that dropped off offensively from the previous season (Boston was the only team to score fewer than 200 goals).

1.  Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres (2.22 GAA, .929 SP)

Did you have any doubt that I would put the reigning Vezina champ (and Olympic Silver Medalist) at the top of this list?  Sabres fans will again sound like a broken record in asking for Miller to not play quite so many games, but he dealt with an intense workload last year and threw down his best numbers.  Though he can flash the leather when needed, Miller is at his best when the saves look routine, relying on excellent positioning, rebound control and anticipation to be in the right place at the right time.

There you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  I’m a nutjub?  Fire away!