Buffalo Sabres Roster Set For Opening Night

The Sabres open their schedule tomorrow night, hosting Montreal, and announced their roster just before the deadline yesterday.  Notable keeps are Derek Grant, Hudson Fasching and Casey Nelson, who have all had good camps.  Though some of that may be the fact that both O’Reilly and Okposo are still hurting and questionable for tomorrow.

The other huge news of the day was Rasmus Ristolainen finally signing a new 6 year deal, with a $5.4 million cap hit.  A very solid deal for a player who still has room to grow.  I’d like to see him take a step defensively this year, while still managing 10+ goals/45+ points.

I’ve seen a bunch of talk about the Sabres being picked to finish last or nearly so in a few publications.  I’m with the rest of you that it seems unlikely, but I can’t fault them too much.  Most of our “FUCK YEAH PLAYOFFS” feelings come from the idea of all the young kids getting better and progressing at a steady rate.  I’d like that to be true, but it just doesn’t happen.  No one was more positive about Tyler Myers than me, starting out with 2 solid years, thinking he was going to keep progressing into superstar status.  It hasn’t happened – he’s more Bouwmeester than Chara.  I’m hyped, but I’m okay with people outside of Buffalo not buying in yet.  Still, I kind of want to re-do Prediction Watch for this season so I can revisit it after the season.

(10/13 Update) Well THAT escalated quickly.  I wrote this yesterday before Eichel’s high ankle sprain came to light.  I don’t think it greatly affects the season, barring some weirdly lingering issue, but you have to laugh at the luck here.  “Hey, at least we’ve got some great young players to watch!”  “LOL NO sorry you don’t.”

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.

Sorry, Ville

Seriously, can this guy catch a break?  Er, bad choice of words.  The view from the press box probably isn’t helping him any, as his team struggles to find an identity (and their man in the defensive zone) managing only 1 point in the standings in four games.  Goaltending has been a bright spot, though they worked Miller so hard his groin kept him out of a game.  Jhonas Enroth ably filled in, but eventually, your team might have to chip in a goal or three.

I wish I could say things are going to get better soon, but really, a team filled with teenagers, head cases and only one real scoring threat is not one that shakes off a slump easily.  All the line-juggling and benchings in the world won’t help.  Time, practice and teaching will.  That can’t happen if a player is in a suit.  Neither can it happen if he’s toiling on the fourth line alongside John Scott or Cody McCormick.  Mistakes suck, and they are hard to watch.  I get that.  But they need to be made if they are to be learned from.  Or, pessimistically, we need to see if a player CAN learn from them.  So give me Grigorenko and Larsson, Girgensons and Ristolainen.  Foligno, Pysyk, Hodgson – let’s see what we have.  If we’re going to suffer, let’s suffer with a purpose.

Today’s lines at practice:

  • Vanek – Hodgson – Ott
  • Foligno – Ennis – Stafford
  • Girgensons – Larsson – Flynn
  • McCormick – Porter – Kaleta

On D:

  • Ehrhoff – Pysyk
  • Weber – Myers
  • McBain – Ristolainen

This is a problem.  Yeah, Grigorenko hasn’t been great.  But he’s not some 5 year veteran who needs to be shaken up by having to sit a few games.  He’s a KID whose best chance is to work on his game NOW.

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.

Things to Remember

If you’re like me, and you tuned out the NHL a bit since the end of last year thanks to lockout shenanigans, you may be a bit fuzzy on some of the details surrounding the Sabres as they currently stand.  Here’s a handy list you can refer to, to help with your water cooler conversations.

  • Steve Ott, Adam Pardy, and John Scott are all Sabres.  Yes, Scott counts, even if he’ll be warming a press box seat.  (please don’t kill me John Scott)
  • Ville Leino is still a Sabre, too.  Sorry jerks, compliance buyouts start AFTER this season.
  • It is still funny when Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Myers stand next to each other.
  • Terry Pegula added a pit trap underneath the Sabres logo in the dressing room, so REALLY don’t walk on it, Harrington!  There’s no spikes at the bottom, but that IS where Harry Neale will be sitting, ready to regale you with the same stories about coaching in the WHA that you’ve heard thirty times.
  • Rob Ray will be in the booth next to RJ, so you can marvel at the way he makes ‘at all’ sound like ‘a tall’ even more.  Rayzor is thrilled, as Pierre McGuire was really starting to creep him out when sharing the space between the benches.
  • The Winnipeg Jets are a team again, in case you forgot.  They have not yet moved to the Western Conference, either.
  • Toronto fans will still be crossing the border to see their beloved Maple Leafs, until they take a look at the roster and decide shoving the money they’d be spending in the fireplace for heat would be a better use for it.
  • Tim Thomas is still crazy.
  • Milan Lucic was denied by the competition committee when he asked if he could use “one of those mart carts” on the ice.  He left the conference room dejectedly, though he did have to take a knee once to catch his breath.
  • Scott Gomez is still a Canadien.

I hope that helps you get ready for training camp.  Go Sabres!

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.

Crowd Comments

I went to the Sabres/Canadiens game on Monday, and I thought I’d comment about the issue everyone is talking about (while they distract themselves from a stressful playoff run).  I had zero problems with the crowd or the noise they made.  Did it get quiet during play?  Yeah, but *I* get quiet during play – I’m watching!  I know I made a joke about it, but it’s true.  Let me turn this around:  those of you who think we should make noise the whole game, what exactly are we doing?  Random cheering?  Constantly trying to chant (even if no one is joining in)?  I’m serious, what do you want to hear?  I thought we were plenty loud at the right times.

The other aspect of it was whether or not we were cheering Gomez’s injury.  I saw Myers hit him, and it didn’t look like a clean hit to me from the start, though the size difference can make that hard to judge at full speed.  I’m not surprised he got dinged though three games is a bit much for a non-repeat offender to me.  The Sabres have a history with Scott Gomez (the Miller injury – and another ‘lack of response’, painful memory there) so it’s not surprising that fans would be less than sympathetic with him being injured, but it’s not like it was being greatly cheered or anything.  Montreal media needs to remember that a few bad apples on Twitter don’t make a fanbase.  Just like a few Habs fans who flip over and burn cop cars after a playoff win don’t make up theirs.

We have to hope at this point that the Sabres can rally without Myers (who has been more and more productive lately, including the game-winner against the Habs) and keep rattling off wins to try and get ahead of Washington or Florida.  Sekera is still out, and Sulzer has been playing well in his stead, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Brayden McNabb is back in.  See you at 7:30pm for Colorado.

Gameday 2011-2012 – Sabres at Hurricanes

We get Tyler Myers back tonight!  For a guy who had struggled as much as he did before getting hurt, I’m pretty excited to see him tonight.  Even when not scoring, he should be an upgrade in front of Miller.  In beating Edmonton last game, Buffalo FINALLY scored more than two goals, something they’d only done once in the previous seven games.

The news that Ruff plans to play Miller more here on out is not really surprising.  When Enroth started to struggle just as much as Ryan, there really is no downside to seeing if more PT helps Miller get rolling.  He can always go back to the Schedule later if it doesn’t help. *shrug*

I am 80% certain I’ll be attending the viewing party at FNC tonight, with one or two of my kids.  Should be fun, even if my son is just in it for the hot dogs and popcorn.

Duck Season

Much more exciting than the Sabres’ recent games, at least for fans, is the fact that the GM of the Ducks has declared their roster open for business, with only Selanne and Koivu off limits.  They’ve already tried a coaching change, and are still only 1 point away from being the worst team in the NHL, so now it’s roster shakeup time.  We’ve talked about Bobby Ryan before (blast from the past there – remember when Kaberle had trade value?) and Ryan Getzlaf would be the center everyone dreams of.  That’s not even mentioning Corey Perry.  And hey, maybe we could get Toni Lydman back.  That would be kind of fun.

Interesting that Bob Murray wants ‘core players’ in return for his core players if he trades them, not picks or prospects.  That creates an atmosphere where an actual blockbuster trade might really happen.  As for who can go from the Sabres…well, I’ve had ‘Untouchables’ the past few years, but not anymore.  There are two players I would be upset over if they got traded, Myers and Vanek, but if Darcy got a good return, I could probably be brought over to his side.  I just don’t think you trade your best goal-scorer when goal-scoring has been a problem at times.  I like a lot of the other guys, but I like a lot of the Ducks too.  There’s never been a better time for a roster shake-up.  Get it done, Darcy

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.