The Instigator Podcast 11.20 – Taking Listener Questions Before the All Star Break

With the All Star break around the corner, I took some listener questions on trade thoughts, reverse retro jerseys, old hockey brands and much more. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions for this week’s show. Looking forward to getting back up and running after the break and the Sabres bye.

The Instigator Podcast 11.19 – Trading Places

Lots of trade talk on this week’s episode as we have a little fun and look around the league to see which teams we would willingly swap Buffalo’s roster for. It’s a lighthearted exercise but with a sign towards the traits on the current roster which has made this season so encouraging. Before we get to that, we discuss the early rumors connecting the Sabres to Timo Meier and offer up some thoughts on Ryan Miller night. We also dip our toe in the water with some scoreboard watching as the Sabres remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference wild card race.

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Thanks, Ryan

I hadn’t had a desk at the arena very long before Kevin Snow sent me downstairs to work on my first feature for the program. Go downstairs and grab Miller. Just go grab the team’s biggest star and see if he’s got a few minutes to spare. No big deal.

So I went downstairs armed with a barrel of questions – some relevant to the task at hand, others not so much – and I spent about an hour sitting across from a guy who I’d practically idolized the last handful of years.

See, Dominik Hasek is why I wanted to be a goalie. Rolling around the crease, making spectacular saves. You couldn’t find a better idol for a young kid playing house at West Seneca. There were plenty of other reasons I was inspired to play goal. The gear, the masks, but Hasek was the cornerstone of it all.

Ryan Miller, is who is responsible for me truly falling in love with goaltending.

The league was locked out my freshman year of college. I remember trying to follow the Amerks as best I could from Cleveland and scoring tickets to one of their cameos in Buffalo that year. Miller’s eventual arrival coincided with the years I played for John Carroll. It was perfect timing. His fluid precision was a joy to watch. I did my best to model my play after his.

He was really the first athlete I truly tried to do that with. And not long after that, there I was sitting with him discussing his offseason training, his role on the league’s competition committee and a host of other topics. We eventually boiled down to talking gear, as most goalies do, and he even gave me some insider info on how some of the goalies in the league at that time cheated the system. It was a great conversation, and I can think of no better baptism for that job than getting to shoot the shit with Ryan Miller for a while.

Throughout the course of the year there were small interactions – almost all gear focused – that have stuck with me. Not so much because I got to talk about goalie gear with Ryan Miller, but because he took the time to remember that sliver of information about the skinny kid who worked in PR.

Of course, I’d been following him closely even before that year I spent with the Sabres. It was a treat to have such an up close look at what he did on a daily basis in practice or in games. He wasn’t a goalie who just tried to get hit with the puck. In an era where blocking goalies were prevalent, he had a unique way of always looking so composed in his movement in net. Like everything was playing out according to a script. His footwork and movement in the crease was fluid and his ability to read the play set him apart from so many of his peers. He had a swagger to his game as well that I always felt was particularly notable during shootouts. He stayed out of his stance longer than you might expect and he had a fake poke check he would mix in from time to time as well. There was just so many layers to his game, I could analyze and break down his play for hours if given the opportunity.

I’m not sure if I’d have the same relationship with goaltending that I do today had Miller not come along. My college career was hardly notable, but I craved to play more no matter what. Miller and his prime years in Buffalo have a lot to do with that.

We all love this stupid team for one reason or another. Miller’s 10-plus years serve as cornerstone of my connection to the Sabres and to goaltending as a whole.  

Thanks, Ryan.

The Instigator Podcast 11.18 – The Sabres and the Three-Headed Goalie Monster

The Sabres waived Vinny Hinostroza on Wednesday afternoon, opening the door for the team to officially carry three goaltenders on the roster. We discuss the decision to waive Hinostroza, the challenges of carrying three goalies and how this decision affects Buffalo’s outlook as they work to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race. We start the show with a conversation about Ivan Provorov and his decision to not wear the Flyers Pride Night warmup jersey earlier this week.

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The Instigator Podcast 11.17 – Setting Expectations for a Growing Team

We’re back to discuss the Sabres continued improvement and some thoughts on how to judge this team as they creep into the playoff picture. We talk about resetting expectations for a team that is still growing in order to remain realistic regarding the outlook for the remainder of the season. We also talk about the back-to-back losses the Sabres suffered and even bring back some conversations about potential arena renovations and just when we may see those plans resurface.

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The Instigator Podcast 11.16 – Sabres New Year’s Resolutions

We turn the calendar to 2023 and offer up the resolutions we have for the Sabres in the New Year. The Sabres find themselves creeping up on the playoff race in the Eastern Conference and are enjoying impressive seasons from a number of key contributors. With their impressive improvements in mind, we dig into a few areas we hope to see the team focus on in 2023.

The Instigator Podcast 11.15 – Are the Sabres Ready for the Next Step?

The Sabres return home from a West Coast swing with a trio of key victories. They’ve vaulted themselves into the Eastern Conference wild card race and look poised to take a significant step forward in the ongoing rebuild. The team’s impressive run off their previous losing streak hasn’t just put them back within sight of a playoff position, but it has reset expectations within the fanbase. As the NHL’s highest scoring team with a handful of individual award candidates, the question has become whether or not it’s time for Kevyn Adams to take the next step in building his roster. We look at what that could mean for the Sabres and even offer up a few names which would provide an opportunity for improvement in both the short and long term.

The Instigator Podcast 11.14 – Sabres Status Report After 25 (Plus Three) Games

The Sabres have played 28 games and it feels like a good time to take an assessment of their progress thus far. We talk about our choice for MVP, top rookie and breakout performer through the first portion of the year. We also touch on what’s been the most frustrating and disappointing aspects of the season to this point. Also on this week’s show: a discussion over the Bo Horvat and Jesse Puljujarvi trade speculation and a brief rundown of the potential Sabres attendees at the World Junior Championships. Plus some thoughts on Matt Savoie not receiving an invite to Team Canada’s camp.

No One Cause to Sabres Goal Prevention Issues

The Sabres have a goal prevention issue. Many have boiled it down to a goaltending issue, but it’s not that simple. Although, it’s played a big role.

Tage Thompson just tied the franchise record for goals in a game as part of a 9-4 win. The Sabres have scored four or more goals in seven of their last 10 games but are just 5-4-1 in that span. The Sabres have scored the most goals in the entire league but are six points out of the Wild Card race. It’s a peculiar situation they find themselves in and their inability to keep pucks out of their net is one of the most frustrating aspects of what’s been a promising season.

Buffalo is currently in the top half of the league in xGF% according to Natural Stat Trick and that positive goal differential is commendable considering the next closest differential belongs to the Flames who are dead even as of this writing and sitting 21st in the league in overall standings.

The Sabres’ recent loss to the Lightning was a contest that highlighted more than a few of Buffalo’s most notable struggles on the year. The penalty kill struggled, they surrendered a third period lead and their goaltending wasn’t up to snuff. Given how quickly things fell apart on the Sabres, I wanted to go back through the game and see how it all unfolded. Below are each of the six goals from the Tampa game broken down into a handful of key steps as each goal developed and was scored. It illustrates nicely just how many different factors came together to sink the Sabres and how many of these issues have been present in many of the team’s contests this year.

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The Instigator Podcast 11.13 – Answers in Goal Won’t Come Easy for the Sabres

While virtually every aspect of the Buffalo Sabres play has been humming of late, their netminders have been suspect for most of the season. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been given an opportunity to prove his worth to the organization, but early returns have been questionable. Finding a solution that offers the club a true improvement in net is easier said than done. We discuss the shortcomings in goal plus the challenges that will face the Sabres in trying to once again improve between the pipes.