Double Minors: Sabres Get Win in Anaheim

It was a night of firsts for the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night in Anaheim. The Sabres finally scored a five on five goal without Jack Eichel on the ice, and it helped them to their first win of the season. The 3-1 victory over

the Ducts also marked the first win as a head coach for Phil Housley.
Buffalo started quickly, as they were able to establish themselves in the Anaheim zone on the opening shift. The Sabres were able to begin executing an offensive zone line change as they continued to cycle the puck, and they were rewarded for their efforts when Johan Larsson’s shot from the left boards was not handled well by John Gibson and Justin Bailey was able to deposit the rebound after a scramble in front. The goal came less than 90 seconds into the game and was Bailey’s first of the season after a call up from Rochester; the assist registered by Nathan Beaulieu was his first point as a Sabre.

The Sabres closed out another impressive first period on the road with the 1-0 lead, and did a nice job limiting Anaheim’s opportunities to the perimeter. Chad Johnson, making his first start since the loss to New Jersey, had a relatively uneventful period despite facing two Anaheim power plays.

The second period did not begin quite as well as the first. Despite starting the period on the power play it was Anaheim who had the first good chance, with Johnson having to make a nice glove save on Josh Manson on a shorthanded three on two rush.

The Sabres’ one goal advantage nearly lasted until the second intermission, but another lapse on the power play led to the Ducks tying it up shorthanded. This time Rasmus Ristolainen and Ryan O’Reilly combined to misplay a puck at the Anaheim blue line, and Chris Wagner was able to take advantage and beat Johnson on a partial breakaway. The shorthanded goal was the fifth the Sabres have given up in just six games.

The Sabres were able rebound from their special teams issues before the period was out. The Anaheim defense had difficulty dealing with an odd carom off the boards, and Benoit Pouliot was able to get the puck to Sam Reinhart who tipped the puck in. The goal was Reinhart’s first of the season, and first in 12 games dating back to last season.

Buffalo was able to keep the Ducks at bay during the third period, and Johan Larsson was able to add some insurance in the final minute with an empty netter thanks to some terrific work by Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly on the forecheck.

• Jacob Josefson left the game and did not return after suffering a lower body injury.

• Evander Kane took three more minor penalties, and none of them were particularly smart. Kane has not committing six minor penalties in six games.

• Buffalo wraps up their four game road trip with the first meeting in history between the Sabres and Vegas Golden Knights. It will also mark the first game Will Carrier plays against the Sabres after being selected in the expansion draft in June.

Double Minors: Sabres fall in Los Angeles

The Sabres battled the Kings right from the opening faceoff last night, and were a little over two minutes from gaining at least a point for their efforts, but it wasn’t to be as they dropped their fifth straight to open the season last night in Los Angeles.

It was easily their best effort since the season opener in Montreal, but it was a few mental lapses that doomed the Sabres. The Sabres played a terrific road period in the first. They limited the Kings’ opportunities to the perimeter and were able to take a lead into the dressing room thanks to Jack Eichel. Eichel led a two on one with Zemgus Girgensons, and was able to feed Girgensons for a tap in with less than five minutes left in the period. Continue reading

Ugly Result in Brooklyn Drops Buffalo to 0-1-1

If there’s one thing the Sabres can take away from their first two games of the season, it’s that their mistakes will more than likely end up in the back of their net. Two nights after seeing two errors lead to two Canadiens goals, the Sabres again saw their mental and physical lapses lead to goals for the opposition.

Despite playing a decent road game the Sabres dropped a 6-3 decision to the Islanders in Brooklyn, and have no one to blame but themselves. The team again played well for long stretches, but a three goal outburst by the Islanders in only 1:47 blew the game open in the 2nd period. Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres Fall in Season Opener

The Sabres were 12 short minutes away from the perfect start to the Jason Botterill/Phil Housley era on Thursday night. The fast paced style of play that had been promised many times before was on full display, and there was even a hint of nostalgia as old friend Jason Pominville turned back the clock and scored both Buffalo goals in his first game as a Sabre since 2013.

However, it wasn’t enough to come away with the two points the team deserved, as the Sabres fell asleep on the man advantage and allowed Phillip Danault to jam a puck between Robin Lehner’s skate and the left post to tie the game in the third period before the shootout struggles of last season returned and condemned the team to a 3-2 shootout defeat.

Despite the setback, the mood both on the ice and in the stands was a far cry from the tepid atmosphere that so often accompanied home games last season. Fans were engaged throughout the course of the game, and there was even fewer Canadiens fans dotting the lower bowl than usual. Fans didn’t need the organ, which made its own triumphant return, to nudge them into the familiar “Let’s Go Buffalo” chant, and the noise level in general was a refreshing change from the last few seasons of relative silence. Continue reading

The Sabres Have Some Questions to Answer this Preseason

With the rookie tournament and start of training camp checked off the list, the only thing standing between the Sabres and opening night is the preseason. The team’s six game preseason slate kicked off yesterday with a visit from the Carolina Hurricanes, and there are a handful of questions that we should see answered between now and the opening faceoff on October 5. Continue reading

In Defense of Robin

The NHL season is now exactly two months old, and as the calendar churns towards Christmas the Buffalo Sabres find themselves in a familiar place: looking up at the rest of the Eastern Conference.

While the team is only six points back of third place in the Atlantic Division with a few games in hand, the team needs to start stringing wins together in order to get back into the playoff conversation. As fans and pundits alike look for ways the Sabres can jumpstart their season, many are of the belief that the answer may lie with Anders Nilsson, at least for the time being.

The first year Sabre and fourth year NHLer is enjoying a career renaissance in Buffalo under the tutelage of goalie coach Andrew Allen. Nilsson has compiled a 5-2-2 record with a 2.38 GAA and career high .932 save percentage to date, and many believe the Sabres should stick with him in net while he continues to pile up the impressive numbers.

Robin Lehner would stand to lose playing time as a result of an extended string of starts for Nilsson. Lehner’s stat line isn’t anything to sneeze at either, as he’s posted a 2.44 GAA and .920 save percentage, yet only has a 5-9-4 record to show for it. Continue reading

Grading Tim Murray’s Trade History

Tim Murray has been uncharacteristically quiet on the trade front during offseason, only making three deals of note. His wheeling and dealing was less than what fans have become accustomed to and, most surprisingly, came with a fair bit of criticism.

As Murray has dealt away analytical all-star Mark Pysyk and failed to bring old friend Jhonas Enroth back via free agency, some fans have begun to question Murray’s acumen, and a few have gone so far as to call for his job. Evander Kane’s off-ice activity has also draw ire for the deal which brought the winger to Buffalo along with Zach Bogosian.

I think those calling for his job are in the minority, but in order to see if they have a legitimate bone to pick I’ve decided to grade every deal Murray has made since he began calling the shots in 2014 (with the help of nhltradetracker.com). It’s tough to grade some trades simply because the pieces that were acquired or dealt away aren’t finished products yet, but this will still show whether Murray has been able to get the better of his fellow GM’s, or if they’ve been able to take advantage of his aggressiveness. Continue reading