It’s been three games and there are plenty of questions about Buffalo’s goaltenders. So I reached out to Greg Balloch of In Goal Magazine to talk about Robin Lehner’s shootout struggles and more. Greg gives incredible insight to the strong and weak points of Lehner’s game, where he sees Lehner taking the Sabres and even offers up some thoughts on Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Greg also went deep into effective and ineffective goaltending statistics, providing a better way to look at goaltenders at the NHL level.
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
The Sabres are back and with a new hockey season comes new hope, new expectations and, most importantly, new goalie equipment.
Every goalie in the Sabres system has a new-ish look for the season and while this lineup certainly isn’t the most impressive collection of masks and gear the team has ever seen, there are still a few solid set ups throughout the pipeline.
None is better than Robin Lehner’s phenomenal Brian’s OPT1K set. Known for unparalleled customization, Brian’s and Lehner cooked up a terrific blend of stock and custom team-logo graphics. I’m not always a fan of the fully custom team logo sets Brian’s creates, but the Sabre on each piece of Lehner’s set is understated enough that you have to look hard to find it.
Chad Johnson is really the only other worthwhile set up to speak of. He is sporting a clean Ventus set that is a little less colorful than the Ventus gear Lehner wore last season. The Ventus graphics are attractive and work nicely with the Sabres colors.
Other than the two goalies with the big club, Buffalo’s other netminders all sport very basic blue and white sets which won’t clash with the Amerks uniforms but don’t stand out much either. Where there is plenty of variety is in the mask department. Continue reading
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
Looking back, last year was something of a false start for the Sabres. Jack Eichel’s injury dampened the first half of the season and Tim Murray wasn’t willing or able to move enough pieces to shore up the blueline.
What was originally thought of as a coming out party became a regression and a practice in further patience with the rebuilding process.
This season feels different.
Maybe it’s the shine of a new coach and general manager combo. Phil Housley is pushing an uptempo style of play and Jason Botterill hasn’t been shy about reshaping the roster – especially on the blueline. But what has really stoked excitement for the start of the season was locking up Jack Eichel for eight more years.
Getting Eichel’s contract done will erase every take about potential distractions and his desire to play in Boston. More importantly, it ensures that Eichel’s prime years will be spent in the Nickel City.
Maybe it’s the Buffalo inferiority complex at play, but sometimes it seems like Eichel isn’t appreciated as the talisman that he is for this franchise. Not so much from a national perspective, but locally. Nevermind the process that it took to get him, but simply his impact on the ice; his ability to drive play even with two wet paper bags as linemates is something Sabres fans haven’t seen since Gilbert Perreault played. Yet, sometimes I feel like fans see him as just another piece of the puzzle and not the cornerstone that he is.
Eichel is an electrifying talent. He’s played little more than a season-and-a-half and his highlight reel is already astounding. He’s everything we’ve hoped the Sabres would find while also being the antitheses of what’s defined this team for so long. He’s the most exciting player to don a Sabres sweater in a decade (two decades? Three?) and should things go as expected, he may just go down as the most exciting player in franchise history.
The desire for gritty, hard-working, blue-collar players has grown to mythical proportions with the Buffalo fan base. Our greatest stars have almost always occupied the crease and despite being blessed by the greatest player to ever play the position, the Sabres never had the skaters to fully compliment the limitless talent Dominik Hasek offered.
In a way, it’s refreshing just to know that the Sabres aren’t simply building from the net out. This team is going to be led from the front and it’s going to be done by a dynamic talent well worth the trouble it took to get him. The pieces around him continue to fall into place and it truly feels like the Sabres are ready to stop the suffering and start winning.
Here we go.
We are back again to offer up some more detailed thoughts on where we see the Sabres finishing this season. Along the way we celebrate Jack Eichel’s new contract and all that means for the future of the franchise.
We’re back for another season preview, laying out how we see the league shaping up for the 2017-18 season. We have a couple of playoff teams missing out and a couple of new playoff squads compared to last year in our final predictions.