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.

The Curious Case of the Third Round Picks Buffalo Shipped Away

The third round of the NHL Draft is hardly an electrifying portion of the event. The picks all hold fair value on the floor and in trade negotiations, but in either case you’re not referring to any blockbuster moves.

However, the Buffalo Sabres’ own involvement in the 2016 third round was actually somewhat interesting. Not so much for the picks they made, but for the ones which found their way to other teams.

At one point or another, the Sabres held five picks in this year’s third round. Buffalo would only wind up making a pair of selections in the round after entering the weekend with a trio of picks. Cliff Pu would be selected 69th (nice) and Casey Fitzgerald 86th while the other three selections previously held by the Sabres found their way to other cities. Continue reading

Murray Should Focus on Value not Handedness in Defensive Pursuit

Tim Murray has made it no secret that he’s in the market for a defenseman this summer, specifically a puck moving, power play quarterback. It’s also been noted that acquiring a left handed defenseman to help balance Buffalo’s current left-right disparity is likely high on Murray’s shopping list as well.

In a perfect world Murray would find a defenseman that checked all of those boxes. For example, Cam Fowler checks nearly every single one of those boxes nicely. Not only does he meet many of Buffalo’s needs, but there’s an expectation that he will be on the block in Anaheim this summer. So there’s certainly a natural fit there.

There are also rumors swirling about Fowler’s Anaheim teammates Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. Tyson Barrie is thought by some to be a spare part in the eyes of Colorado management and even Kevin Shattenkirk’s name is making the rounds in the rumor mill. All five of these names are terrific defensemen who would drastically impact Buffalo’s blueline in the offensive end and when it comes to puck possession (Fowler’s fancy stats aren’t as impressive as the others, for what it’s worth).

The one issue is that three of the five defensemen mentioned above are right handed and the Sabres already have five righties on the roster. While maintaining a good balance between right and left handed blueliners is a key around the league, this may be a case where ignoring that stance suits the Sabres better. Continue reading

Expansion Rules will Create Crisis for some GMs

With news breaking this week that the NHL and NHLPA have agreed on the structure for  a future expansion draft, the maneuvering and preparations across the league can begin in earnest.

Reaching an agreement on no movement and no trade clauses was among the most important unanswered questions surrounding the way teams will form their protected lists. With the potential for an expansion draft taking place as early as next summer, the need for that determination was obviously important.

One position that will get plenty of focus will be between the pipes. As there is only one option for protecting goaltenders, there is a near guarantee that a pair of solid goaltenders are headed to Vegas should a draft take place next summer.

The requirement that no movement clauses must be protected could put pressure on a number of general managers to make a move this summer – or prior to next year’s deadline – to ensure they aren’t losing a goaltending asset for nothing. Continue reading

Trading Ryan Miller: Who will be looking to buy?

This will serve as the second portion to a post that I put up last week on the prospects of trading Ryan Miller

After exploring which teams may or may not make Ryan Miller’s no-trade list, I wanted to take things a step further and determine which teams may serve as suitors for the netminder. By doing so I wanted to determine which teams would have little interest in him as well.

As is well-known, Miller’s no-trade clause allows him to veto a trade to eight different teams. This may end up being a list that significantly handcuffs Darcy Regier but it could also serve as a list that does indeed limit options, but doesn’t prevent Regeir from effectively doing his job.

I decided to include the 11 different teams which Miller may veto a trade to on this list. I wanted to provide a comprehensive collection of the direction I’d assume each NHL club to take if approached about Ryan Miller.

Count the Rangers (Lundqvist) and Penguins (MAF) in a group of teams who would not provide themselves with a significant upgrade in acquiring Miller. Boston (Rask), Nashville (Rinne), Los Angeles (Quick), Vancouver (Schneider), Montreal (Price) and Detroit (Howard) are also on this list. Each of those seven teams have determined their goaltender of the future (and present) and wouldn’t provide their team with any sort of significant upgrade by bringing Miller into the fold.

There is another large group of teams who have a solid netminder and fall in the middle of the road when I consider potential suitors. They probably all lean closer to a no than a yes and here’s why: Continue reading

NHL risking oversaturation with more outdoor games

With news breaking that the 2013-14 schedule may have upwards of four outdoor games, my wheels again began to turn at the thought of the diminishing spectacle that is outdoor hockey.

The lockout prevented the 2013 Winter Classic from occurring but the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will meet on New Year’s Day 2014 to make up for their missed appointment this past January. In addition, rumors have indicated that the Canucks will play host to the Heritage Classic with additional whispers of a Kings and Ducks showdown at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodger Stadium game is expected to occur on Hockey Day in America and would potentially serve as a doubleheader with another outdoor game played at Yankee Stadium featuring the Rangers. The latter three games have yet to be confirmed, but it would appear that they’re going to be part of the plans for the 2013-14 season.

While I think the Hockey Day in America doubleheader could make for some cool television, I fear that by the time those two games roll around no one will care much for the outdoor product. As it stands now, the Winter Classic makes for a fun game to watch in the elements even though the on-ice product isn’t always up to snuff. Scheduling a pair of games to come after the Winter and Heritage Classic could seriously cheapen what has otherwise become a very cool product.

I wrote this last year about the potential for watering down what these outdoor games mean. I fear that oversaturating the market will change these from unique spectacles to just another blip on the NHL radar. Continue reading

Double Minors: Miller stands tall, Sabres take two from Anaheim

Even after losing two of their larger, tougher players, the Buffalo Sabres had plenty of grit left in the tank for last night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

AHL call-up, Corey Tropp, had yet another respectable scrap and brought plenty of jam along with him from Rochester. Tropp has been mighty impressive in each re-call he has had this season, I’d expect him to be a mainstay on the roster from this point forward. Mike Weber and Robyn Regehr each dropped the gloves while Pat Kaleta and Tyler Myers were right in the middle of a liney at the horn. Who says this team will miss Paul Gaustad?

In all seriousness, Buffalo showed some serious heart in the toughness department. They didn’t have the one player who typically brought the most sandpaper to the lineup. It is something that will need to be found in the near future. I don’t think the league’s smallest team will succeed well in the playoffs. That being said, Tropp and Kaleta certainly showed that they have enough jam to insert on the front end, while guys like Weber and Regehr play with plenty of edge defensively. So long as that aspect isn’t ignored by those players, the loss of Guastad and Kassian won’t be as noticeable.

Ryan Miller certainly proved his play elevates when he is motivated. Whether it was because he was heading home to this or because he is still pissed about losing his buddy and best defensive forward, Miller’s game was on yet again. He turned aside 43 shots for the shutout victory. According to Ian Ott of the Sabres, that is a franchise record for saves in a shutout.

Buffalo heads up the coast to San Jose for today’s game. It will be another late start in Buffalo but the game represents two more pivotal points. While the massive road losing skid in December and January is one defining moment of this season, this road trip could be what turns the year around.

  • Cody Hodgson had an impressive debut for the Sabres. He created a few chances and had a couple of his own. The goals will certainly come for the young pivot. I enjoy seeing him play with Tyler Ennis, I assume the two have some sort of relationship from their time on the Canadian WJC roster. I hoe that Hodgson is able to continue creating offensively as he did tonight. I was certainly impressed with what I saw. I also liked that he got time in every situation. It was pretty clear that he didn’t understand Buffalo’s penalty kill rotation just yet, but that will come. Keep getting him big minutes, that is key.
  • One night overreaction regarding Hodgson: the Sabres are a better team with him in the lineup vs. Zack Kassian. Realistic interpretation: Hodgson’s skillset benefits the needs of the Sabres better than the skillset Kassian brings to the table.
  • Once again, Ryan Miller was phenomenal. He has been strong since January 1 and simply stellar since January 24. He is finally healthy and has raised his game to a new level.
  • Mike Weber and Tyler Myers can go take some boxing lessons this summer. They’re two big-bodied defensemen, it would be nice if they had the ability to fight and not get totally rag dolled.
  • On the Myers fight, I truly hope that is a turning point for his physical game. Lindy Ruff’s postgame press conference referenced the fact that the Sabres need him to find that physical aspect and truly utilize it. He is still quite young, so he is likely still feeling his way out and finding the right way to use his size and reach. I’m just saying it would be nice for that mean streak to come out in a big way.
  • Derek Roy has played some pretty good hockey as of late. In fact, he almost looks like the type of center the Sabres need on their top line. I don’t feel that he is the long-term answer for where they want to go, but if he can keep this play up, the team is better for it.
  • Lastly, the Sabres have a combined four shots in the two third periods they played against Anaheim this season. That is not a good number. Buffalo were outshot a combined 31-4 in the third period of their two games against Anaheim this season. The bend don’t break mentality of Lindy Ruff’s “system” is infuriating to me. As was proven in the loss to the Rangers, hoping to ride out a one or two-goal lead is no way to succeed in the NHL.

Game Summary/Event Summary