Crease Crash Course: Sparking Debut for Nilsson

A developing refrain early on this season is Buffalo’s inability to finish games. A squandered lead in Calgary, the inability to finish in Vancouver and now a third period implosion against Philadelphia.

Outside of the game in Calgary, where a weak goal set the OT loss in motion, Buffalo’s goaltending in these contests has been good, if not great. Even prior to Matthew Tkachuk’s tally, Robin Lehner had enjoyed an impressive performance against the Flames. Last night’s collapse had nothing to do with Anders Nilsson’s 38-save effort, of course. Nilsson’s debut was spectacular at times as he held Philly scoreless for over 40 minutes as Buffalo built an impressive lead. It fell apart in the third, however.

Three power play goals erased the Buffalo lead and a pop-gun effort in overtime led Buffalo to a shootout, where they ultimately failed. Philly’s goals were scored on a tip, one timer and goal mouth scramble and none of the three really qualify for the practice that’s growing with these post-game recaps. However, for a goalie who has been accused of playing small in the past, it looks as if Nilsson’s work in Buffalo is already paying dividends. For that reason (and his generally impressive play last night) we’ll look at what I felt was his best save of the evening. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 5.20 – Sabres Forwards Limiting On and Off Ice Moves

The newest episode of The Instigator Podcast highlights the breaking news on Seattle’s arena deal and the struggles in the crease for the Kings, Bruins and Leafs. Chris and Tyler also make an interesting discovery pertaining to the Sabres Corsi numbers while discussion how Buffalo’s forwards are causing limitations for the club’s on-ice performance and off-ice maneuvering.

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Crease Crash Course: Sabres Victimized by Man Advantage

The Sabres finished the western portion of their road trip one or two points short of where they realistically should have been. A couple of gifts from the officials in Calgary wound up in an overtime loss – in a game the Sabres were thoroughly outplayed in – while the team was shooting blanks in Thursday’s affair in Vancouver.

Thursday’s loss to Vancouver was a particularly tough pill to swallow as Buffalo carried the play for long stretches only to be foiled by Jacob Markstrom on every prime scoring opportunity they created. Markstom had a set of very impressive stops on Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo as the night wore on which likely would have been goals in many other occasions. Simply put, the Sabres hit a hot goaltender on Thursday.

Buffalo’s goaltending wasn’t too far off the pace set by Markstrom as Robin Lehner had a strong, if not unspectacular showing. He turned aside 18 of 20 shots, which won’t do much for his sub-900 save percentage but certainly speaks to his ability to stand tall in a tight game. Vancouver’s first goal came on a two-on-one rush where Jannik Hansen beat Zach Bogosian to the crease to tap in a loose puck that snuck through Lehner. Continue reading

Crease Crash Course: Weak Goals Tarnish Strong Game

The final score really doesn’t properly reflect the way Robin Lehner played against Calgary on Tuesday. In fact, his 3.30 GAA and .890 SV% don’t properly reflect the way Lehner has played through Buffalo’s first three games. It’s also far to early to determine whether or not Lehner is any good as there has only been three games.

Make no mistake, plenty of responsibility from the loss in Calgary sits with Lehner. After staking a lead in the third, Lehner was beaten on an otherwise nondescript shot by Matthew Tkachuk. It’s a shot that should be stopped 10 out of 10 times. Tkachuk is outside the dot with no threat of a backdoor pass. While Lehner gets out of the blue paint to challenge, he doesn’t make the final necessary adjustment as Tkachuk changes the angle for his shot. The subtle extension of his stick (pictured below) drastically changes what the puck is seeing, making for the short side tally that ties the game. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 5.19 – System Adjustments Keep Sabres on Track

After the injuries to Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, Sabres fans had a disappointing outlook for the season to come. However, the team rebounded from their disappointing opener with an impressive win against the Oilers. Chris and Tyler discuss how Buffalo’s system let them down in the home opener but helped carry them in their win against Edmonton.

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20 Reflections – The Arena at 20 with Andrew Kulyk of the Ultimate Sports Roadtrip

As Crossroads Marine Midland Arena HSBC Arena First Niagara Center Key Bank Center officially turns 20 years old this season, we will be bringing you a series of 20 posts looking back at the history of the building through the scope of the Sabres, Bandits, special events and more.

Through the series we’ll celebrate some of the greatest moments in the building’s history, remember heartbreaking defeats and look forward to the building’s future as the Pegula’s ownership continues on. The first iteration of the series will revisit the first episode of season five of The Instigator Podcast when Andrew Kulyk of Artvoice and the Ultimate Sports Roadtrip joined the show to discuss the pros and cons of the downtown arena, where the organization can improve the building while sharing chronicles of similar venues from his expansive travels.

Crease Crash Course: Franson Hangs Lehner on Far Pad Shot

Maybe the season isn’t over after all! The return of Kyle Okposo and Dmitri Kulikov gave the Sabres a much needed shot in the arm for their trip west.

Kulikov was out for both Edmonton goals but also did well distributing the puck on the breakout throughout the game. His first pass is terrific and I suspect his impact will be that much stronger if and when he’s paired with Rasmus Ristolainen as the season progresses.

Okposo was the real star, however. He scored his first goal in a Sabres uniform minutes into the first and then set up Ryan O’Reilly with a beautiful pass on a powerplay later in the first. His skill is evident and although it was only one game, it’s hard not to say that he adds a dynamic to the roster they were lacking against Montreal and throughout last season. At the very least he pushes talent down the depth chart, at best he’s another dynamic offensive weapon to add to Buffalo’s growing arsenal.

Last night could have easily gotten away from the Sabres. The Oilers have started the season on fire with Connor McDavid garnering early whispers for an Art Ross run. Buffalo’s hot start was quickly erased by a pair of odd-man goals from the Oilers in which two rebounds found the back of the net to tie the game. Luckily the Sabres righted the ship and cruised to a comfortable 6-2 victory. But the two quick goals and another big opportunity early in the second could have really shifted the tone of this game.

Often with rebound goals the first person to receive blame is the goaltender. If a juicy rebound ends up in the slot it’s probably the fault of the goaltender for not controlling his rebounds. This is true to a degree as there are certainly times bad rebounds end up in prime scoring areas. Other times those same rebounds are a result of well placed shots. Continue reading