The Instigator Podcast 6.21 – Potential Trade Targets Cropping Up for the Sabres

After the New York Rangers notified their fans that they’d be selling off big pieces of their roster and a few notable names hit the waiver wire, Chris and Tyler run down some of the names that will be hitting the market in coming days and weeks. We take a close look at a few players who have been mentioned in rumors who would fit well in Buffalo while also taking a closer look at what continues to ail the Sabres on the blueline.

The Instigator Podcast 6.19 – Reviewing our Season Preview at the All Star Break

Although the Sabres have enjoyed a nice stretch of play, we decided to revisit our season preview podcast and see how well we did prognosticating the NHL. As it turns out we chose…poorly. As we review our picks, and how the current standing have shaken out, we dig in on a few of the teams around the league. We take a closer look at Vegas, Chicago, Carolina and Edmonton and what’s led them to their spot in the standings.

Sabres delay tank celebration for at least one more day with win over Canes

The merciful end to the nosedive to 30th will have to wait at least one more day as the Sabres edged the Hurricanes 4-3 in the season’s penultimate game at First Niagara Center.

Those who may be tied a little too much into the tank likely lost some hair as the Sabres jumped to a two-goal advantage after the first period and extended their lead to four after the second. Patrick Dwyer woke up the Hurricanes with a tally with just under 2:00 remaining in the middle frame and Carolina would carry that momentum into the third.

Alex Semin scored a beautiful goal just 2:31 into the third and Eric Staal made it mighty interesting with just over five to play. Buffalo managed to buckle down and preserved the one-goal win despite allowing 52 shots and 85 attempts.

Buffalo heads to Columbus on Friday with the magic number for 30th place locked in at two. The Coyotes could do us all a solid and win one more, but I hardly think that’s a realistic possibility. Continue reading

Revisiting Buffalo’s Lottery competition

Even after Sam Reinhart had been selected the collective eyes of Sabres Nation were on the 2015 Draft and Connor McDavid. Even as Tim Murray approached the podium in Philadelphia he had three first round picks in this year’s draft sitting in his back pocket and a ragtag roster with fairly limited potential.

Fast forward beyond July 1 and the first month of the season and not much has changed. The Sabres are bearing headfirst towards the draft lottery, allowing an astronomically high number of shots per game, barely scoring and showing little capacity for carrying out any sort of hockey system.

While I don’t endorse rooting for losses, I fully understand the course this team has been set on and I can accept the decisions based on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I put together a post at the end of June that gave a peek at which teams may or may not compete with the Sabres for 30th place in the NHL and the precious 20% lottery share that comes with a dead last finish. Some of the teams that I expected to nosedive have managed to keep their heads above water while others are surprisingly bad. So I decided to take the opportunity to revisit the teams who could sneak in beneath the Sabres in last place.

The entirely subjective 1-5 (one being the highest) ratings I gave each team were designed to reflect my opinion on where a team would likely finish in the final standings. I made a slight change from “Lottery Threat” to “Lottery Chances” to reflect the influence each team could have on the draft. A team with a one means they have a strong likelihood of picking very high. The opposite, of course, is true of a team with a five. After offseason acquisitions and a month of play, my rankings have undergone a slight change as the NHL landscape has taken shape. Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres grab first points with shootout win

The Sabres are in the left hand column, registering a shootout victory over one of the primary competitors for the top picks in June’s draft.

For those keeping track of each and every game for tanking purposes, the fact that Carolina managed to tie and send the game to overtime was helpful as the Canes still wound up with a point. Meanwhile, the Sabres still managed to trail in a number of major statistical categories despite pulling out the victory.

It’s woefully early in the year to start comparing the Sabres to the rest of the league but their four games are beginning to paint a telling picture. The Sabres have allowed over 70 attempts at goal in each of their four contests, being out-shot 156-83 along the way. While that may not sustain itself through the entire season, the Sabres are clearly struggling to possess the puck with any sort of authority and have paid for it on the scoreboard.

Buffalo’s biggest issues appear to come with their defensive zone breakouts. There is barely any sort of semblance of a system in place with many zone exits and when combined with poor passing, puts the Sabres back on their heels. It could simply be a situation of bringing the forwards a bit deeper into the zone in order to shorten passes and find lanes to complete the breakout. It may also just be execution of the system in place as there have been countless sloppy plays made by every person on the ice.

It’s odd because often there’s only one glaring weak point in a team’s breakout – passing, board play, execution – but the Sabres have been able to hit on every facet. Further, the disjointed breakout that is acting as little more than a punt back to the other team’s defensemen has also led to breakdowns in Buffalo’s forecheck. Their lack of possession has served as a trickle down to unsuccessful dump-ins or mishandled zone entries that ultimately wind up back in the Buffalo end of the ice. All of these factors add up to show why the Sabres are seeing so many more pucks directed towards their net and why the ice feels tilted in the wrong direction. Continue reading

Double Minors: Special teams powers overtime victory

Buffalo’s power play hasn’t been pretty as of late. But it got the job done last night against Carolina. A late 5-on-3 penalty kill kept the Sabres floating long enough to seal the game in overtime.

Realistically, it should have never gotten to that point. Cam Ward made a number of big saves in the second period to keep the Hurricanes alive. Buffalo exploded for a pair in the opening 1:02 of the period and almost had a third, but Ward was up to the task. He made 15 of his 39 saves in the second period alone, keeping the Buffalo onslaught at bay until Chad LaRose could tie the score.

Ryan Miller was stout, turning away 22 of 24 and rebounding nicely after yielding two goals on his first 17 shots. He has certainly earned a rest and should most definitely take that reprieve tomorrow night in Boston.

While it took seven attempts for the Sabres power play to tally twice, there was some good and bad to take away from the unit. Both units continued to looks disjointed with the puck and committed a number of turnovers as a result. However, if they were able to settle the possession, there was some strong puck movement high on the umbrella. Both goals came from high puck movement and point shots.

The penalty kill stayed strong and will need to remain stout as this playoff run continues. Tomorrow’s game in Boston along with Saturday and Monday carry a lot of weight for the Sabres if they hope to gain more ground.

  • For all the hooting and holler that has been done (me included) about the top line, they answered the bell last night. Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville each had a goal and an assist in the victory. This just add fuel to my argument that Roy brings them down. Their success came as Roy went pointless, obviously they cannot coexist. Obviously I’m not serious, this line needs to extend that success in the next five days.
  • Still waiting on Cody Hodgson’s first point. No matter, I haven’t hated his game and I’m still happy with the dynamic he brings to the roster.
  • I bemoaned the thought of giving $5.5m to a player who essentially plays a strong two-way, defensive game and chips in offensively. Then I realized that is precisely what Ville Leino is currently being paid to do. Yes, he lost that faceoff clean. But his puck possession is the best on the roster and he drew a pair of late penalties due to it. His play has turned a corner these last few months, I think it is time to stop hating on him and his contract.
  • Alex Sulzer is making me a believer. He has slightly better puck skills than Mike Weber – though he seems due one bad fumble per night – and plays a fairly similar style. Depending on defensive depth next season, I could see him getting a contract over the summer. I’ve liked his game thus far.
  • As I said above, it is time to give Ryan Miller a rest. His play over the past few games has been showing some signs of fatigue. That isn’t to say I haven’t been pleased with the last three games, it is just time to give him a little more time to recuperate.

Game Summary/Event Summary