Murray made the wise choice in moving early on Enroth

Tim Murray sent a shockwave through the league in executing a seven-player deal to acquire Evander Kane earlier today and kept his phone hot later in the day as he capped his trading frenzy by sending Jhonas Enroth to Dallas.

Enroth has been far and away the best goaltender on the Buffalo roster this season, there is no debating that. He’s managed to post respectable numbers despite playing on a historically terrible puck possession and defensive club. He also is set to become a free agent this summer and represented one of the many tradable assets on Buffalo’s roster.

Despite Enroth’s strong play (at times) and the relatively weak play of Michal Neuvirth, it was hard to fathom trading one of the few players who had been performing well this season. However, Tim Murray did the right thing for the direction of the rebuild by moving Enroth for a third round pick and Anders Lindback.

For all intents and purposes, Lindback is simply a throw in for this deal. Trading him gets him out of Dallas and keeps their depth chart intact. He also allows the Sabres to maintain the status quo as it pertains to their goaltending depth chart in Buffalo and Rochester. I’m sure Lindback will see a few games in a Sabres sweater this year, but the majority of Buffalo’s 27 games will belong to Neuvirth.

The only real value in this deal is the 2016 third round pick the Sabres acquired. With the condition focused on Enroth winning at least four playoff games, it seems safe to assume that this will indeed remain a third round pick. Even with the condition included in this trade, I would have been very surprised to see Murray get anything more than a third for Enroth. Continue reading

Sabres culture change continues with acquisition of Ott

The Buffalo Sabres mission to get tougher took another step forward this evening when they acquired Adam Pardy and Steve Ott from the Dallas Stars for Derek Roy.

After opening free agency with John Scott, Darcy Regier made a major decision in parting with Derek Roy, part of the post-Drury core. Not only does Roy’s departure rid the Sabres of one of their undersized forwards, it rids them of a player whose opinion of the coaching staff and organization seemed to have soured.

Ott is obviously the gem of the trade for Buffalo. He is a gritty center who will fit Lindy Ruff’s system beautifully. Ott hovers above the 50% rate in the faceoff circle, likes to hit and once got in Peter Laviolette’s face. What’s not to like?

Whether or not the Sabres win this trade is debatable. They lose a talented, second line center to pick up a grinder and a fringe defenseman. That isn’t an ideal situation for a team who went through long scoring droughts last season. However, for a locker room widely regarded as stale, mentally weak and in need of a shake up, Ott is exactly the type of player you’re looking for. Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres find a way to get two more

Make it 11 of the last 12 points for the Sabres. After over a month of finding different ways to lose, they have begun finding different ways to win.

Despite playing 40 minutes of disinterested hockey the Sabres managed to tie the game late and earn a shootout win. Buffalo played with edge and passion in the final period and scrapped enough to get the game to overtime. Nathan Gerbe tallied one of the sickest shootout goals I’ve ever seen to win it and Ryan Miller was only beaten once in the skills competition.

The third period effort was nice to see as the Sabres failed to establish any sort of tone against a team that had played on the road the night before. Considering the Stars had to travel after a game on Thursday, I expected to see a similar Sabres team to the one that played on Wednesday. While the first 40 didn’t provide any such result, Buffalo managed to establish an impressive strategy in the third.

Lindy Ruff confirmed in his press conference that Cody McCormick will miss time due to an injury. His absence didn’t seem to hurt the Sabres as James Patrick pretty much rolled three lines for the second and third periods.

Despite giving up a power play goal on a nifty tip by Michael Ryder, the Buffalo special teams units were sound. Thomas Vanek tallied on the power play and the penalty kill came up big when they needed it. Ryan Miller had another solid outing, stopping 24 of 26 shots and remaining capable to the task when Kari Lehtonen turned in numerous big saves.

In my opinion, starting Jhonas Enroth tonight is the right move. Buffalo has five games in the next eight days with Monday, Wednesday and Saturday to rest. Giving Enroth a start tonight would be the conventional wisdom. Hopefully the coaching staff agrees.

  • Thomas Vanek had a good return from injury. His power play goal was a vintage Vanek deflection. He had Lehtonen beat on three occasions tonight but only managed to get the deflection past the Finn. That is the type of game the Sabres will need from Vanek, providing another regular scoring outlet will be needed if Buffalo is to make a run.
  • I’m glad Ryan Miller has righted the ship. This is some of the best hockey I have ever seen him play, that includes the 2010 Olympics. He didn’t have much of a chance on either goal as Ryder’s was a perfect tip and the Vincour goal either hits him or hits the net. He didn’t get a shutout yesterday and I’d give him the rest he deserves tonight.
  • Good on Ruff to leave Leino with Pominville and Roy. Another tip of the cap for putting Vanek on the wing with Stafford and Ennis. I would assume Vanek finds his way back to a line with Pominville, I just don’t know when exactly that will happen.
  • Another solid night from the defensemen. There were some ugly plays here and there, but that is to be expected. I have to think it will be a long time until MAG finds his way to the lineup.
  • The third jerseys may not be everyone’s favorite, but by my count they remain undefeated this season in the royal unis.
  • Cody McCormick is really having a rough go this season. That concussion really derailed things for him and it doesn’t seem as if he has found his way out of the woods. I won’t speculate what his injury is, I actually thought he was simply benched for that bonehead penalty he took in the first period. When his game is on he is an effective piece of this roster, this year he has been little more than a grocery stick.
  • Drew Stafford is truly snake bit. Tyler Ennis had a nice bit of stickhandling on Wednesday to set up Stafford. Tonight the North Dakota product had two glorious chances but was thwarted by Lehtonen.

Game Summary/Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Suddenly potent Sabres host Stars

The Buffalo Sabres offense was there in October but has been nothing but a face on a milk carton in the months since. Finally, as the team has begun to find some footing, the offense seems to be coming back to life.

Two late, unanswered goals in New York led the Sabres to a shootout victory and they followed that performance with a six-goal barrage against Boston on Wednesday. If this is the type of offensive attack the team will be coming with for the foreseeable future the likelihood of piecing a run together is much better.

Dallas comes to Buffalo after a 4-2 win in Columbus last night. Kari Lehtonen played against the Blue Jackets yesterday and has played the lion’s share of play for the Stars as of late. A non-conference game on the back half of a road back-to-back series would be a good opportunity to play Richard Bachman. However, Dallas is in a position where they need every point available and I’d expect Lehtonen to be back in net tonight.

The Sabres will get Thomas Vanek back in the lineup tonight but where he will play remains a mystery. I’d be apprehensive to take Ville Leino away from Derek Roy and Jason Pominville. Reuniting Leino and Ennis wouldn’t be all bad, but the production of Leino, Roy and Pominville cannot be broken up.

Highlighted Matchup

Thomas Vanek. Prior to missing time with injury, Vanek was experiencing his first slump of the season. I wonder if his injury had lingered prior to the hit that forced him out of the lineup. If Vanek could find the scoring touch that had been so consistent earlier in the season, the Sabres would have two lines capable of scoring on a regular basis.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller

DAL: Kari Lehtonen

Last Meeting

Sabres 0 – Stars 4, American Airlines Arena, 10/30/2011

2ITB NHL preview: The West

Since it is a yearly occurrence for the West to have 13 teams in the playoff race and two team at least 20 points out of eighth, I struggled to find a good balance of picks this season. I made a bold choice with the Kings last year. While I don’t have them coming out of the West, I have made a similarly bold statement

Continue reading

Looking back at my conference predictions

A prognosticator I am not. My mock NFL Draft senior year was about 15% correct. When I went about predicting the NHL’s playoff picture back in October, I didn’t have high hopes. Let us see how 2ITB did:


Prediction – 1. WAS, 2. PIT, 3. BOS, 4. NJD, 5. BUF, 6. OTT, 7. MTL, 8. PHI, 9. NYR, 10. CAR, 11. TOR, 12. TBL, 13. NYI, 14. ATL, 15. FLA

Actual – 1. WAS, 2. PHI, 3. BOS, 4. PIT, 5. TBL, 6. MTL, 7. BUF, 8. NYR, 9. CAR, 10. TOR, 11. NJD, 12. ATL, 13. OTT, 14. NYI, 15. FLA

So I was a bit off in the middle. Not too many people would have bet on that epic collapse by New Jersey and I, admittedly put far too much stock in Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire. Philadelphia overachieved (according to my original calculation) and I vastly underestimated Tampa Bay.

Washington was a pretty easy choice to make, as was keeping Atlanta, Florida and the Islanders at the bottom. Otherwise it was a hodgepodge of close calls and near misses.


Prediction – 1. LA, 2. VAN, 3. CHI, 4. SJ, 5. DET, 6. NSH, 7. ANA, 8. CGY, 9. COL, 10. PHX, 11. STL, 12. DAL, 13. MIN, 14. CBJ, 15. EDM

Actual – 1. VAN, 2. SJ, 3. DET, 4. ANA, 5. NSH, 6. PHX, 7. LA, 8. CHI, 9. DAL, 10. CGY, 11. STL, 12. MIN, 13. CBJ, 14. COL, 15. EDM

Since the West is such a crap shoot it would have been pretty hard to predict either way. I gave LA too much credit and it turns out the Hawks didn’t have close to enough depth to compete at the level they did last year.

My biggest oversight was with Colorado at nine, turns out they really stink. The Western playoff picture is extremely interesting this season, with the amount of parity out there it isn’t a stretch to say that any team can advance and any team could have finished two to four places higher.