The Instigator Podcast 5.22 – Talking Sabres Penalty Kill Pros and Cons

Our Election Night Special features no politics and plenty of Sabres talk. We go deep on what seems to be the biggest shortcomings for the Sabres otherwise consistent penalty kill. Chris and Tyler analyze portions of the system which appear to be weak points with how the Sabres rotate in-zone when on the kill. Also on the list, Jacob Trouba’s new contract and a pair of trade rumors which could benefit the Sabres.

Listen to The Instigator here or pull it up on the go:

Subscribe to The Instigator Podcast on iTunes

Subscribe to The Instigator Podcast on Google Play

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.

As always, you can listen to the podcast here or find it on your mobile device:

Subscribe to The Instigator Podcast on iTunes

Subscribe to The Instigator Podcast on Google Play

Long Term Outlook Should Shape Decision on Ullmark

No team wants or plans to lose their starting goaltender, certainly not on the first day of the regular season. But that was precisely what the Buffalo Sabres had to deal with when Robin Lehner went down just a period and a half into the 2015-16 season.

Chad Johnson stepped into Lehner’s role shortly after the injury but it’s been the play of Linus Ullmark that has spurred the Sabres push from 2-6 to a .500 record. Ullmark is just months removed from double hip surgery and is playing in his first season in North America, making his impressive play something of a surprise.

Ullmark has played inspired hockey, compiling a 4-2 record, 2.45 GAA and .924 SV% through six starts. He was 1-2-0 with a 2.72 GAA and .932 SV% in his brief spell with Rochester prior to being recalled. Ullmark’s play has shown fans and the organization what is coming to them in the near future between the pipes while stirring a debate whether or not he should remain with the team long term once Lehner returns.

We’ll likely see at least two more weeks of Ullmark in a Sabres jersey while Lehner finishes his recovery, so a decision isn’t imminent. Not only does Lehner have a couple more weeks until he’s healthy, but there’s a good chance he’s sent on a conditioning assignment before returning to the Sabres full time. This affords Tim Murray and Dan Bylsma a little more time before making a call on their young netminder. Continue reading

Double Minors: Replay Derails Sabres Comeback Against Sens

For a few fleeting moments on Thursday night, the plan had fallen into place perfectly. Evander Kane had shoveled a puck home from beside the net, DJ Kool was blasting throughout the arena and the momentum had fully shifted as the Sabres had tied the game.

However, Ottawa successfully challenged the play as the Sabres were deemed to have been offside on the zone entry and the score reverted to 2-1. While the Sabres still had a firm control over the game, they were unable to score another tying marker.

For the record, the Senators and the referees made the right call. The play was just ever slightly offside and the review showed that. So twice in two nights the new NHL review system worked as planned. It will be a hard pill to swallow for Sabres fans but it was the right call. Continue reading

Projecting the Sabres Roster on the Eve of Final Cuts

The Sabres begin the season in four days, and some question marks still remain as to who will be part of that opening night roster against Ottawa. The organization has made quite a few cuts over recent days that have answered some questions, such as sending Cal O’Reilly down to Rochester. There’s still a handful of decisions to be made in the next 24 hours, or so, with the roster currently sitting at 28 players and only enough room for 23. Here’s how I see the Sabres’ roster looking to start the year. Continue reading

Revamped Blueline a Key in Buffalo’s Turnaround

As the Sabres open their preseason campaign this evening against Minnesota, portions of the reshaped roster will be front and center for the first time. While this includes players like Jack Eichel, Buffalo’s beefed up blueline will be on display as well.

Buffalo returns most of their defensive corps from the end of the 2014-15 campaign as Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Rasmus Ristolainen and Mike Weber will all see significant minutes this season. However, Mark Pysyk is expected to be in Buffalo full-time along with new additions Carlo Colaiacovo and Cody Franson. Those new faces should each play their own role in turning the corner after two years of woeful defensive results.

While Ristolainen will remain on the shelf for a little while longer due to a pre-camp injury, the club opened camp with a pretty clear picture of what their defense pairs will look like. Gorges is skating alongside Bogosian, Weber is paired with Pysyk while Colaiacovo and Franson are the next pair up. One would presume that Ristolainen steps in with Pysyk when he’s healthy, but that’s hardly set in stone at this point.

Based on the current pairings, it would seem that Gorges and Bogosian will serve as the team’s top pair with Pysyk and Ristolainen potentially seeing second pairing minutes. Colaiacovo and Franson are likely best used in manageable situations – something Murray mentioned after signing Franson – which would be ideal for a third pair made up of two veterans who can contribute offensively.

Assuming Weber is penciled in as the seventh man for the time being, he will likely be utilized when Dan Bylsma is looking to ice a heavier lineup or even a defensive corps with more of a tendency to stay at home.

Depth beyond the top seven is far more impressive than it was just a year ago. Of course, the top seven is far more impressive than it was a year ago. Jake McCabe is the prohibitive favorite to be the first call up and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t recalled on a fairly regular basis. Chad Ruhwedel, Matt Donovan and Bobby Sanguinetti all have NHL experience and while they’ll each see more time in Rochester than Buffalo, they provide fair replacement value should the Sabres be hit by an injury bug. Continue reading

Reloaded Forward Group is Full of Upside

Pop quiz, hot shot. Can you name all of the forwards vying for a spot on the Sabres roster this year? No cheating.

The Sabres enter camp with a hefty roster bolstered by two years of rebuilding. As a result, fresh faces abound and it isn’t too hard to leave out a name or two while you’re penciling in lines.

Tim Murray’s first 18 months have brought Evander Kane, Jamie McGinn, Ryan O’Reilly (and brother Cal), Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Cody Franson and Robin Lehner (among others) to the Queen City. Oh, and two guys named Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, too. As a result, trying to ferret out exactly who will be on the opening night roster isn’t an easy task.

Obviously Eichel is going to be at the center of attention throughout camp. After all, where would the Sabres marketing team be if they couldn’t show us Jack Eichel doing Jack Eichel things with people who aren’t Jack Eichel? All kidding aside, I’m beyond ecstatic to see him in preseason action after his play in development camp (especially the 3-on-3 tournament) and at the Prospects Challenge. I just hope the Sabres don’t run him into the ground as they try to promote him the team.

The number of potential position battles for a team starting to turn the corner out of a rebuild isn’t that surprising. The forward group has the most potential for upheaval as there are upwards of 15 players who could conceivably push for a roster spot for the October 8 opener. Continue reading