The Instigator Podcast 6.12 – Do the Sabres Have a Leadership Issue? Does it Matter?

There have been some whispers that the Sabres may be lacking in the leadership department. Or at the very least, aren’t made of the type of players who don’t carry themselves – on and off the ice – the way players in winning organizations do. We break down whether or not that might be a plausible explanation for the Sabres struggles or if there are other factors at hand.

We also take a close look at the Matt Duchene trade and how the first big blockbuster of the season will affect the teams involved.

Inside the Numbers: Mike Hoffman, Offer Sheet Target

The NHL Draft has come and gone and free agency is on the horizon. The Buffalo Sabres and Tim Murray made a move with the Florida Panthers to kick off day two of the draft that evened out their defense ranks, bringing in Dmitry Kulikov and shipping out Mark Pysyk.

Shifting our focus from the defense, the Sabres need to add a top six winger to provide a desperately needed shot in the arm offensively. Last season, despite the 27 point improvement  from 2014-2015, Buffalo still ranked in the bottom five in even strength GF%, GF, and GF in all situations. That kind of offensive production won’t let you sniff a playoff spot, let alone contend once you make it.  Continue reading

2ITB second round predictions

For the third-straight season I rolled up six out of eight correct playoff series predictions in the first round. I fully expect to almost completely whiff on my second round predictions for the third-straight season.

While I swung and missed on my Cup Finals prediction, I managed to guess most of the second round participants and I’ll now provide my predictions for the second round series.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

This will be a very interesting series to follow. The main storyline is the Penguins struggles in net but this will really come down to Pittsburgh’s firepower matching up against Craig Anderson and Ottawa’s ability to defend. Pittsburgh has a deep offensive lineup that would create ugly matchup choices for an All Star team, let alone the seventh seed in the playoffs. If Paul MacLean can work his magic and Anderson stays hot, this will be a long series.

Why Pittsburgh will win: Firepower is the name of the game for the Penguins. They outscored their way to the second round with little more than average goaltending supporting their back legs. This is an offensive juggernaut which also has a pair of bottom six lines capable of mixing offense and defense quite nicely. Goaltending will obviously be an issue and the hot button issue until Tomas Vokoun proves he can carry this team.

Why Ottawa will win: The Senators have continuously proven that they’re capable of overcoming and they did a fine job of that all year. They certainly weren’t overmatched by the Canadiens but I feel they will be in many ways during this series. However, if they can find offensive success they should have little issue being very competitive against this team

Outcome: Penguins in six Continue reading

New division, same challenge face Sabres under realignment

Funny how 12 months, an intense labor debate and relatively happy returns from fans can change how things work in the NHL.

When realignment was brought up last season, the NHLPA shot down the proposal citing a number of issues surrounding travel and questions about the playoff format. After burning a major portion of the season to a lockout, the NHL and PA put through a realignment plan for next year that was nearly identical to the one that was vetoed last season.

There are some significant changes to this plan compared to the last proposal. Both Detroit and Columbus come East, leaving the league with unbalanced conferences; a wild card option has been instituted to keep a competitive balance for the playoffs; lastly, the recently approved plan ensures every team will appear in every arena over the course of the year.

The Sabres will welcome three new division rivals to their yet-to-be-named division dubbed as “Division C” in the most recent league graphic illustrating the new conferences. In addition to their current Northeast Division rivals, the Sabres will welcome Florida, Tampa Bay and Detroit to their new division.

The Bolts and Panthers ended up being the black sheep of the entire realignment as they’re geographically hamstrung compared to the rest of the Eastern Conference. Short of splitting them between the two divisions (an unrealistic option), the NHL had limited options with their two Sunshine State franchises. Detroit (along with Columbus) made good on the reported promise made by the league to get them into the Eastern Conference, away from 10:00 starts and into a division with relatively limited travel.

Buffalo will play five games a year against division opponents, three games a year against the other Eastern Conference teams and 28 total against the West.

While the new division alignment doesn’t stack the odds against the Sabres, it doesn’t necessarily favor them either. Finding success within their division may not be as much of a challenge for the Sabres as remaining above those teams from the other Eastern division.

Continue reading

More chances, more goals and more losses

There isn’t all that much to sum up with the Buffalo Sabres at this point. Another game, another night allowing four goals and yet another loss. This is the same broken record that’s been playing for this entire 1-6-1 stretch.

Due to injuries, Adam Pardy made his Sabres debut and Lindy Ruff also chose to get Jhonas Enroth some action although the result on the scoreboard and from those in front of the goaltender didn’t differ. A few key faceoff losses hurt the team, as did continued struggles from the special teams units.

The point will be made by many that this is only 10 games worth of hockey. Others will argue that the season is almost a quarter of the way through. Regardless of which side you stand on, the glaring shortcomings on the Buffalo roster cannot be ignored. Even if it is too early to make a rash decision or trade, there needs to be some sort of remedy found for what ails this team.

There were certainly Ryan Miller detractors all over Sabres Nation claiming that he was once again letting his team down and getting paid far too much money after his last few games. He was, in fact, quite average in his last couple of starts and that shouldn’t be ignored. However, after seeing another four-goal outing with a different goaltender in net, I’d hope that the lightbulb would go on for many of those fans who only see Miller as an overpaid, overrated goaltender.

The Sabres simply cannot defend. Even when the defense corps plays a sound game – which you could technically define tonight as – the forwards are invisible defensively. Not to point the finger at one player, but Cody Hodgson was not only wandering in the corner on the penalty kill that led to Erik Karlsson’s goal but he also made a crucial error on the play that led to Daniel Alfredsson’s goal in the first period. Continue reading

Things won’t get easier against Sens tonight

 

Since so many people are beating the dead horse on Ryan Miller being good or not, faceoffs and secondary scoring, it seems justified to use the one game at a time cliché for the Sabres.

 

Buffalo’s current 1-5-1 run has them lurking at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and has stirred up #NotWinninForMacKinnon tweets. The play that has gotten the Sabres to this point has been nothing short of dismal and quite justified for a team at the bottom of the NHL.

 

Tonight’s game in Ottawa is the fourth of five games against the Northeast Division that the Sabres will play in the past ten days. The Senators have continued to ride the wave of solid play that took them to the playoffs last season along with strong support from Craig Anderson.

 

The Sabres, meanwhile are mired in a rut in which their top line has ben nothing short of dominant while the rest of the team is anything but. While Thomas Vanek, Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville carry the team, the rest of the roster has turned in varying levels of effort over the past week or so.

 

Tonight’s game is more about snapping out of poor habits than simply getting back into the win column. Continue reading

The Morning Skate: New Years weekend

This weekend’s set of back-to-back games will either set the table for a second half run, or dig the Sabres an even deeper grave.

Buffalo’s success against Washington certainly bodes well for this evening’s game. However, the Sabres were out scored 2-0 in the most recent 40 minutes of the season series. Buffalo out scored the Caps 9-1 in the first four periods.

Considering the first game was the Capitals’ best effort to get their coach fired and the second game was torpedoed by Michal Neuvirth’s poor play. Considering those two factors, this game could be worlds different than the first two meetings.

Tomorrow’s home contest with Ottawa is close to a must win, regardless of tonight’s result. Buffalo’s home play has started to come around. A win tomorrow will certainly do wonders for exorcising the FNC demons.

The Senators are starting to regain some footing in a rivalry they dominated since the lockout. They have had their way with the Sabres in the last two games. It could go without saying that Buffalo needs to establish their game early and attempt to grab some momentum.

Highlighted Matchup

Buffalo goaltending. The Sabres goaltending has struggled to keep their goals against below three as of late. Regardless of the fact that the Sabres have been unable to score goals in most games, the goaltending needs to show up and play big. Expect to see Miller tonight in Washington and Enroth against Ottawa tomorrow.