Gameday poster for Sabres vs. Maple Leafs

Gameday poster number two features the Sabres and Leafs in an Eastern Conference basement showdown. I went with a comic book cover theme for this one (although I’m not good enough to put a solid effect on Phaneuf and Gionta. Feel free to share thoughts, criticism or contact information if you’d like to get in on the act. Sabres4-1alt


Rolston’s debut spoiled by familiar flaws

Hopefully you didn’t expect Ron Rolston to show up for 24 hours and sprinkle a magic cure-all on the Sabres roster. There certainly wasn’t much of a difference between the final game of the Lindy Ruff era and the first game of the Ron Rolston era.

A quick, uptempo start was erased by a poor second period littered with turnovers, penalties and a squandered lead. Ultimately the Sabres dropped another game (their second to the Leafs this season) and fell further into a hole that is looking near impossible to climb out of.

Firing Lindy Ruff was probably one of the toughest decisions Darcy Regier ever had to make. However, it was a necessary move that probably needed to be made sooner. Naming an interim head coach did a few things for the Sabres, namely keeping all options open once the season comes to a close.

You also might be able to speculate that having Ron Rolston take over on an interim basis keeps Darcy Regier untethered to any hire and may play a role in the expiring shelf life for the general manager. If Rolston has little impact on the roster, the writing would be on the wall for the Sabres to part ways with Regier at the end of the year.

As for Rolston, his impact wasn’t going to be felt in game number one. He officially took over just 24 hours previously and only had a morning skate as an introduction to his new team. Even tomorrow’s game against the Islanders will likely be a challenge as he will still have very limited ice and video time to impact his roster with.

Perhaps a more realistic expectation would be to wait until Tuesday night’s contest against Tampa Bay. By then Rolston will have had two full days of practice in addition to today to install some of the systematic tweaks he will want to run. Hopefully by Wednesday he has a firm grasp on running the team. Continue reading

Sabres on their way after two wins

Well that was a fun couple of days, no? A 5-2 beat down of the Flyers followed by a near textbook road win against the Leafs and the Sabres have gotten off on the right foot for this shortened 2013 season.

Sunday’s opener was about as sloppy as expected, as the Sabres and Flyers plodded through forty minutes of fairly average hockey before the Sabres third period explosion put the game away. The one takeaway from that opener was seeing the rust on both teams. Even with a game under their belt from the day before, the Flyers still looked sluggish in many ways along with their hosts who were playing their first game of the season.

The Sabres did do plenty of things right, however. They engaged physically from the opening faceoff, scored the game’s first goal and maintained composure after falling behind in the second period. Drew Stafford’s unexpected fight was pointed to as the spark that drove the Sabres into the third period and their scoring surge in the final frame got the job done.

Defensively there was plenty to improve upon in front of a strong outing from Ryan Miller – who benefitted from two disallowed goals. Special teams was a bright spot as the powerplay was clicking and the penalty kill did great work outside of allowing Claude Giroux to wire a one-time home for Philly’s second goal of the game. Continue reading

Sabres first five will come quickly

With five games over the next seven games, the Sabres will know exactly what they can come to expect from the condensed 2013 NHL schedule. Rather than scrambling to provide specific previews for each and every game this season, it is more likely that you will see a look at each week of the season as it begins.

The Sabres open at home today against the Flyers and follow with games against the Leafs, Hurricanes (twice) and Capitals. Here are a few things to keep an eye on as the Sabres and NHL hockey returns. Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres weekend round-up

You might say the course of events the Sabres follow is becoming old hat. They find life with a victory and roll into their next game seeking a win streak. Inevitably they lose the game and at least one player to injury in the process. That script is certainly getting a lot of work.

The Sabres were three minutes from guaranteeing a point percentage of .750 between Friday and Saturday, unfortunately they surrendered a pair of late goals (one ENG) in their loss to the Islanders. An overtime or shootout loss to New York would have mattered little had the Sabres managed to secure the bonus point. Getting points three-quarters of the time will be necessary for the remainder of the season if there is any hope of making the playoffs.

Friday’s game was a well-played outing for almost the entire team. Ryan Miller played a strong game in goal, the Sabres got goals from their grinders and they took two points from a team their chasing. Mike Weber had an ugly night and Buffalo lost Brayden McNabb to an injury. Far from a flawless night, but it was a victory.

Saturday was a relatively flat effort. Again they allowed a team to pepper Jhonas Enroth with pucks. Enroth played a great game, but the onslaught he faced can easily explain why three goals found their way in. The fact that the Sabres even had a chance at a victory was a testament to the game Enroth put forth. Unfortunately the rookie was saddled with another loss, something that has become fairly regular with him.

Thomas Vanek rocked a penalty shot off the post with 90 seconds left. The shot was awarded on a bogus call that should have been ignored. Vanek, who was nicked up yet again, beat Nabokov but not the post. The Sabres couldn’t gain the zone beyond that point and eventually surrendered the empty net goal that iced the game.

It was a weekend series that was close to a guaranteed success and had the potential to be a monumental success were they to have won in overtime or the shootout. Unfortunately Saturday’s poor effort shrouded the work the team did on Friday at home.

Now the Sabres hit the road for games against some very hot hockey teams. The Red Wings and Blues are both winning tons of hockey games and the Jets may have the most hostile arena in the NHL. None of that bodes well for a team that has lost eight-straight on the road.

  • The Sabres goaltenders allowed five goals over two games on the weekend. Ryan Miller kept his total below three goals for the second-straight game and Jhonas Enroth was solid in a losing effort. Sabres fans need to come to terms with weak goals, they happen in nearly every game. The key isn’t that a goalie allows a weak goal, but that he provides key saves later in the game. Miller made plenty of big stops on Friday (despite a weak first goal) and Enroth stood tall for the entire game on Satruday (even though the first goal was questionable).
  • For the second time this season the Sabres defensive corps is ragged. Jordan Leopold and Tyler Myers have proven their capable of playing big minutes. However, Mike Weber and Grocery Stick Gragnani are currently number three and four on the depth chart. Andrej Sekera is close to a return, but Joe Finley doesn’t seem to have the chops to compete on a regular basis just yet. The Sabres desperately need to get healthy.
  • While MAG has had a pretty brutal run as of late, Weber may take his spot in the doghouse. Weber has had a few rough games in a row handling the puck. He all but giftwrapped the two Toronto goals (particularly the second) on Friday. Given that he’s due some serious ice time in the coming days, his game needs to turn around.
  • Myers has been strong since his return from injury. However, his game on Saturday was sloppy. He seems to be really pushing to be active in the play, no matter where the puck is. He was too deep on the second NYI goal and has been running around here and there. Fact: He is more effective when physical and engaging the play. Fact II: He hurts the team when his active play is irresponsible, which seems to be a trait that comes and goes.
  • Vanek and Pominville are still beasts together. I can’t say enough about the way they have responded to their leadership roles. Might as well make Vanek a permanent ‘A’ and just pick two or three others to rotate the other letter.
  • Losing Robyn Regehr will be a true eye-opener for this team. They have struggled defensively this season, but Regehr has been their most steady defender. His absence will be felt all over.

The Morning Skate: Sabres searching to end slump

Since the lockout the cure-all for the Sabres has been home contests against the Maple Leafs. Even earlier in the season the Sabres filled up the net in a 5-4 home victory. Starting with that game, the Sabres have collected points in their past six home games (thanks @NickelCityIan).

Of course, the slight home turnaround has been countered with a sour run on the road. A run that includes Tuesday’s 2-0 loss in Toronto. Through three games this season against Toronto, the home game has won each meeting. With any luck this evening’s game will continue that trend.

Buffalo will need to find some goal scoring, particularly secondary scoring. Drew Stafford has had numerous golden opportunities as of late but has cashed in only one, a dirty goal against Edmonton. Stafford’s under-performance along with others lack of production has caused the most issues with the Sabres so far this season. The rare victories as of late have come when players not named Pominville and Vanek score.

Highlighted Matchup

Stafford, Boyes and Leino. This line has shown some strong puck possession and the ability to create opportunities. However, they haven’t found the net just yet. Leino was invisible in Toronto, but was creative against Winnipeg. In fact, he was one of Buffalo’s best forwards. If this line finds the back of the net, the Sabres will likely find two points.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller 25 GP 10-12-2,3.01 GAA, .902 SV%

TOR: Jonas Gustavsson 21 GP 13-7-0,2.91 GAA, .908 SV%

Last Game

1/10/12, Air Canada Centre, Sabres 0 – Leafs 2