Between the Pipes: Sabres drop OT decision to Bolts

For my new goalie focused recap I chose a picture with two skaters.

For this season I’m going to try and mix things up a bit for game recaps. Since the blogging community continues to be well represented at each Sabres game, I know that there will be at least one or two quality recap for each game. In addition to the stories coming from the mainstream media sources in town I’d like to try to offer something of a slightly different ilk for my game recap.

So what I’m going to work out over these first few weeks is a little different take on the typical Sabres game recap. While I’ll still provide some basic elements of what occurred, my primary focus will be on the players between the pipes for both the Sabres and their opponents with some additional thoughts added at the end. So that’s the plan for now. If it happens to be garbage I’ll regroup with something that makes sense.

As for last night, it wasn’t the most painful hockey game that I’ve ever had to sit through. Buffalo’s inability to pass and cycle the puck was rather pathetic and their overwhelming lack of puck possession resulted in yet another imbalanced shot on goal tally that saw the Lightning nearly double Buffalo’s efforts at even strength (29 shots to 16 shots).

Despite that imbalance, the Sabres managed to stake themselves to a pair of one-goal leads thanks to their previously dormant power play and were a backwards whistle away from taking a two-goal lead early in the third.

That confusing play – which wound up being nothing more than a massive screw up by the officials – really wound up serving as the true turning point in the game. Somehow the officials missed Ott playing the puck on the sideboards – how I’m not quite sure – and waited until McBain shot to call the play. All of this combined to be massively confusing not only because of the goal, but because the Bolts had managed to get a whistle on a delayed penalty of their own after the puck struck one of their skates earlier in the period. So there was already a precedent of questionably ending plays on delayed penalties prior to this play. Add in that the high stick was a pretty weak call – as Vanek and Carle had gotten tied up behind the net – and it was a very ugly turn of events.

Oh yeah, and Tampa scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game.

The loss fell on Jhonas Enroth’s shoulders and his record is now 0-1-1 on the young season as the 31 saves matched his output against the Penguins on Saturday. Enroth’s play was strong despite fighting the puck early in the contest. His stiffest tests came from Tampa’s five power play shots and he responded well.

His counterpart, Ben Bishop, wasn’t very busy and coasted through most of the game without needing to make many impressive stops. Bishop’s finest save came when he flashed his glove on Mark Pysyk in the first and he was quite busy in the third as the Sabres fired 13 of their 23 shots during that stanza. Continue reading

The Morning Skate: Sabres in must-win mode with 10 remaining

Just about every game from here on out can be qualified as the biggest game of the year for the Sabres. Buffalo remains two points back entering tonight’s game against Tampa, but will give both Winnipeg and Washington a game in hand over Buffalo.

The Sabres continued to get help on the scoreboard as the hard-charging Hurricanes took down Winnipeg and the Blackhawks rolled the Capitals. Buffalo will need to finally take ownership of a game and get the job done against the Lightning. This will be Buffalo’s third opportunity to gain at least a share of eighth place, they cannot waste another opportunity.

I’m guessing that old friend, Dwayne Roloson will be in goal this evening. The Bolts signed Sebastian Caron (seriously) from overseas and I’m guessing he won’t be ready to go this soon. Roloson hasn’t had a great year, nor is his history against the Sabres very good, but this game stinks of a big effort from the Simcoe native.

The bottom line for tonight will be how the Sabres do offensively. They have controlled play lately but continue to be stymied on the scoreboard. There is plenty of offensive talent on this roster, the top scorers are long overdue to mesh and start producing.

Highlighted Matchup

Sabres vs. the 1-3-1. Tampa’s forecheck has gotten plenty of fanfare this year. The Sabres haven’t fared well against Tampa this season and they need a serious turnaround tonight. If the Sabres can get the first goal and break the forecheck, they will be in a great situation. If they play a passive style, they will almost certainly lose.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller

TB: Dwayne Roloson

Last Meeting

Sabres 1 – Lightning 2, First Niagara Center, 2/11/2012


The Morning Skate: Weekend series capped with visit from Bolts

The only thing the Buffalo Sabres need to be worried about at this moment is winning hockey games. They started too far out of the playoff hunt to discuss games in hand or how far behind they are from the team’s they’re chasing. Just winning games and getting points is all that should matter.

Tonight’s game against Tampa Bay presents the chance for a clean weekend sweep of four points and to continue the run of good hockey the team has played since the All-Star break.

The Lightning are a rested bunch. They played Thursday in New York, stayed in Buffalo all day yesterday and will have had plenty of time to rest as they prepare for this evening’s tilt. Tampa lost Thursday’s game in overtime 4-3.

While Buffalo did go a full 65 minutes last night, they didn’t do too much work in the opening 40 minutes of play. Hopefully there is some gas in the tank for tonight. Add in the fact that Luke Adam will be inserted in the place of Cody McCormick, which provides a fresh set of legs.

Buffalo has not played Tampa well this season. They were shutout in Florida before dropping a 4-3 loss on the return trip in Buffalo. Tonight’s game has a lot more weight behind it than the previous two meetings. Then the Sabres were still riding the cushion of their strong start. Now they are a desperate bunch in need of a long win streak.

Highlighted Matchup

Buffalo’s forwards vs. Tampa’s trap. The Sabres had trouble engaging offensively last night as Dallas choked out the neutral zone. Tampa will do that, and more tonight. The Sabres were able to dump and chase yesterday but will not have the same luxury tonight with more fatigue weighing them down. The Sabres still need to effectively break the trap to win tonight.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Jhonas Enroth

TBL: Mathieu Garon

Last Meeting

Sabres 3 – Lightning 4, First Niagara Center, 10/25/2011


The Morning Skate: Sabres vs. Lightning

It is round two of the Sabres home-and-home set with the Lightning. Tampa Bay stifled the Buffalo attack on Saturday on their way to a 3-0 victory.

Ryan Miller had a strong game in net, turning aside 23 of 25 shots on goal. However, he was bested by Mathieu Garon who stopped all 21 shots he faced on the evening.

The game may have been best illustrated by Tampa Bay’s first goal and a goal that wasn’t meant to be for Buffalo. Pavel Kubina’s seeing-eye slapshot found its way through a forest of legs for Tampa’s first goal in the second period. Just a few minutes later Drew Stafford let a wrist shot go that found the shaft of Garon’s stick. An inch or two in either direction for either shot and the score is drastically different.

Of course, whining about bounces solves little in hockey. The fact of the matter is that the Lightning lulled the Sabres to sleep with a steady diet of the trap. Buffalo had found waves of dominance in nearly every game prior to this one. On only rare occasions did the Sabres mange time in the offensive zone.

The key to a Buffalo victory will be to establish a transition game early and break Tampa Bay’s trap. Secondly, they need to get to Garon and make him uncomfortable. There is a reason he had one career victory against Buffalo entering Saturday, the Sabres need to exploit that again.

Highlighted Matchup

Vanek-Adam-Pominville vs. Guy Boucher and the trap. Buffalo’s top offensive line has manged to create multiple points in each Buffalo victory. In both losses they have accounted for only one goal. Boucher was successful in shutting down all four Buffalo lines on Saturday. While this trio had moments of brilliance, they weren’t the dominant force they have been in previous games. A strong effort from these three should result in Buffalo’s first home win.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Jhonas Enroth 1GP, 1-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .935 SV%

TB: Mathieu Garon 5GP, 2-1-1, 1.51 GAA, .948 SV%

Last Game (Tampa leads season series 1-0-0)

10/22/2011, St. Pete Times Forum, Sabres 0 – Lightning 3

The Morning Skate: Sabres vs. Lightning

The road has been kind to the Sabres this season. Buffalo enters the final game of their four-game swing with a 3-0 record. The Sabres are 5-1 on the season.

Buffalo has only played once at home this season, a 4-3 loss to Carolina last Friday. Buffalo’s five other games have been played in other buildings – three on the road, two at neutral sites in Europe. While one of the European games counted as a home contest, it was anything but that. The NHL should adjust their statistics accordingly.

It has been an interesting week for the Sabres considering they have come away with all four points despite playing a sub-par game on Tuesday evening. For as bad as the Sabres were on Tuesday, they were that good on Thursday against the Panthers. Buffalo’s road trip has been buoyed by the play of their stars; Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek have been pivotal in Buffalo’s early success.

The Sabres will be facing a dangerous team that has stumbled out of the gates. Tampa Bay was projected to be among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning’s struggled to find the net have been further augmented by Dwayne Roloson’s early. After rolling Carolina 5-1 to open the season, Tampa Bay has been held under three goals in three separate games. However, they have allowed over four, or more, goals in four of their seven games.

Despite their defensive shortcomings, Tampa Bay remains a dangerous opponent. Outside of the usual suspects (Lecavalier, St. Louis, Stamkos), the Lightning boast a number of offensive threats such as Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell and Steve Downie (if he isn’t in the box). In fact, the make-up of the Tampa Bay roster is very similar to that of the Sabres. Tampa Bay is a deep team, capable of putting out multiple lines that can generate offense. They are equally lethal from the blue line.

What will ultimately tip the scales in either direction will be the play of the Tampa Bay goaltenders. Roloson, just months removed from a fantastic playoff run, is suddenly showing his age. Backup Mathieu Garon has always been a steady backup, but is typically inconsistent. Garon’s 1.93 GAA and .938 SV% far exceed Roloson’s bloated 5.09 GAA and .858 SV%.

Garon got his first win of the year on Thursday against the Islanders. I would expect Guy Boucher to go back to Garon as he has been the better goaltender early in the year. There is no reason to think Ryan Miller hasn’t warranted another start based on his past two performances. It seems fitting to hold onto Jhonas Enroth until Tuesday night at home.

Highlighted Matchup

Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr vs. Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. The Sabres have created a formidable shut down pairing with Myers and Regehr. Even while his offensive game hasn’t been at all-star status, Myers has continued to cultivate the mean streak he found in the playoffs. The pairing will likely be tasked with keeping an eye on Tampa’s top two weapons who have combined for five goals and ten points on the year.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller 5 GP, 4-1-0, 1.61 GAA, .950 SV%

TB: Mathieu Garon 4GP, 1-1-1, 1.93 GAA, .938 SV%

2010-11 Season Series

11/20/2010, HSBC Arena, Sabres 1 – Lightning 2

12/18/2010, St. Pete Times Forum, Sabres 1 – Lightning 3

2/8/2011, St. Pete Times Forum, Sabres 7 – Lightning 4

4/5/2011, HSBC Arena, Sabres 4 – Lightning 2