Between the Pipes: Lackluster effort leads to lackluster result against #Lumbus

Things got ugly quick for the Sabres last night. Columbus scored just 1:51 into the contest and managed another early goal in the second period as well on their way to a 4-1 win.

Not pictured: the clothesline Ryan Miller was hung from last night

While the Sabres received a highlight reel tally from Thomas Vanek, there wasn’t much else to take away from the loss that set Buffalo back to 0-4-1 on the season. The Sabres added three more fights in a contest where they were badly outpossessed and outshot (33-27) yet again.

The first three Columbus goals – all scored in the first period – found their way behind Ryan Miller with little resistance offered by the Sabres skaters as Cam Atkinson and Marian Gaborik each tallied little more than tap-ins during the opening stanza.

Atkinson’s tally, a rebound off the crossbar, came with Tyler Myers spectating the play from beside the goal scorer. Nick Foligno scored the team’s second goal with an assist from Myers’ stick and ultimately Mike Weber’s skate before Gaborik deposited a two-on-one in which Weber entered the net before the puck did, effectively eliminating his goaltender from the play.

For the Sabres efforts, they nearly hit the 30-shot plateau but again didn’t offer many tests to their opponent’s netminder. Buffalo’s second line has been all but invisible this season with the vast majority of their chances coming off the sticks of their top line. Vanek and Cody Hodgson – who appears to deserve credit for playing injured – have been Buffalo’s lone offensive threats as the rest of the forwards continue to acclimate to what’s becoming unfamiliar territory (the attacking zone).

Saturday night shouldn’t offer much of a reprieve for the team as the Blackhawks will certainly be expected to steamroll the inferior opponents the Sabres will likely provide. Continue reading

Tread lightly, logo etiquette in the locker room

One of the most enjoyable bi-annual traditions in the hockey universe is the debate that will crop up about people stepping on the team logo in home locker rooms.

Perhaps it comes up more often in Buffalo because a certain columnist wants to trudge over the emblem on each of his three visits to a practice or game per year. There are plenty of pro and anti-logo advocates and it’s becoming pretty ridiculous that there needs to be as much narrative tied to something so minor.

Watch your step

The base of this argument surrounds team pride, respect, some logic and common sense depending on which side of the issue you stand. No pun intended.

I have no problem if a team has a standing rule about not stepping on the logo in the locker room. It’s most definitely the hockey player in me that has respect for this type of locker room rule. The point is obvious and I’m certain everyone gets that it is centered around having respect and pride in your team and adopting a team-first attitude. Much like the line from Miracle “the name on the front means a hell of a lot more than the name on the back.” Paying respect to that team and that brotherhood extends off the ice by having respect enough to not step on the logo in the room. Continue reading

Briere is more of an option than you might think

Eight years, $52 million. That was the deal that lured Danny Briere away from Buffalo on that fateful July day that so many hockey fans in Buffalo continue to circle back to.

Six years after signing his massive deal, Briere is set to be bought out at the age of 35 after injuries limited a few seasons in Philly and a particularly ineffective 2013 campaign made him a prime buyout candidate. As he prepares to hit the free agent market in search of a deal well south of the $6.5 AAV he earned in Philly, does it make sense for Briere to come back to don a Sabres uniform?

It just might. Continue reading

Searching for Hockey Heaven

A clarion call should go out to the league and to hockey players everywhere, that Buffalo is hockey heaven. – Ted Black, February 22, 2011

Those words will be difficult to forget. It marked the start of what was expected to be a long, happy relationship between the Buffalo Sabres and their fans. However, just over two years later things aren’t as rosy as they were on Pegula Day.

Give Terry Pegula and his management team credit, they took strides towards improving things on and off the ice. They renovated the locker room, upgraded the concourses and introduced numerous new features throughout the arena in an effort to make First Niagara Center a hockey mecca. The under construction HARBORcenter project proves just that. Pegula even gave the go-ahead to empty the Brinks truck in free agency as the Sabres went out and snagged a pair of the most sought after free agents in the 2011 crop.

Yet, here we are. The Sabres are languishing for a second-straight season, the coach has been fired and the hot topic of conversation now centers around booing. It seems like Buffalo has become Hockey Purgatory, not Hockey Heaven.

All of the good will generated in the 2011 offseason seems to have been erased by two seasons of largely lethargic hockey and below average results. Losses on the ice have transformed to frustration in the stands as the ever enlightened fan base with the high #hockeyIQ has resorted to booing at the drop of a hat at some points this year. Now, as the Sabres draw closer to a lottery selection than a playoff spot, the question I ask is: How far gone is the mindset of Hockey Heaven?

This isn’t about the incessant boos the rain down on the team almost every night. Booing isn’t a subject I care to delve into as fans will always have the liberty to do whatever they please with their tickets; particularly when the product they’re paying to see is underperforming. Of course, that doesn’t mean that piling on a group of players who only have a partial responsibility in the current situation doesn’t seem like the best way to spend that energy.

Perhaps if they at least waited until the end of a particularly horrid period, no need to jump on a team after one or two shifts in a game they’re winning.

Regardless, what I’ve begun to wonder is what the growing volatility within First Niagara Center will do for the Sabres rep with players around the league. Even with the dazzling locker room and the bottomless pockets and sincerity of the owner; how attractive is Buffalo going to be for those outside the organization? Continue reading

Basement Brigade Viewing Party

As Sabres Nation demonstrated over the past few weeks, Western New York is ecstatic to have the game of hockey back full time. Thanks to the end of the lockout, fans get to see their favorite teams and players back in action in a condensed 48-game schedule. While the whirlwind schedule may go quickly, it also allows for plenty of time to watch a lot of hockey.

“The Basement Brigade” is taking advantage of this. Eric of 3rd Man In and Phil of Black & Blue & Gold put their heads together to organize a watch party at Mr. Goodbar on Saturday, February 2 for the Sabres road affair against the Canadiens (event link).

This is a great event to not only bring hockey fans together but to also help inject some life into the bar scene which certainly suffered as a result of the lockout. I’m personally unsure of my availability for the event at this point, but I hope to crawl out of the basement and rub elbows with fans and bloggers alike. Give the Facebook event a once over and come out to Goodbar to support a truly awesome idea from Phil and Eric.

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

Burning questions as season looms

With training camps across the NHL set to open by this Saturday, at the earliest, the Sabres will be bringing in plenty of familiar faces to be evaluated for the 48 games that will be played in 2013.

Unlike a traditional training camp and preseason, this abbreviated version will keep the position battles to a minimum and many roster spots will go to the usual suspects. This is particularly good news for some veterans who may have otherwise had to claw for a spot on the 23-man roster and this also eliminates the ability for youngsters to make a statement as to if they belong in Buffalo for the duration of the season.

With every team in a similar situation, there is bound to be a league-wide struggle with chemistry. The teams that will be successful will be those who adapt and overcome any issues they have once the season gets going. The biggest struggle, outside of chemistry and fitness, will be those teams that hit any sort of losing streak. With a shortened schedule against conference foes, wins and losses will be magnified and any streak will be magnified that much more.

As the Sabres look to take advantage of the shortened season and build on an interesting offseason, here are a few questions that will likely have an impact on the season. Continue reading