Crease Crash Course: Brain Farts All Around in Florida

The Sabres were just minutes away from an impressive comeback road win in Sunrise when a quartet of bad plays led to the tying goal in a game the Sabres would ultimately lose in a shootout.

At the center of Nick Bjugstad’s goal is Zach Bogosian, who makes a number of bad decisions which led to the goal. Robin Lehner, who had played a strong game to this point, ultimately made a very strange decision and poor read prior to Bjugstad chipping the tying goal home.

This is the first goalie review in some time as Buffalo’s run over the last few weeks has featured mostly straightforward play. Both Lehner and Anders Nilsson have continued to play very well and the goals they’re being beaten on aren’t too complicated. So the lack of really in-depth plays to review (and the lack of quality replays in some cases) has led to the absence. However, Bjugstad’s goal on Tuesday featured a number of breakdowns, including the goaltender. Continue reading

Crease Crash Course – Goal Support and Lehner Lift Sabres

For the first time since October 30, the Sabres scored more than two goals in a game. And, shocker, they won!

Robin Lehner has caught quite a bit of undeserved flak, partially due to the price paid by Tim Murray to acquire him and partially due to a number of lopsided losses suffered by the Sabres with him in net. As discussed previously in this space, Lehner’s play hadn’t wavered so much as the play in front of him had dwindled. It’s no surprise that Lehner played an impressive game against Calgary and got a win when the team in front of him scored more than one goal.

The game wasn’t without its warts as the Flames scored on a near tap in off a four-on-one rush, a play which Robin Lehner was exposed on something of a poor read. It seemed obvious that he didn’t expect the pass to Mikael Backlund to be as far outside the crease as it was, leaving him to make a desperate attempt of a two-pad stack as he came across the crease. It was a goal that he probably wasn’t going to stop even if he was technically perfect, as he simply needed to cover too much ground as the pass came across the crease.  Continue reading

Crease Crash Course: Nilsson Shines Against Cup Champs

Anders Nilsson put together another tremendous outing for the Sabres against Pittsburgh on Saturday night. He’s only seen a handful of starts but he’s quickly rounded into form and at least some of the credit needs to go to goalie coach Andrew Allen for putting Nilsson on a track well above his career numbers.

Before we dive into his play from Saturday, there’s one more thing to point out. green-guy

There are plenty of us on Sabres Twitter who complain about the lack of crowd noise and the poor atmosphere at Key Bank Center. So it may seem hypocritical to bemoan someone like this dude who is having a good time at the game. Only, he was obviously only attempting to get attention for himself. He seemed far more interested in being on television than adding to any actual atmosphere as it pertained to the game. Naturally, the Sabres Twitter account gave him all sorts of love since the only function of the account is to talk about how #fun things are regardless of what’s happening on the ice.

So, long story short, don’t be a doofus like the guy in the green suit. Continue reading

Crease Crash Course: Results Not Indicative of Lehner’s Play

For the third-straight game Robin Lehner allowed three or more goals and for the third-straight game Lehner failed to post a save percentage above .910. But I don’t look at his play as a detriment to Buffalo’s record.

Against Tampa on Thursday, Lehner was beaten four times by four very good shots. Perhaps he could have played the Brayden Point goal differently, but I think most reasonable fans would find it hard to peg any of the goals scored by Tampa squarely on Lehner’s shoulders. You can look back at the loss in St. Louis similarly although I don’t necessarily think the same of his performance in New Jersey (where he was still beaten by a number of perfect shots).

The issue with both Buffalo goaltenders this year hasn’t been their play but the play in front of them. Specifically in the offensive zone where the Sabres are providing dreadful goal support for both netminders. Lehner and Nilsson are both getting fewer than two goals per game from their teammates on average with Nilsson’s number at 1.55 after his win on Saturday and Lehner’s at 1.84. Lehner’s number is actually inflated a bit when you consider he was in net against Edmonton and Calgary, games which netted the Sabres nine goals; roughly 30% of Buffalo’s total offense on the year. Continue reading

Crease Crash Course: Reflecting on the Sabres Skid

In the absence of the typical post-game breakdowns from the past week, it seemed best to lump everything together as the Sabres have embarked on a course of failure in virtually every aspect of the game.

As the team’s anemic attack continues on their trend of truly becoming One Buffalo, the goaltenders have been left in the precarious position of attempting to keep the ship afloat. As the last week of games has shown, Buffalo’s tandem hasn’t been able to provide the goaltending needed – read: shutouts – to steal points on a nightly basis.

The Sabres incredible inability to score goals has left them wallowing as they’re left expecting perfect goaltending in order to win games. Buffalo have scored 10 goals in eight November games (1.25 goals per game average) and are averaging exactly one per game over this five game losing streak. That leaves each goaltender with a monumental task of trying to pitch a shutout nearly every night. While both have played well, it hasn’t been well enough to lift the struggling forward and defense groups. Continue reading

Crease Crash Course: Lehner Steals A Pair in Ottawa

Just two days after watching Frederik Andersen steal two points on the road, Robin Lehner pulled the same stunt at Scotiabank Place, making 32 saves as the Sabres snuck out of Ottawa with a win.

In what is becoming something of a tired refrain, Lehner played another spectacular game for the Sabres on Saturday. Lehner’s 32-save effort secured the fourth-straight game with a save percentage of .930 or better. In fact, five of Lehner’s seven starts this year have seen the netminder turn in a save percentage above .930. The other three starts resulted in .900 or below performances, although one of those three came against Vancouver where Lehner still allowed only two goals.

Saturday was easily his best game of the year, as Buffalo struggled to score yet again and Lehner put the team on his back, to keep the one-goal game in Buffalo’s favor. He had at least four truly highlight reel saves, including a desperation paddle save and a terrific left-pad stop on a two-on-one. Continue reading

Crease Crash Course: Lehner Lags Ever So Slightly Behind Andersen’s Gem

Thursday’s loss to the Maple Leafs was really more bad fortune than poor play for the Sabres. Robin Lehner played a strong game in goal only to see his performance eclipsed by Frederik Andersen’s 42-save gem.

Buffalo poured scoring chances on the Leafs goal only to see Andersen make a number of highlight reel saves – none better than his left pad robbery of Zemgus Girgensons. The two goaltenders combined for 70 saves in total as Lehner kept his team in the game for the full 60 minutes while Andersen basically took two points from the Sabres all on his own. It wasn’t all that much different than Buffalo’s 2-1 loss to Vancouver in October when the Sabres simply couldn’t solve Jacob Markstrom.

It may be more beneficial to break down one of Andersen’s numerous dazzling saves as he turned in a truly impressive technical performance. Early in the year, Andersen appeared to be playing well outside of his comfort zone but he was in peak form on Thursday. Lehner’s play was without merit either. In a game where his team dominated, Buffalo’s goaltender didn’t let his squad down. It would have been very easy for Lehner to allow a goal or two more, leaving the game well out of reach for the Sabres.

The one play I chose to take a closer look at was the first Leafs goal where Mitch Marner beat Dmitri Kulikov and Lehner to the far post to open the scoring. It was a goal where Lehner had very little chance to make the save, although it seems to me that he didn’t make the best possible choice either. Continue reading

Crease Crash Course: Far Pad Shots and Rebound Control Myths

Rebound control has been a hot topic this year when it comes to Buffalo’s goaltenders. Robin Lehner has been at the forefront of these complaints as it seems many a fan are of the opinion that he’s incapable of controlling the pucks that strike him throughout the game.

While it’s a fair assessment to say that Lehner has allowed more rebounds than Anders Nilsson, who has swallowed up most of the pucks fired in his direction, he’s hardly been costing the Sabres points with his play. As yet another goal was scored off a rebound against Minnesota, I thought I’d dive a little deeper into this argument.

If you’re looking for a good breakdown on quality rebound control, InGoal Magazine has a nice breakdown of Louis Domingue that’s a nice read. You’ll notice that the two highlighted saves in that post feature rebounds coming off the goalie. They’re a way of life, especially when players are shooting to score. Continue reading

Crease Crash Course: Back-to-Back Gems from Nilsson and Lehner

The Sabres righted the ship in a big way this weekend, shutting out the Florida Panthers at home and following with a stellar 3-1 win the following day in Winnipeg.

The wins put the Sabres at 3-3-2 on the season and squarely at .500 in points percentage. The latter fact being of particular importance given the absence of Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. Getting out of October at or near .500 was a goal I was personally hoping to see the Sabres achieve. It was looking grim after the third period collapse against Philadelphia that was followed by a lifeless home loss to Minnesota. It’s a shame to think that the team simply needed to stay afloat, especially in a season where the goal prior to training camp was to become a playoff contender, but the timing and impact of those injuries really couldn’t have been much worse.

As November begins the Sabres are yet another week closer to filling out their top six once again and have managed to keep from floating to the bottom of the league standings where making up ground would be nearly impossible.

The play of Anders Nilsson and Robin Lehner had a lot to do with this weekend’s pair of victories. Nilsson’s 33-save performance on Saturday looked much more like the strong performance in Philly than it did the bumpy start against Minnesota. Nilsson again played to his size and controlled the game beautifully. He hasn’t gotten himself in trouble with rebounds this season – a common complaint of his partner, as it would be – as he’s shown an impressive ability to swallow up pucks from nearly any location.

Lehner followed Nilsson with an equally impressive outing that would have been a shutout as well had Buffalo not been victimized by a fortunate bounce off the end boards. Lehner’s play on Sunday was hardly his first strong game of the season. He was steady in Buffalo’s win against Edmonton and he carried that on to Vancouver later in that same road trip. A couple of ugly goals against Calgary and the entire team’s lack of effort against Montreal have skewed his play so far, but I feel confident in saying Lehner has been better than many would have you believe in this young season. Continue reading

Crease Crash Course: Early Weak Goal Costs Nilsson

Anders Nilsson’s second game in a Sabres uniform wasn’t nearly as impressive as his first. As the Sabres slept-walked through the first period against Minnesota, ultimately falling 4-0.

Nilsson’s performance included a pair of rough goals on Minnesota’s first and third tallies and only 18 saves. He wasn’t under nearly as much pressure as he faced against Philadelphia and he was ultimately victimized on a two goals that beat him as he was down a touch early on outside shots.

Minnesota’s first goal, scored by Joel Eriksson-Ek was perhaps the more egregious of the two in question. The third Wild goal, off the stick of Ryan Suter found its way through a screen. Nilsson could have played the shot better – and given the score it was certainly a shot that needed to be stopped – but it wasn’t a terrible goal either. Continue reading