Friday, December 14, 2018

Notes and thoughts after the Sabres 4-3 OT win over Los Angeles

This is how we do it

The Sabres five-game losing streak is over. Or if you may, their winless streak is over as Buffalo managed a loser-point in two of those losses. Getting back in the win column was huge for the team especially while playing the type of up-tempo, Corsi-heavy game head coach Phil Housley prefers. Housley's charges got up and down the ice and pumped a total of 47 shots on goal against Los Angeles to the Kings' 27 shots. Overall the Sabres pumped 74 shots at Kings rookie goaltender Calvin Petersen while Los Angeles managed a total of 48 against Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark.

A rather cold Sabres powerplay also came through for them as they went 2 for 8 in the game on a total of 11:33 seconds of powerplay time. Having the Rasmi--Rasmus Ristolainen and Rasmus Dahlin--at the point really helped as Ristolainen was at the top of a 1-3-1 set-up with Jack Eichel on the left half-wall and Dahlin on the right. Eichel and Dahlin peppered the Kings with shots, which was a good sign even if it was against the league's 29th-ranked penalty kill, with Eichel finally breaking through. Buffalo's other powerplay goal came in overtime as Jeff Skinner poked home a puck in the crease for his 21st goal of the season.

Ristolainen picked up the primary assist on both of those goals.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Housley shuffles bottom-six and PP units with team in a tailspin

Published by, 12-10-2018

There's much to be made in the fact that Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Jeff Skinner, a trio that comprises Buffalo's top line and three-fifths of their first powerplay unit, are the only players to score goals in the last four games. The Sabres are 0-2-2 in those games with that trio accounting for all eight Buffalo goals.

As we delve a little deeper into those numbers, that trio accounted for 15 (8+7) of the 21 total points on those goals and of the seven primary assists involved (one, by Reinhart, was unassisted,) that trio had four of them. Here's a list of what the rest of the team has done on the scoresheet in those four games:

3-2 OT loss at Florida
--goalie Linus Ullmark, secondary assist on second goal

2-1 loss at Nashville

4-3 OT loss vs. Toronto
--defenseman Nathan Beaulieu primary and Rasmus Ristolainen secondary assists on first goal
--Ristolainen primary assist on second goal

6-2 loss vs. Philadelphia
--Lawrence Pilut primary assist and Ristolainen secondary assist on second goal

Although it's good to see the defensemen continue to push the play and contribute to the offense, the fact that Ullmark's one assist outscored every Buffalo forward outside of the top trio is rather alarming.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Sabres need to move on from yesterday's stinker.

Published by, 12-9-2018

Linus Ullmark suffered his first regulation loss of the season yesterday afternoon in Buffalo's 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Even thought six goals ended up behind him, no blame should be thrown Ullmark's way as the skaters in front of him suffered an extreme case of hubris that caused a meltdown with six unanswered Flyers goals.

Sabres head coach Phil Housley called it a "stinker" yesterday, the stench of which could be smelled to the top row of the 300's and beyond. It was a "Core-like" performance from his club where they got out to an early lead, found themselves in a dog fight and wilted as Philadelphia willed their way to a lopsided win.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sabres hobbled as they head into a matinee versus Philadelphia today

It was a great run for Buffalo through much of November as their 10-game winning streak propelled them to the top of the NHL standings for a brief stint. In all they had 11 wins during the month, something they haven't done in over a decade. The key components of that run was timely scoring up front and key saves from their goaltending tandem and those two components have held steady even in their recent post-streak 0-2-2 slide. There's a thin line between winning and losing a one-goal game and the Sabres have had 13 such games in their last 14 outings, but what's been missing during their present four-game losing streak (all one-goal games) has been the overall health of the team with injuries taking their toll on the blueline.

Defenseman Marco Scandella was the first to go down. He was placed on injured reserve November 27 prior to the game at Tampa Bay. Fellow top-six blueliner Jake McCabe suffered an injury against the Lightning that night and he was placed on IR as well. The Sabres loss in Tampa snapped their winning streak and began their present losing streak.

Casey Nelson has played in 22 games for Buffalo as a reserve defenseman and had seen his ice-time fluctuate throughout the season but with injuries to Scandella and McCabe, was settling into a bottom-pairing. He ended up getting injured in the first period of Tuesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and has been placed on IR as well. 

The Sabres are down to four regular defenseman as they head into this afternoon's game vs. the Philadelphia Flyers at KeyBank Center. They recalled 22 yr. old rookie Lawrence Pilut from the Rochester Americans on November 27 and tapped into the Amerks once again with the recall yesterday of d-man Matt Tennyson, whom coach Phil Housley said would be in the lineup today.

And it didn't stop there. Starting goalie Carter Hutton is out of the lineup for today's game with an upper-body injury apparently sustained, according to Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News, after he "got stiff on the bench while serving as a backup during Tuesday's overtime loss to Toronto." The Sabres recalled Rochester goalie Scott Wedgewood as a backup to Linus Ullmark. 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Bandwagon filling up, injuries and, this Pilut ready for takeoff?

Published by, 12-7-2018

All Aboard!!!

It's been a long time since Sabres fans had that feeling of being fully invested in their beloved hockey team. Since 2006-07 when Buffalo won the President's Trophy and made their second consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearance there have been flashes of enthusiasm, most notably the Sabres division crown in 2009-10 and the run to the playoffs the following season under new owner Terry Pegula, but in and around those? Mirages in a desert.

"The Core" years of Darcy Regier did include those two playoff teams and a load of individual talent that could never mesh into a playoff threat, but unlike those two ECF teams, they generally wilted when the heat was turned up. After he was fired in 2013, his core was dispersed and the team fell in a deep rut with a number last place finishes and a high of only 81 points the past seven seasons. Despite the haul the Sabres got from Regier's core and two second-overall picks from back-to-back tank seasons, the Sabres were still a train wreck. Under yet another new GM and coach, the Sabres fell to the bottom again last season after an atrocious start and a downward spiral that had Sabreland talking draft as early as December.

Such was the plight of Buffalo's beleaguered hockey fans over the past decade-plus.

Friday, December 7, 2018

No head-hanging here. Sabres/Leafs was a blast despite Buffalo on the wrong end

There was a time last season when Buffalo Sabres coach Phil Housley came off as an over-protective mother in a post-game presser after his team got shellacked 5-1 by the Dallas Stars. On November 4, 2017 the Stars scored three goals in the first 10 minutes en route to crushing the hapless Sabres. Afterward, Housley tried to gloss over his team’s performance saying that he thought his team "played well" in the loss. "The score tells you differently and there's probably going to be a lot of people that disagree with me."

Yup, pretty much everybody disagreed with Housley on that with one beat-reporter writing, "That was one of the most egregious quotes I've heard from a Buffalo coach in a long time. An affront to a battered fanbase. 

"There's a difference in being positive and being a Pollyanna Phil."

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Sabres stumbling home with Leaf Nation invading downtown Buffalo tonight

The winning streak was never going to last forever, but a win in one of the two games after would have been nice. After winning 10 in a row the Buffalo Sabres now find themselves on a three-game losing streak (0-2-1) having lost 2-1 last night at Nashville to the Predators. The home team bottled the Sabres up through much of the game then choked them off in the third period while holding a one-goal lead. Of the eight third period shots on goal for the Sabres, five of them came with the goalie pulled late in the frame and none of them got by Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.

Nashville won despite missing a lot of firepower in leading goal-scorer Filip Forsberg, forwards Viktor Arvidsson  and Kyle Turris plus defenseman P.K. Subban. Head coach Peter Laviolette wanted his players to stick to their up-tempo identity but also needed them to keep things tight against a team like Buffalo. "With a lot of key pieced out of our lineup, I just think it's important to stick to our identity," he told the local media post-game. "But, we also understand there's less room for error and we have to make sure we're sharp.

"They've (the Sabres) have a lot of people that can hurt you. They're a dangerous team, they're playing fast and they're on the attack. I thought our guys did a real good job of just trying to stay above them, stay tight and check tight in the defensive zone."

Welcome to playoff-style hockey.