Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Sabres have answers in San Jose, are now 7-1-1

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-20-2019

Who would have thought?

Coming into the 2019-20 season most pundits looked at the Buffalo Sabres lineup and it didn't look as if they'd made enough significant changes to even get close to their goal of ending an NHL-long, eight-year playoff drought. Some of the more rabid Sabres fans even called for the head of general manager Jason Botterill for not doing enough while hanging on to a list of what they considered hockey deplorables. Vladimir Sobotka was the king of the list with names like Johan Larsson, Zemgus Girgensons, Kyle Okposo and Marco Scandella deemed terrible. Many couldn't wait until defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen finally got traded for top-six help up-front even though in some fans eyes he rivaled Sobotka for the dubious distinction as most deplorable Sabre.

Although it's still way too early in the season to uncork the champagne in celebration of finally making it to the post-season, there are plenty of signs that this team will at least be able to make a run if they continue to play they way they have and their 7-1-1 start to the season most certainly helps. New head coach Ralph Krueger has each player believing in themselves and in their intrinsic value to the team. He's found four trios up front that he can roll and his pairings on the back-end have in the very least been solid but maybe more importantly, he's got this team playing as a five-man unit with support in every zone.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

A long distance home-and-home begins tonight with the Sabres in San Jose

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-19-2019

Amongst the interesting notes heading into tonight's Buffalo Sabres/San Jose matchup at the Shark tank in Norther California is that the Sharks will travel to Buffalo, NY for a game on Tuesday that will constitute a very long, 2,700 mile home-and-home series wit
h the Sabres. As Buffalo ends their three-game California road-trip tonight and travels back home, the Sharks begin a five-game, East Coast trip in the Queen City and though it's not a life-altering schedule notation, it is fairly interesting in that it doesn't seem as if it's typical NHL scheduling.

That said, all Sabre-eyes are on the Sharks tonight as Buffalo hits the Sharktank trying to make it two in a row after suffering their first regulation loss of the season at Anaheim. Buffalo followed up that 5-2 loss to the Ducks with a solid 3-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings the following night. The Ducks and Kings, as well as the Sharks, epitomize Western Conference style hockey in that they play a heavy game that makes it hard on the opposition. Anaheim threw the Sabres off of their game with physical play after being in down 2-0 late in the first period and they pushed that strategy to five unanswered goals in the victory.

The following night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Buffalo faced a similar situation as they went up 2-0 in the first period, but managed to get their third goal early in the second before the Kings got on their forecheck and laid the body on the Sabres. However, Buffalo withstood a furious second period where they were outshot 17-10 with Los Angeles missing on 12 shot attempts and a lopsided third where Los Angeles outshot Buffalo 19-7. The end result is all that matters as goalie Carter Hutton posted his second consecutive shutout after stopping 47 shots.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Proper response by the Sabres in 3-0 shutout of Kings

For the first 20 minutes of yesterday's 3-0 shutout win at Los Angeles, the Buffalo Sabres looked as if they'd shrugged off their loss the prior night. While in Anaheim on Wednesday, the Sabres got off to a great start but got thrown off of their game as a big and fast Ducks team got uber-physical and laid 200' pressure on Buffalo from late in the second period onward. The result was a 5-2 Sabres loss as their once potent powerplay went a meager 1/7 with the man advantage and their frustrations had them playing Anaheim's game instead of their own.

The Sabres goal heading into Staples Center against the Kings for the second game of a back-to-back, was to stick to their game regardless of what Los Angeles threw at them and for the first period, they did were able to play Sabres hockey. Buffalo scored two goals in the first 5:20 of the game and kept their foot on the gas as much as they could the rest of the period. In the second period they took advantage of an early powerplay by upping their lead to 3-0 before Los Angeles turned the tide.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Rehashing an "off night" in Anaheim with a look ahead to the Los Angeles Kings game

You know the old adage, the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts and the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres are no different. 

Everyone knew the flaws this team had coming into the season but they'd been able to overcome those through the first six games of the season. The Sabres left Western New York on Monday riding a 5-0-1 record into California for a three game road-trip in The Golden State. They got to that point by playing a fast, 200' game with support in every zone buoyed by a deadly powerplay that kept teams at bay in style and/or on the scoreboard.

After downing the Pittsburgh Penguins and steamrolling the New Jersey Devils to start the season, the new look, positive-thinking Sabres hit Columbus and found themselves in a heavyweight bout with a desperate team. Buffalo overcame two deficits in that game against the Blue Jackets and rode the powerplay (2/4) to get it to overtime before losing 4-3. They followed that up with three consecutive wins--one in overtime, one in the shootout and a 4-0 blowout of the Dallas Stars before heading west. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Sabres begin a three-game California road trip tonight in Anaheim

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-16-2019

Buoyed by 5-0-1 start and a new lease on hockey life thanks to positive vibrations emanating from bench boss Ralph Krueger, the Buffalo Sabres are in California for a three-game swing through The Golden State beginning tonight. The first game on the docket has the surprising Sabres in Anaheim to take one the equally surprising Ducks at the Honda Center.

Anaheim is off to a strong start with a Pacific Division-leading 4-2-0 record born of a strong defense backed by firm goaltending. The Ducks have a league best 1.67 goals-against average (T-BOS) with the goaltending duo of John Gibson and former Sabre Ryan Miller sporting a rather staunch .944 save percentage (10 goals on 179 shots against.)

That strong goals-against average, however, is unfortunately countered by a fourth-worst 2.17 goals/game (tied with two other teams) which includes a powerplay that is anything but. Anaheim heads into tonight's game as one of three teams (NJD, OTT) without a powerplay goal. Going six games without makes it an issue with Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins telling the local media yesterday, "We'll try anything right now."

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Looking legit

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-15-2019

Are the Buffalo Sabres surprising? Maybe the most surprising team in the league this year?

You betcha.

Are they legit?

Um...It's looking that way.

At 5-0-1 the Sabres are off to their best start since the 2008-09 season. They defeated four of five Eastern Conference opponents, lost another one in overtime and after last night's win now find themselves atop the National Hockey League standings with 11 points. They've scored 25 goals (24+1 for the shootout) and have allowed 13 for a league-leading +12 goal differential. Sure, we can revert back to last season when they went on a franchise-tying 10-game winning streak in November only to fold and finish 27th in the league as a comparison, but...

more on that later.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Dallas visits Buffalo for a matinee today, plus a five-game Sabres recap

The Buffalo Sabers have a 3 p.m. matinee game against the Dallas Stars at KeyBank Center today. It will be the final game of a three-game homestand before they head out west for three games in four nights against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. The Sabres just finished a stretch where they played five games in nine nights and are coming off of a full day away from the rink with head coach Ralph Krueger saying that his charges should look refreshed for the game against the Stars. 

Krueger spoke to the gathered media after practice yesterday and said, "Today (at practice) you're trying to get the intensity and focus you need to play our hockey and they gave it to us in practice. But that freshness and the energy we'll have we expect to show up against Dallas."

Buffalo is off to a 4-0-1 start under their new head coach who's working a lineup that's very similar to what was iced last season. Three new faces were added up-front--Victor Olofsson, Marcus Johansson and Jimmy Vesey while the back-end has welcomed Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju who were acquired in separate trades. The goaltending duo of Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark are once again patrolling the crease.