Monday, February 29, 2016

Murray prime NHL trade deadline pump with blockbuster AHL deal

Reprinted with permission from

Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray has never seen a multi-player/piece blockbuster he didn't like as he fashions the franchise in his image. In fact his first trade as GM was a five-player/two draft pick trade that featured Buffalo's franchise goalie at the time, Ryan Miller and their captain, Steve Ott. Although one could say that trade with St. Louis wasn't wholly his as his predecessor laid some of the foundation, Murray follow that trade up with three more multi-piece deals at the 2014 trade deadline a week later.

One deal of note was the trade of Rochester Americans defenseman Brayden McNabb and forward Jonathan Parker, to the Los Angeles Kings for a couple of forward prospect up-front in "heavies" Nicolas Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching. Also going back to Los Angeles were the two second-round picks Buffalo received from the Kings in the Robyn Regehr trade in April, 2013.

It's become an annual tradition for Murray to pull off a multi-piece, blockbuster trade as last season prior to the trade deadline he and his Winnipeg counterpart, Kevin Cheveldayoff made an eight-piece trade featuring Evander Kane and Tyler Myers. And this year, Murray got together with his uncle Bryan Murray to put together a seven-player trade with the Ottawa Senators.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Chad Johnson looks great in San Jose trade deadline showcase

Reprinted with permission from

With the NHL trade deadline inching closer a potential suitor for Buffalo back up goalie Chad Johnson leaning in a different direction, all eyes were at the Shark Tank last night as the Sabres visited San Jose to take on the Sharks.

Goalies in general aren't really a prime area of focus for most teams looking to bolster their lineup at this time of year, but every trade deadline there are a couple that garner interest. Said goalie is usually a back up and a pending free agent who would be considered an upgrade. This year, possible suitors for Johnson's services is very limited and looked as if it was coming down to two teams--the Sharks and the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues had a stellar duo in net featuring veteran Brian Elliott and upstart rookie, Jake Allen before Elliott went down with a lower body injury this week against, oddly enough, the San Jose Sharks. The 30 yr. old veteran of eight NHL seasons with three different teams hit injured reserve with a 17-7-6 record, 2.14 goals against average and a .929 save percentage.

Allen has been equally strong going 18-12-3 with a 2.17 GAA and a .923 SV%, but with the Blues in a heated battle for Central Division supremacy (three points separate them from first place,) every point counts and relying upon 22 yr. old Jordan Binnington in a backup role is making them kinda jittery.

So they were said to be in the market for a backup goaltender, which they indeed addressed by landing Oilers backup Anders Nilsson for a 5th round pick earlier today.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Dominoes, Sharks and Amerks and Monsters--NHL trade deadline coming

Reprinted with permission from

For the Buffalo Sabres, and forward Jamie McGinn in particular, the trade of Winnipeg LW, Andrew Ladd to the Chicago Blackhawks yesterday was pretty big.

When it came to rental forwards this year, Ladd was at the top of the list with possibly Eric Staal being the only other pending UFA to supersede him. Staal, who has a no-trade clause, would surely fetch a hefty return should they find the proper destination, but in terms of significance for the Sabres at the trade deadline, all eyes were pretty much on Ladd and the dominoes leading to McGinn.

Following Ladd closely on the domino depth-chart is Boston Bruins winger Loui Eriksson who's in contract-extension negotiations with GM Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins. Sweeney's in a bit of a pickle as the Bruins would like to keep Eriksson, but according to various sources, they're at an impasse as to the length of the contract. Eriksson's having strong year in Boston already surpassing his point total from the previous season while his 23 goals and 48 points in 61 games has him on pace for a 30-goal/63-point season.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Anaheim dirge; McEichel not intriguing for NBCSN; Amerks head to Cleveland

Reprinted with permission from

Just how much do the Buffalo Sabres miss Ryan O'Reilly?

Plenty. Just ask Jack Eichel who was hounded by the Ducks, especially Ryan Kesler. In just over 20 minutes Eichel, who is Buffalo's top center with O'Reilly out, managed only two shots on goal which isn't all that surprising considering Eichel went only 3-13 (23%) in the faceoff circle vs. Kesler.

Eichel and the Sabres did a lot of chasing last night as each faceoff loss meant energy expended trying to get it back. Buffalo went 25-61 (41%) on draws and it really hurt late in the third period with the Sabres trailing 1-0 and looking to get goalie Robin Lehner off in favor of the extra attacker.

All-in-all, the final two minutes was a comedy of errors as Buffalo would mishandle the entire situation. Even though the Sabres would go three of six on the dot, they couldn't keep the puck in the Anaheim zone long enough to get Lehner off the ice.

Beginning at the 17:15-mark Buffalo:

--turned the puck over in the offensive zone
--turned it over in their own zone giving up a clear shot in the high slot
--turned the puck over in the neutral zone
--were called for off sides at the 18:02-mark
--won a two neutral zone faceoffs, but the Ducks cleared
--were called for icing
--won the draw but couldn't get the puck into the Ducks zone
--with :56 seconds to go, put the puck in the benches
--won the faceoff, got Lehner to the bench
--were called for icing after the Ducks cleared the zone
--after using their timeout, lost the draw
--and in the final :30 seconds could only muster a missed shot on goal

Although it wasn't a "jump-off-the-Peace-Bridge" kind of game, that ending was thouroughly frustrating as a veteran Anaheim club choked the life out of a young Sabres team.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Weber to Washington a good fit, plus more on the Sabres roster and pending free agents

Reprinted with permission from

It's not an earth-shattering move for the league-leading Washington Capitals, but then again, with the team loaded for bear, a big move wasn't necessary.

The Capitals have amassed 92 points already this season and are 17 points ahead of the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference. They lead the league in goals/game (3.29) are second in goals-against/game (2.28) and their +61 goal-differential is 33 better than the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

They have Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Kuznetsov, Niklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and TJ Oshie up front, one of the top goalies in the league in Braden Holtby and a solid mix of scoring and grit on the blueline lead by Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen. But, as all good teams do, they needed to add depth and about the only thing they didn't have was a lot cap-space to do so. That's where the Buffalo Sabres and Mike Weber came into play.

Sabres GM Tim Murray's mantra from the time he came on board is that he doesn't want to see an unrestricted free agent leave without getting a return, and true to his word, he did that with Weber. Murray found a nice fit for the 6'2" 212 lb. stay-at-home defenseman who's cap-hit for the season was $1.67M, a figure right in line with Washington's needs.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Leafs aren't tanking? I have a bridge to sell you and some swampland in FLA too

Reprinted with permission from

Only would the Canadian media feed a line like this after the Toronto Maple Leafs continued the purge of their NHL roster with another trade yesterday, "You can label the Toronto Maple Leafs approach to this trade deadline a lot of ways, but tanking isn’t one of them. I prefer smart, aggressive and savvy."

So wrote Sportsnet's Chris Johnston for a piece entitled, Chasing Matthews not behind Leafs trade deadline strategy.

The "Matthews" part of the equation refers, of course, to hockey phenom Auston Matthews who will be the prized prospect at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, NY. Although the last place team in the league will not be assured of the top overall pick, and could even draft as low as fourth, there are other blue-chip prospects available this year that would get any franchise off on the right foot in their rebuilding process.

However, the focus is on Matthews, the San Fancisco, CA born, Scottdale, AZ raised center who's presently playing for the Zurich Lions in the Swiss A league. In a league against men where his 25 goals places him in the top-3 in goals scored this season, one could only imagine what his stats would be like playing Canadian Junior hockey.

Such is the prize that awaits the winner of this year's draft lottery.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sabres in spotlight on NBC versus Sidney Crosby and the Pens

Reprinted with permission from

In just over a week the NHL's trade deadline will be upon us and in one week from today, the Sabres will have gone through another particularly tough part of their schedule.

Back in November, Buffalo faced the top two teams in the Western Conference at the time--the league-leading Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues--in a six day span. Needless to say the schedule-maker did the young Sabres no favors with that four-game stint as Buffalo finished 0-3-1. This afternoon they begin another tough six day stretch when they play an afternoon game that kicks off Hockey Day In America on NBC.

Buffalo will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 12:30 p.m. After that, the national spotlight turns to Minneapolis, Minnesota as the Wild host the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks in a 3:00 p.m. outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. NBC and NBCSN finish off their triple-header with the Detroit Red Wings travelling to Madison Square Gardens to take on an Original Six foe in the New York Rangers at 7 p.m.

After today's game, the Sabres then hit the road for a West Coast swing to take on the surging Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday, travel up the coast to face San Jose at the Shark Tank then head back down to Orange County in Southern California for the second game of a back-to-back against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.

They'll be back in Buffalo next Sunday and after having adjusted to Eastern Standard Time, on Monday they will be wrapping their heads around the possibility that the team could be in flux once again as Sabres GM Tim Murray works the 3 p.m. trade deadline phones. Although it won't be anything close to the scale of the last two deadlines, barring surprises, there will still be some turnover as the team is clearly in seller mode.

Rookie scoring race recap plus, Leafs trade and trade partners for Buffalo

Reprinted with permission from

With Chicago's Artemi Panarin scoring his first career hat trick this week while adding another goal and assist, his 57 point total and 16 point lead may make this a race for second place in overall points. Buffalo's Jack Eichel and Max Domi are tied for second in overall points with 41 after Eichel added three assists this week while Domi lit it up with four goals and two assists in three games for the Arizona Coyotes. Detroit's Dylan Larkin had a rough week with only one goal added to his resume. Larkin is in fourth with 39 points.

Philadelphia defenseman Shane Gostisbehere continues to marvel in the point production department as the 22 yr. old third round pick (2012) extended his record for points in consecutive games by a defenseman to 15 games. Gostisbehere added a point in all three games played this past week (2g +1a) and extended his streak in style with the overtime winner at Toronto on Saturday night.

According to, Gostisbehere has the longest points-streak by a defenseman since 1995 when Chris Chelios had a 15-game streak beginning on October 26. He also now has the third longest streak behind any rookie since 1987-88. Paul Stastny (Feb. 3 to March 17, 2007) holds the longest streak during that period with 20 games while Teemu Selanne had a 17-game streak beginning March 9, 1993.

Gostisbehere also held on to the fourth spot in rookie assists with a total of 22. Panarin leads that category with 35, Eichel and Domi are tied for second with 24 while Larkin is in fifth with 20.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Wear your favorite jersey night and why I like the Jax for the top pick

Reprinted with permission from

For some Buffalo Sabres fans, tonight may there may be a tough jersey choice as Buffalo travels to Columbus, OH to take on the Blue Jackets. Today, Hockey Weekend kicks of with "Wear Your Favorite Jersey Day."

Many of us will recall how last season went down and how it wasn't until the Blue Jackets' Cam Atkinson who put the nail in the coffin on the Sabres season guaranteeing that Buffalo finished last. With only two games to go and last place in the balance, Atkinson scored the game-winner with just under 10 minutes to go in the third period at Nationwide Arena. Although Boone Jenner would add an empty-netter, the talk of the town was Atkinson, with many fans espousing the notion that they'd be going out and purchasing Atkinson's No. 13 in honor of the occasion.

That loss by Buffalo guaranteed a top-two pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and after losing the draft lottery, the Sabres selected Jack Eichel. He wears No. 15 for Buffalo.

As Buffalo takes on Columbus tonight at Nationwide Arena, those who have both may have a tough choice to make.

Robin Lehner's steely-eye shutout at Columbus

Reprinted with permission from

There have been many times this season where the opposition has taken the play to the Sabres and have pumped a ton of rubber Buffalo’s way. Sometimes the Sabres keep a majority of the shots to the outside and at other times, like last night at the Columbus Blue Jackets, they’d allow the opposition an abundance of quality chances.

Last night it didn’t matter where the Jackets were shooting from, they weren’t getting anything past goalie Robin Lehner.

During the first period of the game the Sabres skaters played as if they were still recovering from a fun-loving, NBA All-Star experience. There was no jump in anybody’s step, yet because of Lehner and a lucky bounce, the Sabres left the Nationwide Arena ice with a 2-0 lead. And although the shot totals made it look like it was close, Columbus had many more prime scoring opportunities.

With Buffalo giving away the puck time and again (three egregious turnovers in the first 3:30 of the game,) Lehner was forced to come up big. He stopped two from in tight on a penalty kill early in the first, made a sparkling save on Cam Atkinson after a Zach Bogosian turnover in their zone and had another one later in the period. In all he turned away 14 Columbus shots.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Moulson scores...finally...and, time for Patrick Kaleta to get his shot

Reprinted with permission from

It lasted 44 games dating back to November 1, but last night it came to an end.

Matt Moulson, a former three-time 30-goal scorer with the NY Islanders and a player who suffered through the better part of the last two seasons with a bottom-feeding Buffalo Sabres team, finally scored. Leave it to Jack Eichel and Zemgus Girgensons to get the job done and some props should be given to defenseman Jake McCabe who actually started the play by knocking down an Ottawa shoot-in at the red line.

McCabe would get the puck to Eichel at center ice who used his speed to gain the zone and ring one around the boards where McCabe was waiting at the point. McCabe shot it towards the net and Girgensons tipped it to Eichel down low. The rookie phenom gathered the puck and sent a behind the back pass to the crease to a charging Moulson who deposited the puck...finally.

We're not sure who was more excited about the goal, the entire Sabres team or Moulson himself. Or maybe it was GM Tim Murray who's been wondering all season what he's going to do with a four-goal scorer making $5m a season for the next three-plus seasons.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sabres at Ottawa tonight without Evander Kane. Justin Bailey benefits.

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres will hit the ice tonight in Ottawa to faceoff against the Senators for their third of four meetings this season. The series is even  so far this year with Ottawa taking the first game at Buffalo in the season opener for both clubs while the Sabres closed out January with a win at Canadian Tire Center.

Sabres goalie Robin Lehner has started both games against his former team but only finished one. In the opener Lehner suffered a high-ankle sprain early in the second period that would end up keeping him out of the lineup for over three months. And after coming out on the losing end in his first three games back from injury, Lehner finally got his first win as a Buffalo Sabre at Ottawa while turning away 34 of 36 shots in the 3-2 victory.

It was a helluva win for Lehner as he turned away all 22 shots his former team threw at him in the third period with more than a few being in spectacular fashion. The Sabres were outshot by a 22-2 margin in the third period that game, and didn't register a shot for the final 18-plus minutes. In addition to Lehner feeling like he was at the Alamo, he also registered Buffalo's only assist of the night as he and rookie Jack Eichel caught the Sens on a change. One would think that a performance like that would get him recognized with a star of the game, but he was shut out by the Ottawa voters.

What a surprise.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Two out of three ain't's a goal right now for Buffalo

Reprinted with permission from

While many Sabres fans are caught in the quagmire of the big picture this season--27th in the league on the heels of two 30th-place finishes--Buffalo head coach Dan Bylsma offered a glimpse into how the organization is, and has been, approaching the remainder of the season. "For us, the last 17 games we've been going in three-game segments," he told the gathered media after yesterday afternoon's win over Colorado.

"We're looking at it series' of three and this (the Colorado game) was game two for us," he continued. "We won against Montreal (on Friday) and we need to get two out of three [is] the way we've looked at it. Looking at wins and looking at our mindset, we're still trying to win games, win series' and that's our focus."

The reasoning behind that philosophy was contained in the question by a Buffalo media member, "Is that a means of not getting too bogged down by the greater picture? The best way?" was the direct question.

Yesterday's decisive 4-1 win against the Avalanche at the First Niagara Center came on the heels of a rocky 6-4 win at home against the Montreal Canadiens. Yet some good things came out of both games.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Rookie scoring race weekly recap--Eichel, Larkin, Domi all gain on Panarin

Reprinted with permission from

Chicago Blackhawks rookie scoring leader Artemi Panarin was out two games this week because of an illness and was shut down in his return to the ice Saturday night vs. the Anaheim Ducks and in the process those trailing him in the scoring race all creeped up on him a bit.

Panarin sits at 52 points on 18 goals and 34 assists and leads in all three categories.

Buffalo Sabres rookie Jack Eichel is now tied for second in points with Detroit's Dylan Larkin at 38 as he was able to add a goal and two assists in four games while Larkin was held to a single point (an assist) and is on a three-game pointless streak.

Rounding out the top five in scoring is Arizona's Max Domi at 35 points as he added one assist in three games (pointless in his last two) and Philadelphia's Shane Gostisbehere.

A big nod goes to 22 yr. old Gostisbehere as he broke an NHL record with a third period goal on Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. It was his 11th consecutive game with at least one point breaking the previous record for rookie defensemen held by Barry Beck of the Colorado Rockies during the 1977-78 season.

Gostisbehere extended that streak to 12 games with an assist tonight and during the week he had a goal and two assists in three games to place him fifth in the scoring race with 30 points.

The closesest competitors to Panarin are in the goal-scoring department as he remained tied with Larkin for first-overall with 18. Nipping at their heels are Buffalo's Eichel and Sam Reinhart, both with 17.

Reinhart had a pretty good week with three goals and an assist in four games and all of a sudden he's within one goal of tying the rookie leaders. Calgary's Sam Bennett upped his goal-total to 15 with one goal in three games and also added three assists to give him 13 on the season. Bennett sits just outside the top-five in points with 28.

Anthony Duclair was fourth in goals last week, but Reinhart bumped him into a tie with Bennett at 15 each.

Panarin remains well in front of the pace in assists with 34 as Domi (22,) Eichel and Gostisbeher (21) and Larkin (20) are all bunched together.

And, of course, we'd be remiss if we failed to mention Edmonton's Connor McDavid.

McDavid, of course, was felled by a broken collar bone earlier in the season and missed 37 games but he seems intent upon making up for lost time. He had two goals and four assists in three games to bring his season point totals to nine goals and 15 assists. He now sits 12th in points, 14th in goals and 7th in assists, but has played in only 20 games or just under a third of the number of games played by the leaders.

Rookie Leaders (via




Radko "Gudas," yet another in the long line of Philly goons

Reprinted with permission from

With 1:27 to play in a game that had been over for some time Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas pulled a punk-ass, thug-move on a prone Danieal Catenacci and laid him out at center ice with a shot to the head. The Buffalo Sabres forward would eventually get up, a little wobbly, and head to the dressing room. Catenacci is in the NHL’s concussion protocol.

This isn’t the first time Gudas has head-hunted. In a Matt Larkin piece for The Hockey News the author lists a few of incidents this season that has drawn the attention of the NHL’s players safety people. Larkin notes a hit to the head of the Ottawa Senators Mika Zibanejad (a three-game suspension,) a blow to the head of the NY Rangers Viktor Stalberg in October, and an ejection (but no suspension) for clipping Montreal’s Lucas Lessio
Add in a couple more last night and Gudas, in 47 games this season, has had the NHL looking at his actions five times already. That, my friends is approaching, if not surpassing, Patrick Kaleta levels. And Goudas stat-line of 0 goals, 3 assists and 72 penalty minutes is a strong nod to John Scott, whom many labeled anything but a hockey player.


The value of goaltending. Plus Evander Kane, Justin Bailey and more...

Reprinted with permission from

Tell me that goaltending doesn't matter to most teams outside the city of Chicago.

The Buffalo Sabres, or as some would say, "the lowly Buffalo Sabres," have now beaten Montreal Canadiens twice this month by a combined 10-6 score. In their only other meeting which occurred in late October, Les Habitants soundly beat Buffalo 7-2. The difference?

Carey Price, of course.

Since Price went down with an injury in late November and if "speculation" is correct, may be out the rest of the season. Last year he took home a boatload of hardware including the Hart and Vezina Trophies while almost single-handedly advancing the Canadiens to the Conference Semifinals. Price had a remarkable 44-16-6 regular season record in 2014-15 with an incredibly stingy 1.96 goals-against average and a strong .933 save percentage. And he followed that up with an equally strong beginning to this season:  10-2-0;  2.06 gaa; .934 sv%.

Everything was clicking for Montreal to begin this season which included a 9-game win streak in regulation to start the season (one shy of tying the record of 10 straight held by Buffalo.) The small but fast Canadiens looked a little bit bigger and were a little bit quicker as well while backup goalie Mike Condon looked very strong in net. But confidence is a funny thing. When you take away your security blanket, things get messy.

Montreal is now 10-21-2 without price after their 6-4 loss in Buffalo last night. As a whole they still play fast, they don't look bigger than they actually are. Granted, they rang plenty of iron last night and carried the play for most of the third period when down by only a goal, plus they're still dominant against Buffalo on the powerplay (2 for 3 last night, 5 for 8 this season,) but their goaltenders (yes, plural as starter Ben Scrivens was yanked early in the second) didn't get the job done.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mediocrity at the bottom of the leage equals many sellers at deadline

Reprinted with permission from

There's been a lot of hemin' and hawin' about the Buffalo Sabres being inches away from the bottom of the league once again. At 48 points Buffalo is in 27th place, one point ahead of the last place Edmonton Oilers with one game in hand. In between those two are the falling Toronto Maple Leafs and a stabilized Columbus Blue Jackets club.

Just a friendly little reminder about the upcoming draft, the NHL changed the lottery in an attempt to discourage tanking. Instead of the last place team being guaranteed a top-two pick, the NHL now has a format where the top three picks will be determined by the lottery system meaning a last place team could end up with the fourth overall pick.

Here are the odds for the bottom four teams:

30th-- 20% 
29th-- 13.5 
28th-- 11.5 
27th-- 9.5

There are two huge grouping at the bottom of the league right now that constitute a bog of mediocrity. Filling out the group represents the bottom-six in the league separated by only four points are the Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg Jets.

In the next grouping above them are five teams in the 54-56 point range for a total of 11 teams within nine points of each other. Granted the number of games varies but in looking at each team's last-10, not one of them has more than five regulation wins during that spane. The Arizona Coyotes, who last year were in a heated tank-battle with Buffalo, presently sit in 24th place are 2-7-1 in their last 10 and look to be lottery favorites once again. And there's an interesting saga brewing in Minnesota as they're 1-7-2 in their last 10.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

3 Kane fights, 2 Reinhart goals, Weber's 1st not nearly enough

Reprinted with permission from

What do you get when Buffalo's Evander "Apollo" Kane scores a goal and has three fights, Sam "The Forgotten One" Reinhart pots two goals and Mike Weber nets his first of the season?

Nothing when the opponent, in this case the Florida Panthers, score seven (including an empty-netter.)

The fact that they gave up four goals to the Panthers in the first 20:22 of the game, including a goal with :15 seconds left in the first and another one :22 seconds into the second, in and of itself is pretty troublesome. That they lost 7-4 in front of the home crowd makes it worse and when you consider that the Sabres gave up a total of 12 goals in the last two games against the Cats--both on First Niagara Center Ice--it's embarrassing.

"Embarrassing" is a word that Sabres assistant captain Ryan O'Reilly has used more than a few times this season either when talking about the team's performance or his own and although that word wasn't used post-game, the way they came out at home in the first period was certainly was embarrassing.

For some reason, it's been a trend for the Buffalo Sabres to come out flat on home ice. It's a maddening trend that dates back to when Lindy Ruff was behind the bench. Back in "the core days" it something that could be attributed to a team living off the fat of the land as most of those players were paid rather handsomely and had long-term contracts in hand. But as the team went through it's rebuild, which included "the hardest working team in hockey, part deux" under head coach Ted Nolan, and transitioned to head coach Dan Bylsma, it's still a problem for some reason.

Buffalo has the third-worst home record in the league at 9-16-3 with those 16 losses by-far being worst in the league. In those 28 games they've been shut out 3 times while in 10 other games they scored only one goal. That's nearly half of those home games scoring one goal or less. In all they've been outscored by a 76-56 margin allowed seven goals or more twice and have lost by three or more goals six times.

That's something that's not very fun for the home crowd.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sabres host Cats. Of the 2016 draft, Sabres' prospects, and ESPN

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres return to the ice tonight against the division-leading Florida Panthers tonight for their the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs. The Cats lead the season series 2-1 and smoked the Sabres 5-1 early in January. It was one of the few outright clunkers that Buffalo has played this year.

From Sabres PR we come to find out that the Sabres have not had a lot of success against Florida as of late as they're a paltry 2-8-0 in their last 10 overall, 3-6-1 at the First Niagara Center.

The Panthers could be ripe for picking tonight as they've cooled down considerably. They're 5-4-1 in in their last 10 games but have dropped two in a row since a five-game winning streak which included wins over Chicago (4-0,) Tampa Bay (5-2,) Toronto (5-1,) Washington (5-2) and Detroit (6-3.) That 23-goal outburst represents about 17% of their output in less than 10 % of their games. Surrounding that five-game streak, however is a 0-4-1 record where they were shut out twice and scored a total of five goals.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

No Eichel magic in Beantown last night. B's drop Sabres in OT.

Reprinted with permission from

The last time the Buffalo Sabres were in Boston, Massachusetts native Jack Eichel had a whale of a game scoring 2 goals and adding 2 assists while leading his Sabres to 6-3 comeback win in Beantown on the strength of five unanswered third period goals.

Not so much last night as the Bruins won in 2-1 in overtime on a penalty shot goal by longtime Buffalo nemesis, Brad Marchand.

Marchand was awarded the penalty shot after Buffalo's Rasmus Ristolainen coughed up the puck to him a second time. The first was at the Boston blueline but Sabres captian Brian Gionta saved the day and on the second one Ristolainen's pass labeled for Johan Larsson was picked off by Marchand who streaked in on goalie Robin Lehner. Ristolainen went with a stick-check, Marchand promptly smacked that weak effort into the air and headed towards the net with Ristolainen mugging him the rest of the way.

Was it penalty-shot worthy?

Meh. I think not. Ristolainen didn't grab him. He just kept shoving him to try and knock him off stride. The ref, however, thought so and pointed towards center ice. Marchand went in, deeked Lehner and roofed a back-hander. Game over. Bruins take the season series.

Rookie scoring race weekly recap--Panarin still tops, Gostisbehere cracks top-five

Reprinted with permission from

Chicago Blackhawks rookie Artemi Panarin will be hard to catch in the NHL rookie scoring race as he plays on the most potent line with the league's leading scorer in Patrick Kane. That and the fact that he's 24 yrs. old and spent seven seasons playing in the KHL. Props the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks for finding and bringing aboard a Russian who scored 102 points (46g, 56a) in 105 games for St. Petersburgh SKA of the KHL.

Dude has mad skills and when you put him on a line with a premier player like Kane, who leads the league in scoring, it's a recipe for big-time success.

Panarin picked up where he left off in the first week of play after the All-Star break netting a goal and adding five assists in three games while adding to his rookie leading 18 goals, 34 assists and 56 points.

It will be hard for any rookie to catch him in the overall points-race as his next closest competitor is Dylan Larkin with 37. But Detoit's Larkin did tie Panarin in goals on the strength of three goals in three games. The Detroit Red Wings forward has 18 goals and 19 assists on the season.

In what could end up as a race for second amongst scoring, Buffalo's Jack Eichel is third in points (35) and goals (16) and is tied for third in assists with 19. Eichel had a rough week scoring-wise as he was only able to register one assist in three games for the week.

Arizona's Max Domi sits fourth in the rookie scoring race with 34 points but is second in assists with 21. He added two in three games for the Coyotes last week.

Props to Philadelphia defenseman Shane Gostisbehere who cracked the top-five in points on the strength of five points (1+4) in four games this past week. Gostisbehere who was taken by the Flyers with the 78th pick in the 2012 NHL Draft has season totals of nine goals and 18 assists (fifth amongst rookies) in 33 games, easily tops defensemen in points.

The Coyotes' Anthony Duclair and the Calgary Flames Sam Bennett round out the top-five in goals with 14 each as listed on, but Buffalo's own Sam "The Forgotten One" Reinhart also has 14 goals in one less game then Duclair.

Although he's miles behind because of an injury that kept him out of the lineup 37 of his teams 54 games, Edmonton's Connor McDavid is scoring at a feverish pace. In 17 games he has 18 points (7+11) and rattled off a post All-Star break stat-line of two goals and four assists in four games last week.

Because of that lost time McDavid is far off the pace and catching Panarin is a distant dream, but who amongst us would count him out of making it into the top-five in any or all three scoring categories?

Not I, types the man at this keyboard.

Rookie Leaders (via




Sunday, February 7, 2016

Of the Buffalo Sabres present 28th place standing. Plus some prospect stats.

Reprinted with permission from

The NHL Standings say that the Buffalo Sabres have 47 points, tied with the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets at the bottom of the league. At 52 games played, the Sabres have played more than the Flames, Leafs and Jets and because of it sit behind those three in the standings. They've played two more than the Jackets who are in 30th place and have played the same number of games as the Oilers but because Buffalo has three more regulation/overtime wins than Edmonton they presently hold down 28th-place in the league standing.

For some in Sabreland it's an abomination that a team like Buffalo, who went to the bottom of the league two-years running, should be in this predicament. And in typical fan-fashion, begin to throw blame around.

Some of it is thrown head coach Dan Bylsma's way, especially in light of his shootout choices in the home loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. Some of the blame is directed at GM Tim Murray who finished the tear-down his predecessor started. It could be said that this is almost wholly Murray's squad as there are only a few holdovers from the previous regime.

Then there's blame directed at individual players and in a real head-scratcher, some throw a heap of blame towards Terry Pegula and Pegula Sports and Entertainment.

And, of course, there are those who believe there's a "stealth tank" going on as our own 22sabresQ mentioned. That Murray's looking for one more top-end pick before the team really gives it a go.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Letdown at the F'N Center. Bruins beat Buffalo in shootout.

For Buffalo Sabres fans watching last night's game vs. the Boston Bruins, the 3-2 shootout loss at the hands of the Bruins was a letdown, especially after blowing a 2-1 third-period lead on a goal that caught the entire team napping.

Boston's best penalty killer, Zdeno Chara went to the box for tripping and an inept Sabres powerplay couldn't convert. To make matters worse, just after the penalty expired, the Bruins' Brad Marchand, the second-most hated Boston player behind Chara, caught the entire Sabres team napping as he went one-on-six and lifted a backhander past a surprised Buffalo goaltender, Chad Johnson. The game-tying goal.

Even though Johnson was stout in net the rest of the way, including a sterling save in overtime, it was "that one goal" that he and all of Sabreland wanted back.

C'est la vie.

Although management, coaches and players are saying all the right things about this season, the playoffs are a far too distant dream at this point. The Sabres have 47 points, good for last in the Atlantic Division and they're 11 points back of the last wild card spot with six teams ahead of them. If they're not sellers at the February 29 trade-deadline it would be really surprising.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Notes from Montreal. Boston in town.

Reprinted with permission from

The Sabres pulled out a real good road win last night as they scored three unanswered in the third period for a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. While Montreal was on the second of a back-to-back, Buffalo was coming off of the All-Star Break after a seven-day hiatus. And it looked like it.

Les Habitants swarmed the Sabres early in the first period, at one point holding a 10-2 edge in shots on goal. But as the period wore on the Sabres found their legs, turned the table and by the end of the first the Sabres narrowed the SOG to 12-11 in favor of Montreal but more importantly went into the intermission with a 1-0 lead.

On the Montreal broadcast last night there were a number of occasions where the broadcast team mentioned that the Canadiens were "fragile." Montreal had gone from 17-4-2 prior to an injury to No. 1 goaltender Carey Price and are now 24-24-2 after last night's loss to Buffalo. To those of us who remember "the core" years, the word "fragile" made it into the broadcasting vernacular all to frequently.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

McDavid serves Calder notice. Of Montreal, Robin Lehner and John Scott.

Reprinted with permission from

It's too bad that those who subscribed to NHL GameCenter Live (like myself) couldn't watch the "Triumphant Return," as was's headline this morning, of Connor McDavid to the ice. The rookie phenom had been sidelined by a broken clavicle that cost him 37 games and it would have been great to be able to watch him dazzle on the heels of an impressive NHL All-Star Weekend. But, the note from the website was:  Media Error. Video not available.

So, we're left with the highlights and if you haven't seen it, McDavid's goal last night was the stuff of legend. With the game tied at 1-1, McDavid took the puck in the neutral zone and hit the blueline as two Columbus Blue Jackets players converged on him. He left Jackets' d-man Jack Johnson looking for his jockstrap, had defenseman Justin Faulk literally tripping over himself as he fell to the ice while he whizzed past him and made Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo look like the 21 year old rookie he is.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Will the Buffalo Sabres be Buyers or Sellers at the 2016 NHL trade deadline?

Reprinted with permission from

For the last three seasons the question of whether the Buffalo Sabres would be buyers or sellers at the NHL trade deadline was never in the minds of most in Sabreland. The rebuild was on, the Sabres were sellers and the only real questions were, "who's getting traded, where are they headed and what would the return be?"

For the last three deadline days the general theme was moving vets on expiring contracts for picks and/or prospects and it started with the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season under former Sabres GM, Darcy Regier:

--March 30, 2013:  D, Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues for a 2013 2nd round and a 2013 5th
--April 1, :  D, Robyn Regehr to the LA Kings for two, 2014 2nd-rounders
--April 2, trade deadline:  F, Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild for prospects Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett plus a 2013 1st rounder and a 2014 2nd.

Then came the all-out purge under new GM, Tim Murray beginning with the Ryan Miller blockbuster on February 28, 2014, one week before the trade deadline. Miller along with F, Steve Ott were traded to the Blues for G, Jaroslav Halak, F, Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier a 2015 1st rounder and what turned out to be a 2016 3rd.

One week later on trade deadline day, March 5, 2014:

--Halak and a 2015 3rd round pick to the Washington Capitals for G, Michal Neuvirth and D, Rostislav Klesla
--F, Matt Moulson and F, Cody McCormick to Minnesota for F, Torrey Mitchell and two 2nd rounders (2014, 2016)
--D, Brayden McNabb and F, Jonathan Parker plus the two 2nd rounders (previously acquired from the Kings) to Los Angeles for forward prospects Hudson Fasching and Nic Delauriers

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sabres goalies held their own. Depth-chart taking shape.

Reprinted with permission from

For vast majority of the Buffalo Sabres 50 games this season the net was manned by a duo that consisted of a career backup bordering on being a starter and a 22 yr. old who just came to North America.

Chad "I'm Not Ocho Cinco" Johnson, who's tour-stops as a backup include New York with both the Rangers and Islanders, Phoenix and Boston, was thrust into the starters role when designated No. 1 goalie Robin Lehner was felled by a high ankle sprain in the second period of the opening game. In his six NHL seasons Johnson played in no more than 27 games and totaled 56 games before being thrust into the starting role for the Sabres. At the All-Star break this season, he's already played in 29 games, 25 of them as a starter for Buffalo.

Rookie netminder Linus Ullmark was a 6th round pick (163rd-overall) for Buffalo in the 2012 NHL Draft. He worked is way up the ranks with MODO in his native Sweden playing his last two seasons in the Swedish Elite League. He won the Honken Trophy for Goalie of the Year in 2014 as a rookie.

After elective double-hip surgery last spring and rehabbing way ahead of schedule, Ullmark began this season with the Rochester Americans and was 1-2-0 with a 2.72 GAA and a .932 SV% before getting called up to Buffalo.

The duo were forced into a situation where there were nine new players on the ice plus a new coaching staff in place. The highly skilled offensive players that GM Tim Murray acquired were (and still are) a long ways away from being anything close to an offensive juggernaut (2.26 goals/game, 28th in the league) and their defense was suspect with the injury to No. 3/2 defenseman, Zach Bogosian.