Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
the game last night:
--Calgary's in a bad way right now. The Flames are a fast, young team that gave the Buffalo Sabres all kinds of trouble when they met earlier in the season. But last night they were in disarray for long stretches and took penalties (three hooking, two tripping and two interference) indicative of a team that was playing the game as step behind. And, for a team that came into the league ranked 30th in the league on the penalty kill (72.8%,) it made a bad situation even worse as they came up on the wrong end of a 6-3 score.
--It would seem as if Buffalo shook off the west coast road trip blues last night. It's been said time and again, most notably by WGR's Paul Hamilton, that coming home from a trip on the opposite coast is a tough task. The Sabres came back to Buffalo after a three-game trip to California and played a sub-par game against the Edmonton Oilers in "McEichel-I." Last night against Calgary was a different story as they came out skating. And, what a surprise, in a normally docile First Niagara Center, there were actually signs of life emanating from the crowd. I see a correlation, fast skating and aggressive play seems to excite the fan-base.
--When the Sabres skate they can be a pretty entertaining team and they played that way last night. Buffalo was particularly aggressive on penalty kill when they managed two short handed shots on goal in the first period including one on a 2-on-1 break where captain Brian Gionta's shot from in tight forced Flames' goalie Jonas Hiller into a very tough save. The crowd loved that then went bonkers as Marcus Foligno scored a shortie to put the Sabres up 2-1.
--Foligno's goal was on a quick snap that beat Hiller top-shelf. It's amazing what a quick snapper or wrister can do--quick off the stick and "Ping!" off the post and in. Bam! Foligno's goal was followed by one from Calgary's Dougie Hamilton :16 seconds later and then another one for Buffalo from Nicolas Deslauriers all three in a 1:17 span and all quick releases that went off the iron and in.
--The Sabres are still missing Ryan O'Reilly, especially on the powerplay. Since the first game of O'Reilly's IR stint when the Sabres went 2/3 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo has converted on only one of 16 opportunities with the man advantage. Last night against a 30th ranked Calgary penalty kill, the Sabres went 1/8 with the man advantage and it wasn't until their eighth powerplay that they were able to convert. All-in-all Buffalo was on the powerplay for 13:01 of the game last night.
--Buffalo's lone powerplay goal was scored by Jack Eichel who broke a personal worst, seven-game goalless drought, tying his longest of the season. But his 18th goal tied him with fellow rookie Sam Reinhart for the team lead. Evander Kane would add the empty-netter last night giving him 18 on the year as well. That trio, by the way, was put together as a line after the trade deadline sent forward Jamie McGinn to the Anaheim Ducks. They looked real good last night and, dare I say, look as if they have some chemistry brewing. With Reinhart's brains, Eichel's speed and shot and Kane's chutzpah, there's a lot going on. It will be fun to watch the remainder of the season, if they stay together. All three were on the ice for Kane's empty-netter and all three had a hand in the goal despite it being unassisted.
keeping one's opinions to oneself:
Sabres GM Tim Murray was on WGR's Schopp and the Bulldog last night before the game and the production crew at GR put together two snippets of callers concerned with Eichel. The first one compared Eichel to former Sabre Michael Peca calling Eichel "an awesome two-way player who could be an awesome checking line center," while the other one was concerned that Eichel had the potential to end up like Jody Gage, an AHL Hall of Famer who couldn't quite cut it in the NHL. To which the show's host Chris "Bulldog" Parker replied, "Oh my God!"
Gage, who scored 504 goals in 1038 AHL games had 14 goals in his 68-game NHL career. Eichel already has 18 so he's already surpassed Gage's NHL production. At 19 yrs. old.
To Bulldog's credit, he bypassed that lead-in, "we'll leave that, present that without comment," he said, "there's really not much to say there." To which Murray replied, "I never knew anyone would have lower expectations than I would, being the pessimist that I am."
good karma trading players:
After getting that out of the way Bulldog immediately went into the trade deadline, which Murray said went about as expected, and he asked the GM just how much of trading a player involves finding a good spot for said player.
It can be a complicated situation as the team, obviously, wants to get the best return possible or at least come out of it with a hockey trade. But Murray does take the player and his agent into consideration when doing a deal. "It's a little bit important," he told Bulldog, "and sometimes it will come back to you in different ways.
"Players talk, agents talk. I believe agents have a big control in our game, if you do business in the right way, they see that."
It's something that sets the team up for the future as GM's will be dealing with those same agents many other times.
Murray put Jamie McGinn in a great situation when he shipped him to Anaheim. It also happened to be a slightly better return than we would have gotten from another team. He said that the McGinn camp was very happy with the trade and called to let them know. McGinn's agent called right after saying that assistant GM Mark Jackubowski "was his new favorite assistant GM" because of the trade.
"I think you can try to do what's best for the player and still do what's right for the organization," concluded Murray, "and keep developing good relationships in the business."
Fasching came from the Los Angeles Kings in one of Murray's first deals as a GM and he's having a breakout season as a junior for Michigan. Word came out after an interview with the Big-10 Network that there may be some questions about him playing for the Buffalo Sabres as he was asked, "how much thought do you put into the next step," meaning the pro-level.
To which Fasching replied, "It's tough, it's a tough situation. You talk to other pro teams being around, but your focus needs to [stay] here. That's what I try to do."
Not sure what all the hullabaloo was about, but some had the Sabres having trouble signing him when he gets out of college.
The Sabres control his rights until after his senior season, but it looks as if Fasching may be coming out after the season is over. "We expressed our [plans] for him going forward," said Murray of the situation. "We would like to get him here as quick as possible. We've spoken to him and to those around him and they know our intentions and they seem very open to that.
"That would be the intent."
Murray went on to say that he hoped Facshing would take an Amateur Tryout contract with Rochester so they wouldn't have to burn a year off of his entry-level deal, but it sounded as if the team really wants to get him on the ice for the organization regardless of that.
"We're going to do everything we can to make this happen sooner rather than later," he said.
freaking out over standings:
For those who were all up in arms at one point as the Sabres were close to the bottom of the league along with a Toronto Maple Leafs teams that had three games in hand, rest easy. You can puff out your chests and break out your favorite old Laffs jokes. The Sabres are tied for 23rd in the league standings with 60 points while the Leafs are dead last with 52 points and they only have one game in hand.