Published by hockeybuzz.com, 1-8-2017
It was a football game they could have, and probably should have, won yesterday. The Buffalo Bills held the Jacksonville Jaguars to 10 points in the AFC Wild Card game but could only manage a field goal from their offense. It was a game of inept quarterbacks with one of them finding a winning formula by using his feet instead of a shaky arm while the other just couldn't get it done. Again.
The Bills' defense played a helluva game, but for one drive couldn't stop Blake Bortles scrambling. As expected, the Jaguars defense, one of the best in the league, throttled the Bills except for one drive, but in the end, a penalty, some miscues and a total collapse kept Buffalo out of the end zone as they settled for the field goal instead.
For those following the Bills, it wasn't all that surprising to see Buffalo's offense struggle with the defense carrying the team. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the Bills offense had one golden opportunity, which may have been just enough in this game, but a series of events left them short of the endzone leaving a fanbase frustrated once again.
Having this edition of the Bills break a 17-year playoff drought was a good thing, but leaving a win on the table like that wasn't very satisfying to many and they have every right to feel that way. However, the Bills can head into next season with the weight of the drought lifted and they should have a clear sense of what's needed to hopefully make the playoffs again.
While the Bills were in the main event for Western New Yorkers, the Buffalo Sabres were in Philadelphia to conclude a lengthy seven-game trip away from KeyBank Center with a matinee against the Flyers. This trip, like the season, had not gone very well and they proceeded to drop this one 4-1.
If it ain't one thing it's another with this team this year. Prior to yesterday's game, the Sabres were having trouble getting out of the gate and found themselves chasing the game. More often than not their comeback would fall short leading to a record of 10-23-9 would indicate. Yesterday, however, was different as they applied great pressure against the Flyers, outshooting them by a 12-5 margin in the first only to leave the period with the game tied at 0-0.
The Sabres came out strong in the second with Ryan O'Reilly scoring on Buffalo's third powerplay at the 1:55 mark of the period. From there things deteriorated. The Flyers scored 2:08 later and added another one at the 7:17 mark to take the lead.
As has happened throughout much of this season under new head coach Phil Housley, his Sabres, for reasons unknown, deviated from the game-plan against the Flyers. "We were staying with it, and then we got away from it and for some reason we wanted to make plays instead of trying to do the right thing and make the right choices," said Housley to the post-game media after.
Perhaps his players were left frustrated by a goalie who made some great saves in the first period, including one remarkable one on Sam Reinhart. As they continued to get stymied it looked like they were trying to do to much, got sloppy and choppy, and wound up getting burned in the process. "We just changed the way we were playing for some reason," said the coach. "A lot of East-West plays, turnovers. Puck management that was uncharacteristic from what we were doing in the first period."
The final two goals were empty-netters to make it 4-1.
This is a continuing problem for Housley and this group and it doesn't seem as if it's going to get ironed out anytime soon.
Two top Sabres prospects playing in Rochester have been recalled. Defenseman Brendan Guhle and goalie Linus Ullmark have gotten the call and took the morning skate with the Sabres. Both have been integral parts of an Amerks turnaround that moved them from 26th in the league last season to second place in the AHL's Eastern Conference this year.
Guhle, who was selected in the second round (51st) of the 2015 NHL Draft, has been playing top-pairing, all-situations minutes in Rochester and is tied for second in scoring by a rookie defenseman with 20 points (7+13.) No word on any injuries right now but Victor Antipin has been out because of illness and didn't make the recent three game road trip to Minnesota, Winnipeg and Philadelphia (0-2-1.)
Ullmark is in his third pro season and has been a workhorse for the Amerks both this season and last. The Amerks 2016-17 Team MVP has continued to progress nicely for the club and is tied for the AHL lead with 17 wins. He also leads all AHL goalies with 26 games and has a .928 save percentage (4th) and a 2.27 goals-against average (6th.)
The 24 yr. old came to North America after helping MODO of Sweden's top league avoid relegation in 2014-15 then was rushed into duty after elective double hip surgery after goalie Robin Lehner went down with a high ankle sprain in the first game of Buffalo's 2015-16 season. He appeared in 20 games for the Sabres that season and had an 8-10-2 record with a 2.60 GAA and .913 sv%. Ullmark also played for the Amerks in his rookie season going 10-16-0 with a 3.41 GAA and .902 sv%.
Lehner, who has been the Sabres best and most consistent player lately, got dinged pretty good in the Philadelphia game as he took a hard shot off what looked like his collarbone in the second period. He would remain in to finish the game.
According to reports from the rink, Guhle skated on the second paring with Jake McCabe while Zach Bogosian was moved down to the third pairing with Nathan Beaulieu. Coach Housley mixed up his forward lines as well:
The Sabres are home for the next two games and play three of the next four at KeyBank Center before heading out for a three-game Western Canada swing. The Winnipeg Jets come to town tomorrow and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
The Rochester Americans play Wednesday and Friday so it will be interesting to see where Guhle ends up this week and how they'll work Ullmark into the mix for Buffalo.