Friday, November 30, 2018

Sabres at Lightning: Showdown for King of the Mountain tonight in Tampa

Published by, 11-29-2018

If there's a hockey fan on earth who predicted that the last place Buffalo Sabres from 2017-18 would be atop the National Hockey League just over a quarter-way into this season, stand up and be counted...and bring the proof. Fact is, no one predicted that quick of a last-to-first move as it's never been done before. According to the team, the 2018-19 Sabres are the first team ever to lead the NHL outright in points 25 games into the season after finishing the prior season with the worst record in the league.

Buffalo sits atop the mountain and heads into tonight on a 10-game winning-streak, which ties franchise-best, and will face a Lightning team that is only one point behind them in the league standings. With their win last night the Toronto Maple Leafs are second-overall, tied with the Sabres at 36 points apiece but having played one more game. The Nashville Predators, who host the Arizona Coyotes tonight, are tied with Tampa at 35 points.

It's jumbled at the up their right now, but just the very fact that Buffalo is a part of that jumble is pretty amazing. The Sabres started out the month having lost two of three but that lone win represented a breakout offensively as the pummeled the Ottawa Senators 9-2. They had a 7-6-2 record prior to their road game at Montreal to start this run and sat fifth in the Atlantic division, 18th in the league, which actually wasn't so bad for a team that finished dead last the season before. But Buffalo has managed to cobble together a 10-game run by winning in many different ways with all but one of the games having been decided by one goal including four that went to overtime and three  in the shootout. The Sabres three regulation wins included one-goal wins vs. Tampa (2-1) and at Minnesota (3-2.) Buffalo defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 at home for their only win of more than one goal.

Along with timely goals and an overall team resiliency giving them the belief that no lead is too large to overcome, goaltending has played a key role in this run. Starter Carter Hutton is on an eight-game winning streak, giving him the third-longest winning streak in franchise history. He, like the team, started out his run against the Canadiens as he made a relief appearance for backup Linus Ullmark and won in overtime. Prior to that Hutton was 4-6-1 with a 2.87 goals-against average and a .909 save-percentage. He heads into tonight's game with a 12-6-1 record, a 2.50 GAA and .920 Sv%. Although it doesn't show up in the overall stats, Hutton and Ullmark have both been excellent during this run (and even beforehand) in that they're coming up with the big save when needed.

The duo of Jeff Skinner and Jack Eichel have been on fire during this run, both with 11 points. Skinner has 10 goals during the streak, two of them game winners while Eichel has 10 assists with his lone goal being the overtime winner against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Adding to that duo is a defense that has been a handful for the opposition. During the streak d-men have contributed eight goals  including three multi-goal games with Rasmus Ristolainen potting the game-winner in overtime at Montreal to start the winning -streak.

And in a tribute to Buffalo's depth, nine different players have scored game-winning/deciding goals. In order they were Ristolainen (overtime,) Casey Mittelstadt (shootout-winner,) Kyle Okposo, Conor Sheary (SO,) Jason Pominville, Eichel (OT,) Evan Rodrigues, Skinner (OT,) Sam Reinhart (SO,) Skinner.

Lest we forget while basking in the enthusiasm of this run, the Sabres face Tampa team that has been a final four playoff team in three of the last four seasons while making it to the Stanley Cup finals in 2014-15. The Lightning came into the season as Cup contenders and still remain so despite the loss of starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for up to six weeks. From their speed and firepower up front to their solid d-corps, Tampa boasts the league's second-best goal-scoring rate at 3.68 goals/game and the league's sixth-best powerplay unit at a 26.7% conversion rate. The Sabres own the league's eighth-best penalty kill with an 81.9% kill rate.

Interesting note, Buffalo's defensemen have outscored the Lightning d-men 14-12 on the season with every Sabres blueliner scoring at least one goal (Tampa has two without.)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Skinner w/the OT winner as (now) NHL-leading Sabres win-streak hits 10

Published by, 11-28-2018

Just how much fun are the Buffalo Sabres having right now? Maybe this goal by defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is a good indication.

And just how into it are the fans? Listen to the roar as Buffalo's Jeff Skinner scores the game-winner in overtime of the 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks.

Ten games, 10 wins, three in regulation, four in overtime, three in the shootout and a Buffalo Sabres team that once again sits atop the NHL standings.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

KeyBank should be rockin' as Sabres reach for a piece of franchise history

Published by, 11-27-2018

Buffalo Sabres head coach Phil Housley has said that he and his team aren't thinking about the winning streak, preferring to focus their energies on the task at hand. It's a pretty good philosophy as you only play one game at a time and looking ahead will only get you in trouble. But while he and his Sabres are focused upon tonight's matchup against the San Jose Sharks, for those who still may not have heard, Buffalo is on a nine-game winning streak with the opportunity tonight to match two Sabres teams for the longest winning streak in franchise history.

With some of the talent that's run through Buffalo since they came into the league beginning with the 1970-71 season, it's a bit of a surprise to think that the Sabres have had a double-digit win-streak only twice in their 48 yr. history. The first time was 1983-84 when a 19 yr. old Housley was in his the sophomore season of his Hockey Hall of Fame career. It was the year the Edmonton Oilers finally dethroned the NY Islanders and their four consecutive Stanley Cups before they went on their own run winning four of the next five Cups. Speed and skill was the name of the game and the Sabres were in transition being led by 33 yr. old veteran, and Hockey Hall of Famer, Gilbert Perreault and his 90 points (31+59,) followed by 20 year old Dave Andreychuk (38 goals, 80 points) who was also in his sophomore season and would eventually join Perreault and Housley in the Hall of Fame.

Housley was third on that team in scoring that year with 77 points (31+46.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Another tough group of upcoming games for the streaking Buffalo Sabres

Published by, 11-26-2018

It's been over 12 years since the 2006-07 edition of the Buffalo Sabres began the season with an NHL record-tying 10 game win-streak while on their way to the President's Trophy for best record in the league. That streak also tied a franchise record for longest winning streak and for those who may not remember, Buffalo took the league by storm that season as they were likened to a Ferrari and were capable of coming back from any deficit at any time.

We're getting glimpses of that this season with a fast Sabres team that's feeling very comfortable regardless of the score or time of game. During this nine-game winning streak the Sabres have overcome third period deficits six times, twice they scored the game-tying goal with less that three minutes to go and in one of those two games scored twice to tie it. Six of their games have gone beyond regulation with three wins in overtime and three won in the shootout, including the last one when Tage Thompson scored to extend the session.

The adrenaline rush this team is on carried them through a tough patch where they played a total of nine games in 17 days including a mid-continent back-to-back as part of a three-game road-trip. They started out this run with a win against Atlantic division rival Montreal and faced off against division leaders Vancouver and Tampa Bay before heading west to take on Winnipeg and Minnesota, who were two top-five teams in the NHL at the time. After a stint in Pittsburgh against the struggling Penguins where they overcame a three-goal deficit, Buffalo came home to face Philadelphia before a back-to-back Friday vs. Montreal at home and at Detroit on Saturday to finish this stretch.

It doesn't get any easier for the NHL's third-best team beginning tomorrow night when they take on the San Jose Sharks at KeyBank Center before facing off against three of the NHL's heavyweights. After the Sharks the Sabres hit the road to face off against the top two teams in the league--the No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning followed  by a trip to Nashville to take on the No. 1 Predators. It will be no rest for the team as they fly back to Buffalo to take on arch-rival Toronto who are fourth in the league, two points behind the Sabres.

Buffalo head coach Phil Housley is icing a talented, yet imperfect, group of players that continue to find ways to win. Against Tampa they held on to a one-goal win (with the help of a couple of Lightning posts late in the game,) against the Philadelphia Flyers they jumped out to a four-goal lead in the first period and in Detroit they pulled it out despite giving up a one-goal lead in the third period and falling behind in the shootout.

Continuity has been a contributing factor as well. The Sabres have been largely injury-free with this lineup so far this season, save for Zach Bogosian starting the year on the injured list, Marco Scandella missing the Montreal game and forward Patrik Berglund hitting IR recently. However, Housley has been able to integrate his depth players into the lineup without his team missing a beat.

That could change somewhat as reports from the rink have forward Conor Sheary taking the ice for this morning's practice but leaving shortly thereafter. Buffalo has called up only one player so far this season as defenseman Lawrence Pilut was brought up from the Rochester Americans for the injured Scandella. Pilut did not get into game-action and was sent back down a few days later.

Regardless of who they ice, the streaking Sabres will be looking to tie the longest winning streak in franchise history held by the 1983-84 Sabres, of which Housley was a part of as a defenseman, and that '06-'07 Sabres squad. They'll have as good a chance as any facing off against a Sharks team that is sixth in the Western conference with a 12-8-4 record but after that it's showdowns with the heavy-weights for Buffalo as Tampa Bay, Nashville and Toronto have a combined 50-20-2 record this season and occupy three of the top four spots in the league.

The third-place team?

The streaking Sabres.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The beat goes on. Buffalo heads to Hitsville, U.S.A on and 8-game win-streak

Published by, 11-24-2018

When it comes to the Buffalo Sabres NHL-high eight-game winning streak there will always be some that offering up deficiencies in their game or schedule meant to detract from an impressive run. The might be the argument that the overall record of their opponents isn't the greatest and/or they're facing a lot of backup goalies and/or the analytics aren't where they should be, etc. etc. etc.

Some, maybe all, of the above may end up being true either for a portion of a game or like the one against the Tampa Bay Lightning, nearly the entire game, but the fact of the matter is, the Buffalo Sabres are "King of the Mountain" right now and no one has been able to knock them off.

A key point to make in all of this is that Buffalo isn't catching any teams off guard as the opposition is prepared to bring their 'A-game'. Take Buffalo's latest , the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs came to KeyBank Center last night having given up five goals in each of their last two games, both losses. "There's two parts to the game," said Habs coach Claude Julien prior to yesterday's game. "and defense is an important part as well.

"I've been saying it over and over again, we're giving up too much on the defensive side of the game. It goes back to a commitment to closing the play quickly, a commitment to take pride in our defensive game."

Montreal did that for large chunks of the game against Buffalo yesterday despite giving up 40 Sabres shots and allowing three goals. The Canadiens gave up the first goal 12:39 into the game and did a good job of doing what Julien asked, being quick to the puck on defense and closing the play throughout much of the rest. They did, however, have their moments of trepidation and goalie Antti Niemi had to come up with some big saves which included one that was described by TSN announcers as "not textbook." That type of attention to the defensive side of the equation allowed for Montreal to score two unanswered goals and keep a one-goal lead until late in the third period.

However, they couldn't finish the Sabres off something four other teams failed to do. Buffalo started this run coming from behind to beat Montreal back on November 10. After the Canadiens, the Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal again yesterday all had third period leads on the Sabres. None of them could hold it. Buffalo tied the game every time and five of those six, including the Canadiens twice, were decided after regulation.

It's not a dream, 9-game winning streak propels Sabres to top spot in NHL

Published by, 11-25-2018

There's a nice symmetry to the Buffalo Sabres nine-game winning streak as they've won three in regulation, three in overtime and three in the shootout. In addition to that, nine different Buffalo players have scored the game-winning/game-deciding goal during the streak.

Last night in Detroit it was Sam Reinhart's turn. But it almost never happened as his giveaway in the neutral zone with only :17 seconds left led to a golden opportunity for the Red Wings that was snuffed out by the quick glove-hand of Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark. After the whistle one could see Reinhart in a gesture of thanks then saying some words that might have included, "I owe you one."

Seven rounds into the shootout both goalies had allowed one goal each and Reinhart skated to center ice with a chance to win it. He roofed a nifty backhand from in tight past Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard for the 3-2 shootout win and the call from Sabres play-by-play man Dan Dunleavy said it all, "Say hello to your first place Buffalo Sabres."

Prior to this winning streak Buffalo sat fifth in the Atlantic division with a 7-6-2 record good for 16 points and had just come off of a 3-1 loss in New York where they were stonewalled by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. All-in-all their place in the standings at the time wasn't bad considering where they came from the prior year and the difficulties they had coming out of the gate this year.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Shrug off the tryptophan and pecan pumpkin pie, it's game day

Published by, 11-23-2018

Grab your plate of Thanksgiving leftovers and settle in this afternoon as the Buffalo Sabres are hosting the Montreal Canadiens for a 4pm start at KeyBank Center. The two teams met just over two weeks ago in Montreal with the Sabres coming out on top of a 6-5 overtime thriller which kicked off their present, league-high seven-game winning streak.

The goal-fest at Bell Centre featured Buffalo goals from Vladimir Sobotka (2,) Conor Sheary, Jeff Skinner (2) and an overtime blast from gassed defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Four times the Sabres took a one-goal lead only to see it matched before the Canadiens took a 5-4 lead on a shorthanded goal by Nicolas Deslauriers, who was traded by Buffalo to Montreal last October, late in the second period. Sabres backup goalie Linus Ullmark was in net for the first two periods before being pulled in favor of Carter Hutton to start the third period.

Neither Ullmark nor Habs starter Carey Price had a particularly good night as Ullmark only stopped 27 of 32 shots on goal (.843 save percentage) while Price was worse stopping only 25 of 31 (.806 Sv%.) Hutton only faced five shots in the third period and none 1:38 of overtime for the win.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Sabres roll into Thanksgiving savoring a seven-game win-streak

Published by, 11-22-2018

What a way to come off of a three-game road trip. By the time Johan Larsson scored Buffalo's fourth goal with only seven seconds left in the first period, KeyBank Center was rockin' and there was a collective "Wow!" rolling through Sabreland. Unlike the previous three games where they staged comebacks after being down one, two and three goals, respectively, Buffalo found themselves ahead 4-0 in this game with the hometown crowd going crazy and the team in front of them clinging to dear life.

The Philadelphia Flyers, however, weren't about to roll over. They had staged a voracious four-goal comeback with less than 10 minutes to play against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday so folding wasn't in the cards for them. Although they eventually lost to Tampa in overtime, they had proven that they had capacity mount a comeback of that magnitude and after Buffalo scored their fourth goal, the Flyers decided to take matters into their own hand.

At the puck-drop, Philly's Scott Laughton engaged Larsson for a center-ice tussle where some good punches were thrown but no real damaged done. Oddly enough it was the Flyers first fighting major of the season. That fight and a goalie change after the first intermission were enough to get Philadelphia back on their toes and they turned the tide in the second period scoring two goals while outshooting Buffalo by a 9-5 margin.

However, as they'd done the previous four games, the Sabres would not allow a third period goal and an empty-netter sealed the 5-2 win for them.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Plenty of anticipation at KeyBank Center tonight as the Sabres host Philly

Published by, 11-21-2018

When was the last time there was this much excitement for a Buffalo Sabres home game outside of opening night? It's been a while and even the excitement of hockey season may have been based more upon potential than actualities. Especially in Buffalo these last seven seasons.

It's been said time and time again that in the NHL you pretty much know what kind of team you have by Thanksgiving and when the Sabres hit the KeyBank Center ice tonight to take on the Philadelphia Flyers, the team that Sabreland will be cheering for sits fourth in the Eastern conference with a 13-6-2 record and is riding a six-game winning streak.

That's the record. But, what kind of team is Buffalo?

A resilient one, we know that much. During this streak, their longest since 2010, the Sabres have overcome third period deficits in five of those six games and four of those wins have come in overtime or the shootout. They've erased a two-goal deficit with less than three minutes to play in one game and overcame a three-goal hole against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night.

They're also a team that's been getting solid goaltending. The overall goalies stats won't invoke visions of Dominik Hasek, but what Carter Hutton (and Linus Ullmark for a game) has been able to do is keep his team in the game (sometimes with Hasek-like incredible saves) while the skaters in front of him found their legs. Very few of the 16 goals allowed during this streak have been due to goaltender miscues as there have been breakdowns and mistakes up and down the lineup.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Ooh, aah, Sabres on the warpath!

Published by, 11-20-2018

Six games. Six one-goal wins. Two in overtime, two in the shootout.

Just who are these guys?

That's what Saberland is waking up to this morning after another thriller, this one in a 5-4 overtime win in Pittsburgh.

There should be nothing but respect for a Pittsburgh Penguins organization that has won three of the last 10 Stanley Cups and even though they're in a very unusual position at the bottom of the Eastern conference, and played last night's game against the Sabres without superstar Sidney Crosby, they still have firepower and have the heart of champions.

Such was on display last night through the first 25 minutes as Pittsburgh staked their claim to a 4-1 lead over Buffalo with equal parts desperation, ferocity, skating and skill. It was something the Sabres have seen often, especially when playing in Pittsburgh, however, what we haven't seen from Buffalo is the intestinal fortitude to come back from a blitzkrieg like that.

But we're seeing it now.

Three goals down? No problem. Defenseman Zach Bogosian makes it 4-2 mid-way through the second period and with less than two minutes to go in the frame and another defenseman, Casey Nelson, cuts the lead to one goal with his first of the season. Just past the midway point of the third period Casey Mittelstadt wired a wicked wrister top-shelf to tie the score at 4-4. This one's worth another look (via

Then, in overtime, it was time for Captain Jack (via

It was the fifth time during this six-game winning streak that the Sabres overcame a third period deficit to win the game.

For as much as Sabres head coach Phil Housley wants his team to come out of the gate faster, it hasn't happened. Actually, what he's gotten has been just the opposite as Buffalo goalies look like ducks in a shooting gallery through the first two periods. During this six-game stretch Buffalo's opponents have outshot them 85-57 in the first period with four of those teams registering 15 shots or more. Somehow Buffalo has managed to come out even over those six games as both they and their opponents have scored seven goals apiece.

There's a similar shot deficit in the second period (77-54) and their goal differential is worse as they've been outscored 8-4 over that span.

However what is happening, much to the delight of the team and it's fans, is that the Sabres are owning the third period. During this six-game win-streak Buffalo has outshot their opponents by a collective 71-46 margin in the final stanza and have outscored them 7-1. The Sabres haven't given up a third period goal in the last four games and to stretch it a bit further, Buffalo hasn't allowed a goal past the 7:10-mark of the second period in those four games.

Sabres goalie Carter Hutton faced a 40-shot onslaught last night with 31 of them coming in the first two periods. Like he's done throughout this streak, Hutton single-handedly kept Buffalo in the game last night despite giving up four goals. Over his four starts and a third period relief appearance at Montreal, Hutton has faced a total of 140 shots through 17 periods of play and has allowed nine goals for a rather remarkable .936 save-percentage.

Hutton, and to an extent backup Linus Ullmark, have kept the Sabres in games they had no business being in and they've also allowed Buffalo's skaters to make their mistakes while getting into the flow of the game. Both Hutton and Ullmark (who allowed two goals on 29 shots in a win at Minnesota) were rewarded with some remarkable clutch play and goal-scoring by the team in front of them.

It's something we haven't seen in Buffalo since Chris Drury and Daniel Briere co-captained the "Ferrari Sabres" back 2006-07 when they fearlessly pushed the puck up ice while goalie Ryan Miller held the fort stopping odd-man rushes on a nightly basis. That season just happens to be the last time the Sabres had a winning streak over six games. The eventual President's Trophy winning Sabres started out that season with 10-game winning streak which matched a franchise high and also tied an NHL record for most wins in a row to start the season.

Buffalo takes on the Philadelphia Flyers tomorrow night at KeyBank Center but until then enjoy some of the sights and sounds from that 2006-07 season mikeak21 on YouTube:

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Buttah, because this Sabres team is on a roll right now

Published by, 11-18-2018

It may not be the prettiest five-game winning streak hockey has ever known, but the record states that the Buffalo Sabres haven't lost since they dropped a 3-1 decision to the NY Rangers on November 4. Although they've struggled at times within each individual game, sometimes a lot more than really was deserved of a win, at the end of the day the Sabres have snagged 10 out of a possible 10 points the past two weeks and they've done so playing against some of the best teams in the league with three of the five games being won on the road.

The "weakest" team Buffalo faced during this stretch was the Montreal Canadiens, who were 8-5-2 at the time and were two points ahead of the Sabres in the Atlantic Division. The Sabres defeated the Habs 6-5 in overtime and followed that road win with a 4-3 shootout victory at home over the 10-6-1 Vancouver Canucks, who were atop the Pacific Division at the time.

Next up would be a matchup against the Eastern conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning (12-4-1) before embarking on three-game road trip. Unlike the prior two come-from-behind wins, the Sabres took a 2-0 lead, allowed one goal to Tampa, and held off a relentless Lighting push to tie the score late in the game and with the help of two goal-posts rung by Tampa with less than :30 seconds to play, Buffalo came away with the 2-1 win.

After that it was off to the middle of the continent for a back-to-back against the Winnipeg Jets and the Minnesota Wild.

The 10-5-1 Jets were third in the Central Division at the time and whipsawed the Sabres over the first 30 minutes but were only up 1-0. Buffalo tied the score early in the third period, wiggled out of an egregious turnover with less than :05 seconds left and won the game in the shootout before heading down to take on the 12-5-2 Minnesota Wild who were second in the Central. Minnesota dominated the game early in the first period and went up by two goals but the Sabres cut the lead by one heading into the first intermission. Buffalo would score two more and leave Xcel Energy Center with a 3-2 win.

For those counting that's four come-from-behind wins and the entire stretch hasn't come against the creampuffs of the NHL either. The combined record of all five teams Buffalo beat during this winning streak was 52-25-7.

There's a giddiness in Sabreland right now the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time, possibly dating 10+ years to Buffalo's back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances, and there should be as this is a team with a lot of skill and a lot of confidence right now.

No less than five Sabres first round picks are forming a nucleus that's on the rise and none of them were taken lower than eighth-overall. The eldest of this group is 24 year old Rasmus Ristolainen, selected with the eighth pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Forward Sam Reinhart is 23 yrs. old and was the second-overall pick in 2014 while 22 yr. old team captain Jack Eichel was taken second-overall in 2015. Nineteen year old center Casey Mittelstadt was an eighth-overall pick in 2017 and the top pick in the 2018 NHL Draft was defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.

Although he isn't considered a core player, the "elder statesman" of Sabres first rounders is 25 yr. old forward Zemgus Girgensons who was taken 14th-overall in 2012.

In addition to those homegrown first round picks, the Sabres have added six more to his year's roster, all via trade save for Kyle Okposo (2006, seventh-overall, STL) who was signed as a free agent in 2016. Former GM Tim Murray traded for defenseman Zach Bogosian (2008, 3rd, ATL) while present GM Jason Botterill added four more first-rounders--D, Nathan Beaulieu (2011, 17th, MTL,) C, Patrick Berglund (2006, 25th, STL,) RW, Tage Thompson (2016, 26th, STL) and Buffalo's leading goal scorer LW, Jeff Skinner (2010, 7th, CAR.)

With that amount of skill about the only things lacking were chemistry and confidence. Although the chemistry thing is a work in progress up-front save for Eichel/Skinner on the top line and Girgensons/Johan Larsson anchoring the fourth line, their confidence is growing with each game and one of the big reasons for that is their starting goalie, Carter Hutton.

Hutton's overall numbers are decent (2.52 goals-against average, .919 save-percentage) but the 32 yr. old undrafted free agent who signed a three-year free agent deal with Buffalo this summer has managed to come up with clutch saves to keep the game within reach. In each of the games on this five-game winning streak, Hutton has held firm when needed and with the help of a little luck, never let things get out of hand. Backup Linus Ullmark did the same thing last night against the Wild as he recovered from getting pulled in the Montreal game to post his fourth win of the season. Ullmark's stat-line is very similar to Hutton's (2.65 GAA, .922 SV%) but he's yet to lose in regulation (thx to Hutton and the Sabres comeback-win in Montreal) and has the team's only shutout this year.

Although no one should be planning a Stanley Cup parade at this juncture, Buffalo's 12-6-2 start should be savored, and the present five-game winning streak hasn't been seen in these parts since mid-late March in 2012. The Sabres at the time were in the midst of a desperate run towards the playoffs in Terry Pegula's first full year as owner of the team while Coach Lindy Ruff and company were trying to overcome a brutal 3-12-2 stretch from December 16, 2011 to January 21, 2012. That gruesome stretch included losing streaks of three, four and five games, the latter of which consisted of five regulation losses.

The Sabres finished strong that season (20-8-6) but ended three points out of a playoff spot which started a playoff drought that has stretched to seven years, second longest streak in the NHL.

There are young fans in Saberland that have known nothing but mediocrity at best and failure at worst over those seven seasons and who've yet to taste success on this level. For those of us who go back to the 2005-07 ECF years and even farther back to the '99 Cup Finals, the LaFontaine/Mogilny, early-90's era and even before as us old-farts hearken back to Buffalo's first SCF berth in 1975, it's hard to fathom that there are some Sabres fans who haven't seen this level of quality hockey from their team. But it's here right now and there's a lot to be excited about.

As we hit the quarter pole, it's best to keep in mind that this Sabres team does have flaws and despite being third in the Atlantic Division and tied for fourth overall in the league, there are still 62 games to play and a lot can happen. They've been lucky so far with injuries as this group has remained largely intact for most of the season and in a game of inches, those posts that have saved them a couple times during their five, one-goal wins in this streak could turn on them.

But for now, in a take on a catchphrase from the late Stuart Scott, "they're butter ’cause they're on a roll."

Sabres continue tough stretch in Pittsburgh tonight

Published by, 11-19-2018

The last time the Buffalo Sabres had a six-game winning streak was the 2009-10 season when they finished December with two wins and opened up 2010 by winning four in a row beginning with a come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Thrashers on New Years Day. For a flashback, take in the highlights below via

Buffalo won the division that season, had a Vezina-winner in goalie Ryan Miller and a Calder-winner Tyler Myers on defense but they couldn't get by the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. Half-way through the following season Terry Pegula finalized a deal to buy the team and it sparked a late-season surge to a wild-card playoff spot. They were eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games.

From there it was all downhill.

While the Sabres were in decline, Jason Botterill was in Pittsburgh helping build a Penguins team that revolved around two highly paid superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh had broken a long playoff drought in 2009 but were struggling to regain their Stanley Cup Finals form and Botterill was instrumental in their back-to-back Cup wins in 2016 and 2017.

The Sabres and Penguins are intertwined beginning with owner Terry Pegula's strong ties to Pittsburgh. When he bought the team in 2011 names like Ted Black and Ken Sawyer, who were a part of the Penguins front office prior to the drafting of Crosby first-overall in 2005, represented a big part of his inner circle for a number of years. And Botterill had played in the Sabres organization before starting his front office career in Pittsburgh. Pegula had hired him in May, 2017 and in a show of respect for just how much he meant to the Penguins, Botterill was invited on the ice as Pittsburgh celebrated their second consecutive Stanley Cup while being the Sabres GM.

Pegula and the Sabres, lead by Black, also adopted the Penguins preferred choice for rebuilding their franchise which centered around securing consecutive high draft picks via losing seasons, otherwise known as tanking. And perhaps it was even a game against the Penguins that moved Pegula to go all-in on that philosophy.

After the Flyers playoff loss, Pegula entered his first full season as owner by ripping off the financial chains that the Sabres were under. He and then GM Darcy Regier went on a spending spree trying to lure and/or secure talent for their club. Armed with a playoff team bolstered by his off season acquisitions, Pegula sat in the Consol Energy Center owner's box for his first appearance in Pittsburgh as the Sabres owner. His team embarrassed him in an 8-3 loss and he sarcastically stated post-game, "that was some goaltending, huh?"

It was the first game of a franchise-record 12-game losing streak on the road for the Sabres, one of a few marks Pegula's Sabres would set for futility over the course of the next seven seasons.

The tank was on and it began with the trade of "Rochester Guy," Paul Gaustad at the 2012 trade deadline. In the following years one-by-one "La Core" would be dismantled--Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Miller would all be scattered in the wind while Regier and Black were preparing the fan base for "suffering."

It's been over six years since the process began and it finally looks as if Buffalo's tank/rebuild is beginning to take hold.

The Sabres are playing their best hockey in years and although it's not elite-level hockey, they've managed a five-game winning streak despite being outplayed for large stretches. Tonight they head to PPG Arena in Pittsburgh to take on a Penguins team that's reeling. The Pens are in the very unusual spot of dead last in the Eastern conference with a 7-8-3 record and they'll most likely be without Crosby, who's out with an upper-body injury.

It's a very winnable game for Buffalo but nothing should be taken for granted as the Sabres are just 1-7-2 in their last 10 games against the Pens, 2-6-2 on the road plus their in a stretch where they'll have played six games in 12 nights, four of them on the road.

And it doesn't get any easier as after tonight, Buffalo will play three games in four nights beginning on Wednesday with a home game vs. the Flyers.

It's been a long time since there's been this much positivity running through Sabreland. Like, eight years or so:

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sabres head to MIN on a four-game winning streak with some wind at their back

Published by, 11-17-2018

Last night was a battle of two teams, both of whom were on three-game winning streaks. The Winnipeg Jets, widely considered Stanley Cup contenders were hosting a possible playoff-bubble team in the Buffalo Sabres. And for the first period and well into the second, both teams were playing their respective parts. A very fast and extremely talented Jets team jumped all over Buffalo through the first 30+ minutes of the game and the Sabres were very lucky to be down only 1-0, thanks to goalie Carter Hutton.

One could almost see the steam coming out from Hutton's mask as mistake after Sabres mistake led to golden opportunities for the Jets and he vented his frustration during a TV timeout seconds after Winnipeg opened the scoring. Although the MSG feed only offered a tease prior to the break, the TSN feed showed the encounter with an obviously pissed-off Hutton skating over to the bench and laying into his team for their play.

It didn't really help, at least not right off the bat as a mere 32 seconds after the TV timeout the Sabres got caught in their own end again and a wide open Jacob Trouba teed off from the slot forcing Hutton to make another big save. Luckily for them another shot off of that long rebound went wide of a gaping net and the Sabres were spared a two-goal deficit.

Hutton is one of two players brought in by GM Jason Botterill who have been instrumental in the Sabres 11-6-2 start. The other is Jeff Skinner who once again played a role in helping this team to a win. With Hutton, and the hockey gods, keeping it a one-goal game, the Sabres finally did find their legs and it lead to a Jets penalty very late in the second period. Buffalo opened up the third period with the man advantage and for the first time in 12 opportunities (spanning the last four games and the first two periods of this one) they scored as Skinner roofed a wicked backhand from the crease to tie the game.

Holding the fort, whether his team is ahead or playing from behind, has been a Hutton-hallmark as he's been instrumental in Buffalo's present four-game winning streak. He held Montreal at bay in a third period relief appearance and allowed his team to tie a game they eventually won in overtime. Two days after that his play kept the Pacific division-leading Vancouver Canucks from increasing their 3-1 lead and the Sabres tied it on two late third period goals. He stopped two of three "Nucks players in the shootout while his skaters scored twice and they go another win.

Next up was a game against the Eastern conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. After going up 2-0, Tampa closed the gap and was relentless in the pursuit of the game-tying goal. A boat load of saves and two very late goal-posts later, Hutton and the Sabres emerged with a hard fought 2-1 win.

The combined record of those three teams was 30-15-2 at the time Buffalo faced them while Winnipeg's record heading into last night's game was 11-5-1.

Analytics and overall stats be damned, this Buffalo Sabres team is finding ways to win. Hutton has been making the big saves when needed and keeping things close while Skinner is scoring timely goals. He scored the game-tying goals against Montreal and Winnipeg, made the score 3-2 against Vancouver and opened the scoring against the Lightning. He's doing things for the Sabres the likes of which haven't been seen since Daniel Briere and Chris Drury were scoring clutch goals for Buffalo's back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals teams over 10 years ago.

The Sabres head down to Minnesota for a 6 pm EST start against the Wild tonight. This season marks the fourth year in a row that their mid-continent road trip has them playing Winnipeg and Minnesota in consecutive games. Last season Buffalo lost to the Wild then proceeded to lose to the Jets. The prior two seasons they started out in Winnipeg and swept both teams each time.

Minnesota presently sits second in the Western conference with a 12-5-2 record and the Sabres have had a ton of difficulty against them as of late. The Sabres are only 2-7-1 in their last 10 games vs. the Wild with their only wins coming two and three years ago on the road at Xcel Energy Center. However, the Sabres are on a roll having won four in a row for the first time since December, 2014 and they've done so against some of the best teams in their respective divisions.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Back-to-back road games against two hot teams begins tonight in Winnipeg

Published by, 11-16-2018

The Buffalo Sabres are coming of a trio of games where overall they didn't play as well as they could have. Yet, they're on a three-game winning streak as they head to the middle of the continent for a back-to-back beginning tonight.

Buffalo's streak began with a game of shinny in Montreal where their starting goalie, Linus Ullmark, got pulled and luckily for them the Canadiens Carey Price was worse than him. The Sabres staked their claim to four consecutive one-goal leads but by the end of the second period, thanks to a shorthanded goal by former Sabre Nicolas Deslauriers late in the period, they found themselves down 5-4 heading into intermission. A goal by Jeff Skinner and a lockdown by goalie Carter Hutton got the game to overtime allowing for defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to be the hearo with the OT-winner.

Two days later the Buffalo was back home for a matinee vs. the Vancouver Canucks. The Sabres got out in front once again but allowed three unanswered goals before Skinner and Sam Reinhart scored late in the third period with the goalie pulled to send it to overtime. The 3-on-3 session didn't provide us with a winner so it was off to the shootout, Buffalo's first of the season. Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt scored while Hutton allowed only one goal to the 'Nucks and the Sabres completed a second consecutive come-from-behind win.

On Tuesday it was a matchup against the beast of the east, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on national TV. Skinner and Kyle Okposo scored in the first period and the Lighting responded with a second period goal. Two goal posts hit by Tampa in the waning seconds of the game sealed the victory for Buffalo.

For a team with a young core coming off a 31st place finish in 2017-18, winning games they really shouldn't is a sign of progress. One of the big reasons they're doing so is the play of Hutton. The 32 yr. old late bloomer has been solid in net despite inflated numbers and the Sabres seem to have a ton of confidence in his ability to cover for their mistakes and/or inadequacies.

Hutton stole two points for Buffalo against the Lightning, which is the second time so far that the skaters in front of him were outplayed, sometimes very badly, for most of the game. The first time was against Calgary where he stonewalled the Flames until a Buffalo breakdown and led to a tipped-in goal with less than a minute to play. The Sabres had another breakdown in overtime with the loss leaving Hutton visibly upset. "It's not too shocking," he said of losing after being so close to a shutout, "we didn't play very well."

After the win over Tampa, Hutton had a decidedly different demeanor telling the media of he and his mates embracing the battle late in the third with a strong Lightning push to tie the game. "It was a big test for us tonight," he said. "They're a really good hockey team and at times I thought we let them be a really good hockey team. They made their push late, we battled and held them off. It was a big win."

It doesn't get any easier for the Sabres as tonight they head to Winnipeg to face a Jets team, winners of three in a row and are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games. The Jets have a big team with a lot of skill  and.have ridden the league's second best goal-against average (2.53/game) to an 11-5-1 record and a league-best 8-2-1 record at home. Winnipeg also has the league's best powerplay converting on 17 of 50 opportunities (34%.)

But the Sabres aren't exactly chopped liver at this point in the season. Buffalo is riding it's second three-game winning streak of the season and are 7-2-2 in their last 11 games. They head into Winnipeg on a two-game losing streak against the Jets but prior to that they'd won four in a row.

The Sabres are being lead up front by Skinner, who's been a great acquisition for Buffalo thus far. Sabres GM Jason Botterill touted the scoring prowess of the former Carolina Hurricane, especially at even strength and he's delivered thus far as he leads the team with 13 goals, which is second in the league, while his 11 even strength goals ties him for the NHL lead.  He's on a three-game goal streak, has scored goals in five of this last six games (seven total) and since coach Phil Housley put him on the top line with Eichel back on October 20, Skinner has scored 12 goals in 11 games. He also has a plus-12 rating tying him for tops in the league.

After tonight the Sabres travel to Minnesota to face the Wild for a typical mid-continent road trip as of late. The Wild sit second in the Western conference, have won four of their last five games and 11 of their last 14 (11-3-0.) In each of the last three seasons the Sabres have had consecutive games at Winnipeg and Minnesota. Last season Buffalo lost to the Wild and the following night lost to the Jets while the previous two seasons they started out in Winnipeg and swept both games.


We shall see.

Friday, November 16, 2018

On Larsson and Girgensons, coach Phil Housley's fourth-line anchors

Published by, 11-14-2018

The Athletic's John Vogl had an interesting tweet after the Sabres hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning last night:  "For 10 shifts, Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons matched up against Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. The Lightning stars left with no points."

After looking at the tape of last night's game, not only did those two hold them without a point, they also limited Tampa's dynamic duo to only three total shots on goal--two by Stamkos in the first period and one by Kucherov in the third period. Granted, both Larsson and Girgensons were on the ice when Kucherov clanked two off the post with less than a minute to play and the Bolts with an extra attacker, but the Sabres best checking duo more than held there own even while covering for a less than solid defensive winger on their right most of the night.

Both Larsson and Girgensons have had their fair share of grief thrown their way as both have been on the team through some of the worst years of hockey the Buffalo area has ever had the displeasure of witnessing. Especially Girgensons who came off a 15-goal season in Buffalo's 201-15 tank year and has steadily seen his production plummet as his offensive flaws were exposed while a number of coaches, and even GM's, paraded through Buffalo the past five seasons. It's taken a while but it seems as if he's found a home on the fourth line.

Larsson came over in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on April 3, 2013 and skated with Girgensons for the Rochester Americans in the 2013 AHL playoffs where the Amerks were swept in three games. Girgensons had three goals that series and Larsson assisted on all three of them.

Since then Girgensons has been plying his trade at the NHL level on a full-time basis while Larsson split time between Buffalo and Rochester for the 2014-15 season before skating full time for Buffalo the following seasons.

The numbers haven't been kind to either player from '15-16 on. Girgensons scored 28 goals and 49 points in 217 games prior to this season and was a cumulative minus-19. Larsson scored 20 goals and 45 points in 190 games during that span and is a combined minus-41 with minus-30 of that negative rating coming last season.

For his part, Girgensons has been in the lineup, although he's been moved all over. Former Sabres bench boss Dan Bylsma used him on every line in almost every position while Housley's usage isn't too far off that. With Larsson's struggles last season, it's no wonder that there was plenty of apprehension heading into training camp.

To his credit, Larsson worked hard in the off season and Housley took notice early in camp. “Regardless of the first year, I see him now, I think he’s had three really good days (of training camp),” Housley said to the media after a scrimmage. “He’s come into camp in really good shape, probably the best shape that he’s been in. So it’s good to say he took the words in the right way at the end of the year. But he’s been really, really good so far in camp.”

However, despite great strides made by Larsson he suffered a lower body injury and didn't make it into the lineup until Buffalo's fourth game of the season. That game against Colorado was pretty brutal for Larsson and he remained out of the lineup until Housley blew up his forward lines and put Larsson back in. Since Housley did that on October 20, his Sabres are 7-2-2.

The coach had relied on the duo of Larsson and Girgensons to lock things down in close games and they've done a solid job giving up a late lead once so far.

They were on the ice last night late in the game with the Lightning assaulting them in the defensive zone, but with the help of two goal posts they managed to hold the lead and give a well-deserved win to goalie Carter Hutton who stood on his head to steal two points from the conference's best team.

Although they aren't putting up the points (a combined one goal and six assists,) they're getting the job done in a defensive role as Housley's fourth-line anchors. And they seem to be relishing their roles, as a frustrated Stamkos and Kucherov might attest to.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sabres gearing up for an Eastern Conference heavyweight on NBCSN

Published by, 11-13-2018

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been one of the last four playoff teams standing in three of the last four seasons with one of those ending up in a Stanley Cup Finals appearance. They're still a relatively young, very fast and extremely skilled team that can score, as evidenced by their league-leading 3.65 goals/game. Tampa sits atop the conference once again and has the second-best goal differential (+15) in the league.

The Buffalo Sabres are just figuring out that this winning thing is pretty cool. After a 2017-18 season spent wandering in the desert and an opening night 4-0 shutout loss where they looked the part of a last-place team again, the Sabres slowly began to get it together. They ended up going 2-2-0 in their opening four-game homestand and came back from a 10-day Pacific Division road trip above the .500 mark for the first time in years. The tail end of that roadie beget a three-game winning streak and a five-game point streak before they took a step back losing the next two games. Buffalo got back on track with dual come-from-behind wins--a 6-5 overtime win in Montreal and a 4-3 shootout win at home against the Vancouver Canucks.

Buffalo enters tonight's contest against the 12-4-1 Lightning with a 9-6-2 record, which isn't bad considering they hadn't won their night game last season until December 22.

No one will ever consider Buffalo a Stanley Cup contender but with team hovering around a wild card spot for the past few weeks, at this point they might be considered playoff contenders. The Athletic's Sean McIndoe, aka Down Goes Brown, put the Sabres in a group of early season success stories who may fall in the standings.

"At 9-6-2, they’re holding down a share of the final Eastern wild-card spot," wrote McIndoe. "After years of being dead in the water by November, the Sabres are at least in the mix."

However, "They’re a sports team from Buffalo, so we know this ends badly, wrote McIndoe in his next segment on the Sabres. "Bu-t 'badly' is relative; for a Sabres fan, watching this team lose a heart-breaker in the first round of the playoffs wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Even seeing them stay in the race all season long before falling just short would have to feel like at least a moral victory.

"So can they do that? Maybe."

McIndoe points to for some early season strength of schedule comparisons that have Buffalo with the second easiest schedule so far. Which is true, especially when their first four losses were against  playoff teams from last season--Boston (4-0,) Colorado (6-1,) Vegas (4-1) and San Jose (5-1.)

The Sabres just got came through a stretch of hockey where they went 6-2-2 and they face a pretty stiff challenge beginning tonight against Tampa Bay at KeyBank Center. After that they hit the road for back-to-backs in Winnipeg and Minnesota before flying to Pittsburgh to face off against the Penguins Monday night. For those counting that's four games in seven night's including three-in-four nights on the road.

Head coach Phil Housley was on WGR550 Radio this morning for his weekly spot and he called this upcoming stretch "a great opportunity...playing against really good competition." Housley pointed out that the Vancouver Canucks, whom they beat in the shootout on Saturday afternoon, were at the top of the Pacific Division and when you add in that team, it made for a challenging stretch of games. He preferred to focus upon tonight's game against the Lightning calling it "a big divisional game for us."

The Sabres really haven't provided too much of a challenge for the Lightning as of late. Buffalo is only 2-5-3 in their last 10 home games against Tampa and only 3-8-1 against them over the last three seasons. However, as surprising as it might sound, the last place Sabres of 2017-18 went 2-2-0 vs. the Lightning.

Housley tinkered with his lines at the end of the Vancouver game moving Sam Reinhart up and pushing Jason Pominville down and it looks if that will take hold tonight. Reinhart had the primary assist on Jeff Skinner's goal with 2:27 left to pull the Sabres to within one and he also scored the game-tying goal on a long rebound off of defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen's shot from the left half-wall. Word from the rink had these as the probable forward lines for tonight:


On Buffalo's fourth line, Tage Thompson looks like he'll be in the lineup for the second game in a row while Zemgus Girgensons is back in the lineup after a one-game hiatus. Patrik Berglund, according to The Athletic's Joe Yerdon was on the ice but not taking line sprints. Forward Remi Elie once again joined d-man Casey Nelson as the fourth d-pairing and none of those three look as if they'll be in the lineup tonight.

No changes are expected on defense as these will once again probably be the pairings:


Carter Hutton is expected to get the start in goal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Published by, 11-12-2018

Entertaining, fun and suspenseful hockey made it's way into Sabreland late last week and into the weekend. Sure, the Buffalo Sabres back-to-back, come-from-behind wins were eventually dwarfed yesterday by a 2-7 Buffalo Bills team that managed to run roughshod over the New York Jets (41-10) as a seven-point underdog, but what the Sabres were able to do was pretty impressive too.

On Thursday night in Montreal the Sabres blew four one-goal leads over the Canadiens before hitting the second intermission down 5-4. Buffalo tied it early in the third period before winning it in overtime. It was as entertaining a game as you'd find and coming out on the winning end made it all the better. They returned home for a Saturday matinee against the Vancouver Canucks and scored twice in the final 2:27 to tie the score at 3-3 and eventually win it in the shootout. According to the NHL it was only the seventh time in the history of the team, and the first time since March 24, 2010, that they tied the score while being down by two goals with 5:00 or less left in the game.

It's also the first time since January, 2017 that the Sabres have won back-to-back games in overtime and the first time since December, 2014 when including a shootout. Those two on wins on December 13th and 15th happen to be the tail end of their last winning streak of more than three games.

The Sabres are also above over the real .500 mark again with a 9-6-2 record and they are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. Included in that stretch is a three-game win streak that kicked off a five-game point streak (3-0-2.)

There's a confidence level with this team that we haven't seen in a long time. In fact one can make the argument that it may have been over a decade since we've seen a Sabres team truly believe, and we the fanbase actually believe, that they're never out of a game. "You look at probably the last few years, it’s been a little bit tougher to come back in games," said Sabres captain Jack Eichel to the media after the Vancouver game. "This year we’ve had some third periods where we’re down or trailing or maybe we give a goal up we’re not happy about, but I think the resiliency in this group and that never-out-of-it attitude, the ability to continue to fight, it’s been tremendous."

At the 17-game mark of this young season the Sabres are third in the Atlantic Division with 20 points and they're playing some good hockey that many times is fun to watch.


A big reason the Sabres are fun to watch, have the confidence to come back and are where they are in the standings is that they're scoring more. Buffalo was at the bottom of the league three times in the last five seasons including 2017-18 where they managed 2.41 goals/game. This season, with the help of a nine-goal eruption vs. Ottawa, the Sabres are 19th in the league averaging 3.06 g/gm. The last time the Sabres were finished the season over three goals/game was in 2007-08 at 3.06 g/gm.


The acquisition of Carolina Hurricanes left winger Jeff Skinner was a huge get in the goal-scoring department for Buffalo. GM Jason Botterill went into the off-season without a top-six left winger and acquired Conor Sheary and Skinner in separate trades to solidify that side of the forward group. Sheary, a former Pittsburgh Penguin, got off to a good start faded a bit but now has six goals through 17 games.

Skinner got off to a slow start as head coach Phil Housley tried to find him a home with the right linemates. The three-time 30-goal scorer started out on the top line with Eichel and Sam Reinhart but was moved to the second line for the next handful of games before eventually landing back with Eichel on the top line. That  move was part of a big forward shake-up heading into a road game against the Los Angeles Kings has paid huge dividends for both Skinner and the Sabres. He started out with a hat trick in LA and has scored 11 of his team-leading 12 goals in the ten games since Housley made the move. Skinner is tied for second in the lead in goals.

The Sabres are also getting contributions from their defensemen, something that hadn't happened last season until December. As of right now all but one d-man has scored a goal (Casey Nelson) and they've contributed eight goals total to Buffalo's cause. Rasmus Ristolainen, who scored the game-winner on overtime against Montreal, and Nathan Beaulieu, who opened the scoring against Vancouver, lead the d-men with two goals each.


Beaulieu has been playing very well while in the lineup, most notably cutting down on the egregious errors that were very commonplace last season, his first as a Buffalo Sabre.

Botterill traded a third round pick to Montreal for Beaulieu as he needed to add more mobility to the Sabres back-end. The 25 yr. old Strathroy, Ontario was selected 17th-overall in the 2011 NHL Draft but eventually the Canadiens lost faith in him as he started the 2016-17 season on the top-pair but fell all the way out of the lineup as a healthy scratch in Montreal's final game of their 4-2 ousting by the NY Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. He was traded about two months later.

Beaulieu's career in Buffalo didn't start out all that well as he finished his first season as a Sabres with only one goal and nine points while his minus-19 was seventh worst on a last place team. However, he's managed to turn that around by keeping his turnovers low and his plus-6 is second-best on the team behind Skinner's plus-11.

"I know last year was obviously a struggle,” said Beaulieu via Joe Yerdon of the Athletic. “But yeah, I’ve heard murmurings I’ve had good (numbers) and I feel like that’s a reflection of my play. I like my game when I’m out there.”

The Sabres coaching staff challenged him (as well as every player) to focus more and Housley has taken notice, He’s been sharp, he’s been focused, he’s moving the puck, he’s on his toes," said the coach (via Yerdon.) "I think that was just the body of work. You’re going to have times when your play dips a little bit, but he’s certainly has been really focused this year.”

Circumstances, including and injury in San Jose and a Sabres three-game winning streak, have kept Beaulieu in the press box for seven of the team's 10 games, but he has looked much better when on the ice and he's slowly earing the confidence of the coaching staff.


Perhaps another element that has Beaulieu more focused is the push for playing time that reaches all the way down to Rochester. The Sabres have seven defensemen on the roster right now and a bevy of players and prospects in Rochester who are garnering the attention of big club.

The Americans are off to a raucous 10-3-1 start that has them atop the AHL's North Division and only one point behind the Charlotte Checkers for the tops in the league. They've scored 54 goals through 14 games (3.86 g/gm.) and have three players in the top-10 in scoring with two of those being defensemen.

Thirty-year old Zach Redmond leads all AHL defensemen with 10 goal (third in the league) and his 18 points place him fifth. Defenseman Lawrence Pilut is 22 yrs. old and is in his first North American pro season. He's tied for sixth in the league with 17 points (2+15.)

And those are just the point-scorers.

The Amerks have a plethora of defensemen playing various roles and the shear numbers allowed for them to trade Taylor Fedun to the Dallas Stars over the weekend. The 30 yr. old journeyman defenseman was signed by the Sabres to a one-year, two-way deal in 2016 and was extended with at two-year, two-way deal in 2017.

He was an Amerks alternate captain the last two seasons.


Speaking of Redmond, he was part of another trade with Montreal back on October 4, 2017. Buffalo sent Nicolas Deslauriers to the Canadiens for Redmond in a straight-up player-for-player swap.


And for fun, here's Casey Mittelstadt's shootout-winner vs. the Canucks (via

Monday, November 12, 2018

Amerks roll on KeyCenter ice, Sabres at Montreal tonight

Published by, 11-8-2018

The Rochester Americans brought their show to Buffalo, NY last night in a showdown of the top two teams in the AHL's North Division. Rochester sat atop the division two points ahead of the Cleveland Monsters (CLB) and the two teams faced off in front of a sparse, but very appreciative crowd at KeyBank Center, home the Buffalo Sabres. After their 5-2 win, the Amerks increased their lead in the division to four points and continued a streak that has them snaring 19 of a possible 22 points (9-1-1) in their last 11 games.

Forwards Justin Bailey and Wayne Simpson each scored twice for the Amerks while defenseman Zach Redmond also scored. For Bailey it was his first two goals of the season while Redmond's ninth goal of the season kept him in the lead amongst all AHL defenseman and places him third in the league. The 30 yr. old has had a red-hot start to the season with at least a point in all but two of Rochester's 13 games and has goals in his last four of his last five games.

Here are the highlights from the club:

Meanwhile, the Sabres are in Montreal tonight to take on the Canadiens. This will be the second meeting of the season between the two clubs with Buffalo stealing a come-from-behind win on a late third period powerplay goal by Kyle Okposo in their first meeting.

Buffalo is two points behind Montreal in the standings and has struggled as of late against them. The Sabres are 3-4-3 in their last 10 games vs. Les Habitants including an 0-2-2 record last season.

Here was the lineup from practice yesterday:

Jeff Skinner - Jack Eichel - Jason Pominville
Conor Sheary - Casey Mittelstadt - Kyle Okposo
Evan Rodrigues - Vladimir Sobotka - Sam Reinhart
Patrik Berglund - Johan Larsson - Zemgus Girgensons / Tage Thompson

Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen
Marco Scandella -Zach Bogosian
Rasmus Dahlin - Nathan Beaulieu

Forward Remi Elie skated with Casey Nelson as an extra defensive pair while Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark were in net.

The Sabres are 1-2-2 in their last five games.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Sabres off 'til tommorow. WNY can focus on Amerks at KeyBank Center tonight

Published by, 11-7-2018

The Buffalo Sabres won't hit the ice for a game until tomorrow night when they take on the Montreal Canadians at home. Buffalo has had a good start to the season with a 7-6-2 record over the first 15 games and only a -1 goal differential that was pushed there with a 9-2 shellacking of the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.

Although not the youngest team in the league, the Sabres have a young core that included two teenagers (18 yr. old defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and 19 yr. old center Casey Mittelstadt) and have a 22 yr. old captain in Jack Eichel. That core of the future is balanced out by three older warhorses age 30 or older with a myriad of players at various stages of their prime years. The Sabres are about the sixth youngest team in the league.

Chronological age is one thing, but perhaps their play is more indicative of a young team still trying to find it's way. This edition of the Sabres has been inconsistent and although they've not been able to string together more that three wins in a row, on the other side of the equation, they've not lost more than three in a row. Some games they're great (the Ottawa win mentioned above, at Los Angeles and Arizona last month) and some games they're not so great (Boston to start the season, vs. Colorado and at Vegas and San Jose.

What they do have going for them is a youthful core with some high-end talent and some depth that's helping them along and both of those traits stretch down to their AHL affiliate in Rochester.

After losing the first two games of the season (back-to-back at home, no-less,) the Rochester Americans went on an eight-game point streak (7-0-1) and securing 17 of a possible 20 points in their last 10 games. It was a run that propelled them to the top of the North Division. The Cleveland Monsters (CBJ,) whom the Amerks face tonight at KeyBank Center, are second in the division just two points behind Rochester.

The Amerks have a lot of skill, a lot of depth and a group of hardened AHL vets leading the way. They also can score. Presently Rochester's 45 goals ties them with the Chicago Wolves (VGK) in team-goals with the Amerks playing in one more game and they have three of the top five scorers in the league. Veteran defenseman Zach Redmond and forward Victor Olofsson are tied second in the league with 16 points each while defenseman Lawrence Pilut is tied for fourth with 15 points.

Redmond's eight goals leads all AHL defensemen and Pilut's 13 assists sits atop the AHL. Pilut's plus-11 rating leads the Amerks and is tied for fifth best in the league.

Olofsson (23 yrs. old) and Pilut (22) both came over from the Swedish Elite League and are in their first North American seasons.  They lead an influx of draft and free agent talent that came to the Amerks this season and are just two up-and-coming players of interest to the Sabres organization.

Very talented winger Alexander Nylander was drafted eighth-overall by Buffalo in the 2016 NHL Draft and has had a rough go of it in his first two AHL seasons. However there are signs that he's beginning to turn it around with a stat line of four goals, five assists and a plus-5 rating in 12 games. Defenseman Brendan Guhle (2015, 51st-overall) is third amongst Amerks d-men in scoring with six points (2+4) and has an even plus/minus rating.

Those are just a handful of players to watch tonight as the Amerks take the ice for a North Division showdown with the Monsters who, by the way, have the league's leader in points (19) and goals (12.)

Also of note, West Seneca native Sean Malone will make his season debut for Rochester tonight. There was talk of Malone making a strong pitch to make the big club out of camp but an injury squashed that. Malone was cleared by the Sabres and sent to Rochester yesterday.

Game time is 7:05 pm.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Sabres breakout with 9-2 win over OTT, face NY Rangers tonight

Published by, 11-4-2018

It started early yesterday afternoon for the Buffalo Sabres with a pregame, feel-good celebration of Jason Pominville's 1000th NHL game, which actually occurred against Ottawa on Thursday prior to the first game of their home-and-home with the Senators. The Sabres and the KeyBank Center crowd saluted Pominville with a pre-game celebration and the team hit the ice some adrenaline.

After a choppy start the Sabres began to pick up the pace with a terrific shift by their third line played mostly in the Ottawa zone and a minute later Rasmus Ristolainen dropped a long stretch pass to Jack Eichel who went in on a breakaway with a head of steam creating some oohs and ahs from the hometown fans. Although no goals were produced, the momentum was clearly in Buffalo's favor and the third line broke through with a goal by Kyle Okposo off the rush five minutes into the game.

The Sabres would tack on two more goals--one by Jeff Skinner and another by Pominville--and left the first period with a 3-0 lead.

Buffalo continued to pour it on in the second period as Skinner scored again and Zemgus Girgensons scored his first of the season :13 seconds later to make it 5-0. After Ottawa got on the board, Pominville answered with his second of the game only :29 seconds later and Conor Sheary made it 7-1 with this blast :42 seconds after that:


Patrick Berglund and Casey Mittelstadt finished off the scoring for Buffalo.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Housley's "shot mentality" taking hold, Buffalo building confidence

Published by, 11-6-2018

Buffalo Sabres bench-boss Phil Housley has been stressing a "shot mentality" since he came on board last season and it's finally beginning to take hold as an influx of talent, depth and speed has helped bring that to fruition. The 2017-18 edition of the Sabres had that mentality, somewhat, as they finished 20th in the league at 31.2 shots on goal/game but this year they've upped that a bit to 32.9 SOG/gm (ninth in the league) and lately have sent a barrage of rubber at the opposing goalies. In their past six games Buffalo has hit the 40-shot mark four times and has averaged slightly over 39 SOG/game.

On Sunday they followed up a 41 shot-performance against the Ottawa Senators with 40 SOG at New York against the Rangers and for the second time in six games took over 70 total shots. Unfortunately for the Sabres, they faced the Rangers Henrik Lundqvist on Sunday and he was a wall allowing only one goal, a rebound from in tight by Buffalo's Conor Sheary, as the Rangers went on to win 3-1.

Despite some ups and downs, including some serious ones like the nine goals Buffalo scored on Saturday against the Sens followed by the one goal against the Rangers the next night, the team seems to have found itself. Sabres Captain Jack Eichel tipped his hat to Lundqvist post-game but didn't seem distressed at the loss. "I thought we played pretty hard," he said to the gathered media, " I thought we had a lot of chances.

"We played a pretty good game but obviously we have to find a way to get one by [Lundqvist.]"

The Sabres were in control for long stretches of the game but took a hit very early the second period when the Rangers opened the scoring with two goals in a 19-second span. The bad news is that there were breakdowns and poor coverage on both goals but the good news is that those things can be corrected. And, unlike past seasons, the Sabres have shown the ability to mount a comeback mostly by playing their game. Sometimes they come back all the way and win, sometimes they don't, but you really can't count them out.

After getting one back in the third period Eichel was asked about the team's confidence-level in the latter stages of the game being down only one goal. "Going into the third (period) we were pretty confident that we were going to make a push. [Sheary] gets his goal and I think we all expected to get the next one."

That mind-set of "we all expected to get the next one" is something that we haven't heard about post-game, nor seen on the ice, in years.

At it's core this is still a young team with players finding their way. They're still prone to breakdowns and they need more finish, but they're progressing nicely and starting to believe in themselves and they type of game they're playing.

It's a big step that won't consistently show up in the results now, but if they continue on this path they're reap the benefits a little further down the road.


Props to the Sabres for not letting losing streaks get out of hand thus far. In knowing that they were still young at their core, one of the things they needed to do this season was avoid prolonged losing streaks and so far they've managed to do that. Buffalo stopped a three-game slide with the win over Ottawa and only lost two in a row one other time.

Last season the Sabres lost four games in a row on seven occasions which included losing 10 of 11 (1-8-2) during two separate streaks in November. There were a total of 31 games involved in those and they went a combined 0-27-4.

That's how you end up being a last place team and so far it doesn't look as if Buffalo is headed in that direction.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Minimal changes for a Sarbes team on a three-game winless streak.

Published by, 11-3-2018

The Buffalo Sabres hit the ice today for a 2 pm matinee game against the Ottawa Senators at KeyBank Center. It's the second game of a home-and-home against Ottawa with the Senators defeating Buffalo 4-2 at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday night. In losing that game the Sabres had a five-game point-streak turned into a three-game winless streak. After winning three in a row, the Sabres lost consecutive games in overtime and followed up with the loss against the Sens.

Buffalo is looking for secondary scoring...again...still. The line of Jack Eichel flanked by Jeff Skinner and Jason Pominville has been carrying the weight of even strength scoring and it hasn't been enough during their three-game winless streak. The trio have accounted for five of the Sabres six even strength goals the last three games and 37 of Buffalo's 115 shots on goal (32%.) The only player to score at even strength for the Sabres during that time was winger Kyle Okposo.

It was pointed out by a media member yesterday at coach Phil Housley's post-practice presser that there are 10 forwards on the team who are struggling with scoring. Players like Sam Reinhart (1 goal,) Patrik Berglund (1 goal,) Conor Sheary (0 even strength goals) and even rookie Casey Mittelstadt (0 even strength goals) have the skill and/or veteran savvy to be contributing more in a secondary scoring role and for various reasons they have not. Overall, Housley attributes the lack of secondary scoring to an aversion to play in front of the opposition net.

"You look at where we're scoring our goals," said Housley, "you look at the two goals we scored last night. They're right in front of the net. That's one thing they can learn. It might not be pretty, it might just be going to the net. [The puck] might hit you, it might go off of a shin pad, you might get a second opportunity."

Saturday, November 3, 2018

A 5-game point streak is now a 3-game winless streak after OTT loss

Published by, 11-2-2018

It was Jason Pominville's 1,000th game last night and even the hometown Ottawa Senators acknowledged that with a little video commemorating his milestone. Which was very classy, especially when you consider Pominville's most famous goal knocked the Senators out of the playoffs in that very same building back in 2006.

As the Ottawa Sun put it, Pominville "returned to the scene of the crime" last night for his milestone and then he even proceeded to score a goal for the Buffalo Sabres, but it wasn't quite enough as they lost to the Sens 4-2.

The Sabres team that hit the ice last night couldn't have looked more different than the '06 Buffalo team that advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals on Pominville's shorthanded, overtime winner. In fact they've only played three good periods the last three games an were lucky to come away with two loser points. Prior to the game last night, some leaned towards the thought process that the very fact that the Sabres were able to get points while not playing their best was a sign of progress as opposed to years past when they folded.

However, a team just can't continue doing what Buffalo has been doing the last three games and hope to consistently win or even get a point. The Sabres pulled into Columbus last Saturday night on a three-game winning streak and looked like they found their game leaving the first period with a 2-1 lead over the Blue Jackets. But old habits die hard. They succumbed to an aggressive Columbus team and gave up three unanswered goals in the second period before coming back to tie the game in the third period. Buffalo quickly lost in overtime and the overriding theme afterward was that the Sabres showed some gumption in coming back in the third to tie it.

Fair enough. But what transpired in the next game was cause for concern as they were dominated by the Calgary Flames who were at the tail-end of an eight-game, 14-day crisscross between their Mountain Time Zone and the Eastern Time Zone. Buffalo was their last destination and they allowed only one Sabres goal before tying it late in the third period and winning it in overtime.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Buffalo Sabres 2018-19 Team Stats--October

Published by, 11-1-2018

First off, congratulations to Sabres winger Jason Pominville who will be playing in his 1,000th NHL game tonight. Not bad for the rather slight (5'11" 180 lb.) native of Repentigny, Quebec who was drafted 55th overall by Buffalo in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and was also waived by the team at the end of training camp prior to the 2005-06 season.

The Sabres were lucky in that no one claimed him and he went on to score 185 goals and 456 points in 578 games for Buffalo before being traded to the Minnesota Wild. Pominville spent four seasons in Minnesota before he was traded back to Buffalo in 2017. He'll join the 1,000-game club tonight as the Sabres take on the Senators in Ottawa.

Pominville's Sabres are off to a very solid start to this NHL season posting a 6-4-2 record through the month of October. A terrible second period at Columbus two games ago almost sunk them but they managed to comeback to get a point against the Blue Jackets and they wasted a brilliant performance by goalie Carter Hutton on Tuesday at home against Calgary. The Sabres lost a 1-0 lead with less than a minute to go in the third period, failed on the powerplay right off the bat in overtime then allowed the Flames to win it.

Although 7-4-1 looks a lot better, the team this year is better and definitively more watchable compared to what we saw last season and it shows in the overall team stats.

Buffalo is one of 11 teams with six wins placing them smack-dab in the middle of the league along with their 12 points. In looking back at where they finished the past five seasons listed here, that's a good start to the season.

October is one of those months were there are aberrations aplenty and the further we get into the season the more things level out. Buffalo is middle-of-the-road in most categories save for the goals area where they're lagging in shots/game (24th in the league,) goals/game (26th,) 5v5 goals (25th) and goal-differential (22nd.) The Sabres have balanced those deficiencies out somewhat on the defensive side of the equation with league rankings solidly in the mid-teens.

Buffalo has had an inconsistent start to the season which included a five-game, 10-day Pacific Division road trip and there have been a lot of inconsistencies. As we move through the next month or two this edition of the Buffalo Sabres will begin to reveal itself and hopefully we'll see them light the lamp a little more on offense and tighten up on defense.

But until then, we'll leave you with Pominville's most famous goal, his series-clinching short-handed, overtime winner against the Senators in Ottawa on May 13, 2006 (via jzambon):


Buffalo Sabres 2018-19 Team Stats (League Rankings)...(Leader):


--October:  6 (17th)…(NSH, 9)

--2017-18: 25 (31st)...(TBL, 54)
--2016-17: 33 (25th)...(WSH, 55)
--2015-16: 35 (23rd)...(WSH, 56)
--2014-15: 23 (30th)...(ANA, 49)
--2013-14: 21 (30th)...(BOS, 54)

Atlantic Division Standing

--October:  5th...(TBL)

--2017-18: 8th...(TBL)
--2016-17: 8th...(MTL)
--2015-16: 7th...(FLA)
--2014-15: 8th...(MTL)
--2013-14: 8th...(BOS)

Eastern Conference Standing

--October:  6th...(TBL)

--2017-18: 16th...(TBL)
--2016-17: 15th...(WSH)
--2015-16: 14th...(WSH)
--2014-15: 16th...(NYR)
--2013-14: 16th...(BOS)

League standing/Points

--October:  14th/12...(NSH/18)

--2017-18: 31st/62...(NSH/117)
--2016-17: 26th/78...(WSH/118)
--2015-16: 23rd/81...(WSH/120)
--2014-15: 30th/54...(NYR/113)
--2013-15: 30th/52...(BOS/117)

Points Percentage

--October:  .583 (15th)…(TBL, .773)

--2017-18: .378 (31st)...(NSH, .713)
--2016-17: .476 (26th)...(WSH, .720)
--2015-16: .494 (23rd)...(WSH, .732)
--2014-15: .329 (30th)...(NYR, .689)
--2013-14: .317 (30th)...(BOS, .713)

Goal Differential

--October:  -4 (22nd)…(COL, +14)

--2017-18: -81 (31st)...(TBL, +60)
--2016-17: -36 (24th)...(WSH, +81)
--2015-16: -21 (20th)...(WSH, +59)
--2014-15 -113 (30th)...(NYR, +60)
--2013-14: -91 (30th)...(BOS, +84)


--October:  2.58 (26th)…(PIT, 4.30)

--2017-18: 2.41 (31st)...(TBL, 3.54)
--2016-17: 2.43 (24th)...(PIT, 3.39)
--2015-16: 2.43 (25th)...(DAL, 3.23)
--2014-15: 1.87 (30th)...(TBL, 3.16)
--2013-14: 1.83 (30th)...(ANA, 3.21)


--October:  30.3 (24th)…(CAR, 41.7)

--2017-18: 31.2 (20th)...(FLA, 34.4)
--2016-17: 30.4 (15th)...(PIT, 33.5)
--2015-16: 29.5 (17th)...(PIT, 33.2)
--2014-15: 24.2 (30th)...(CHI, 33.9)
--2013-14: 26.3 (30th)...(SJS, 34.8)

5v5 Goals

--October:  18 (25th)…(PIT, 33)

--2017-18: 119 (31st)...(TBL, 196)
--2016-17: 126 (28th)...(MIN, 187)
--2015-16: 121 (28th)...(DAL, 167)
--2014-15: 110 (29th)...(TBL, 181)
--2013-14: 96 (30th)...(ANA, 190)


--October:  20.0 (17th)…(WSH, 37.1)

--2017-18: 19.1 (20th)...(PIT, 26.2)
--2016-17: 24.5 (1st)
--2015-16: 18.9 (12th)...(ANA, 23.1)
--2014-15: 13.4 (30th)...(WSH, 25.3)
--2013-14: 14.1 (29th)...(PIT, 23.4)


--October:  2.92 (15th)…(ARI, 1.91)

--2017-18: 3.39 (29th)...(LAK, 2.46)
--2016-17: 2.82 (19th)...(WSH, 2.16)
--2015-16: 2.62 (15th)...(ANA, 2.29)
--2014-15: 3.28 (29th)...(MTL, 2.24)
--2013-14: 2.96 (25th)...(LAK, 2.05)

Shots against/Game

--October:  32.2 (19th)…(VGK, 24.4)

--2017-18: 32.7 (23rd)...(CAR, 28.9)
--2016-17: 34.3 (30th)...(LAK, 25.9)
--2015-16: 30.6 (22nd)...(NSH, 27.3)
--2014-15: 35.6 (30th)...(LAK, 27.0)
--2013-14: 34.3 (28th)...(NJD, 25.5)

Penalty Kill

--October:  78.9 (15th)…(TBL, 93.2)

--2017-18: 77.9 (22nd)...(LAK, 85.0)
--2016-17: 77.6 (25th)...(BOS, 85.7
--2015-16: 82.6 (9th)...(ANA, 87.2)
--2014-15: 75.1 (30th)...(MIN, 86.3)
--2013-14: 81.4 (20th)...(NJD, 86.4)

Faceoff Percentage

--October:  49.0 (19th)…(PHI, 57.1)

--2017-18: 51.5 (7th)...(CAR, 54.1)
--2016-17: 49.6 (17th)...(ANA, 54.7)
--2015-16: 49.4 (21st)...(ARI, 54.7)
--2014-15: 44.9 (30th)...(BOS, 53.6)
--2013-14: 46.8 (29th)...(NSH, 53.1)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Buffalo Sabres 2018-19 Individual Stats Leaders--October

Published by, 10-31-2018

Even though it's just a point in the standings, a 7-4-1 record looks a lot better than a 6-4-2- record, which is where the Buffalo Sabres ended the month of October this season.

Buffalo had the chance to come away with two points last night but a couple of mental miscues left them settling for a loser point in a game they probably should have lost outright. Late in the third period up 1-0, Sabres bench boss Phil Housley went with much of the same crew that had protected one-goal leads on two previous occasions.

In that situation, the name of the game is get the puck and get it out of the zone by any means necessary. This group didn't get it done. With Vladimir Sobotka cheating a bit outside the Buffalo blueline, Zemgus Girgensons struggled along the wall working through a little hook and hold before his attempted chip to the blueline was intercepted. One pass and two deflections later the game was tied and we were headed to overtime.

When it comes to 3-on-3 overtime, the object is puck possession and getting it in the hands of your best player(s) especially when it's Jack Eichel staring at oodles of space on an odd man rush in the opposition zone. Buffalo d-man Rasmus Ristolainen must have had visions of his gold medal goal in overtime of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships because he opted to take it wide and head towards the net. He was stripped of the puck, blew a tire and the Flames headed back up ice on a 2-on-1 with Eichel as the only defender. Two passes later, the puck was in the Buffalo net sealing the 2-1 OT win for Calgary.

At 6-4-2 the Sabres are doing much better this season than last. Their last two losses were in overtime and they managed to snag a point even though they played lousy hockey--in Columbus for a second period where they gave up three unanswered goals and last night for most of the game.

Sabres goalie Carter Hutton was not a happy camper after last night's game as he was hung out to dry again and did everything in his power to put the team in a position to win. "We played with fire too many times," a visibly upset Hutton told the media post-game, "and they made us pay tonight."

Hutton was a good get for the Sabres by GM Jason Botterill and he's been more than holding his own despite a rather large 2.94 goals-against average paired with a decent .910 save percentage. Hutton let one Buffalo media member know just how he felt about his play and how he's being perceived when he was asked how much better he felt tonight as compared to his last three or four games (where he's given up an average of three goals/game.)

"I think I've been pretty good so far this year" said a miffed Hutton to the media member. "I think you guys criticize me a lot on one or two goals. You guys have your opinion, I have mine and that's all I can say on that."

Hutton was one of a handful of players either signed or traded for by Botterill to help fill gaping holes in the Sabres roster and he's had a positive impact on the team thus far. So has LW, Jeff Skinner.

Skinner was acquired by the Sabres to fill a gaping hole at left wing and to help 5v5 scoring. After a slow start he's been as advertised. Presently he leads the team with six goals and is tied with Eichel for the team lead with 12 points. All but one of Skinner's goals have come at even strength with the other being an empty-netter.

In addition to his goals, Skinner has six assists which is tied with defenseman Jake McCabe for second on the team (Eichel,) and his four primary assists in October tie him with Sam Reinhart for the team lead in that category.

Skinner also leads the team with a plus-10 rating which is presently sixth in the league.

Thirty-five year old winger Jason Pominville has come to life again. After being placed on the fourth line to start the season, he was moved up with Eichel and Skinner when Housley blew up his lines. Pominville's 10 points place him third on the team this season and he's also the closest to Skinner in plus/minus with a plus-6. Of note, in 12 October games last season Pominville had six goals and six assists while this year he has five goals (second on the team) and five assists.

Whereas Skinner has a definitive lead on the positive side in plus/minus, Ristolainen is a team-worst minus-10 with both of Calgary's goals last night contributing to that. Reinhart and another Sabres acquisition, Conor Sheary, come in at minus-7 while Kyle Okposo is a minus-6.

Last season the Sabres had a 3-7-2 record through the month of October. They scored 28 goals, all by forwards. This season the Sabres are 6-4-2 and have scored 31 goals, six of them by defensemen. Hutton's GAA and Sv% are almost identical to Robin Lehner's 2.78 gaa and .910 sv% last season with Lehner coming away with a 2-4-1 record in October.

There's been a big difference in the backup goalie position as Linus Ullmark is 2-0-1 with a 2.00 GAA and .935 Sv% while last year's backup, Chad Johnson was 1-3-1 with a 4.06 GAA and .880 Sv%. Ullmark also has the team's only shutout.

Buffalo Sabres 2017-18 Individual Stats leaders

--October:  Skinner, Eichel, 12;  Pominville, 10

--October:  Skinner, 6;  Pominville, 5;  Eichel, 4

  Powerplay Goals
--October:  Sheary, 3;  Okposo, 2;  four players with 1

--October:  Eichel, 8;  McCabe, Skinner, 6;  Reinhart, Pominville, 5

  Powerplay Assists
--October:  Reinhart, 4;  Skinner, 3;  four players with 2

  Primary Assists
--October:  Skinner, Reinhart, 4;  Eichel, Pominville, Okposo, Ristolainen, 3

--October:  Skinner +10;  Pominville +6;  Beaulieu +3

  Plus/Minus (Bottom)
--October:  Ristolainen, -10;  Reinhart, Sheary -7;  Okposo, -6

Goalies (composite)

Carter Hutton
 --October:  4-4-1 record;  2.94 goals against; .910 save percentage;  0 shutouts

 Linus Ullmark
 --October:  2-0-1;  2.00 GAA;  .935 Sv%;  1 shutout