Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Krueger Crisis? A 2-6-2 slide makes you wonder what's next for the Sabres

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 11-18-2019

Buffalo Sabres bench boss Ralph Krueger was a motivational speaker at one point in his professional life and even wrote a book:  Teamlilfe Über Niederlagen zum Erfolg. Teamlife is his motivational company and the English translation of the rest is Beyond Setbacks to Success, which is what a motivational book should be all about. In case you were wondering, the entire book is in German, a language Krueger is fluent in, and as of now there's no English translation.

Perhaps head coach Krueger needs to revisit "motivational" Krueger's book because his hockey team is facing more than a setback right now. In fact, he may even want to get an English translation of the book and hand it to his players as his Sabres are in the midst of a pretty good slump. After beginning the season 8-1-1 while looking motivated and on fire, the team is now mired in a 2-6-2 slide while  looking tired and beaten only a quarter into the season.

The latest setback for Buffalo came last night in a place they rarely win, the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Sabres dropped a 4-1 decision to the Blackhawks and ran their record of futility in the Windy City to 0-7-3 in their last 10 games. Buffalo hasn't won in Chicago since January 7, 2007.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Eichel-4 Sens-2. Plus, on the Rasmus Dahlin benching, Rasmus Asplund and more

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 11-17-2019

Jack Eichel has had some big games for the Sabres dating back to December 26, 2016 in Boston where as a rookie he led the charge (2 goals, 2 assists) in a come from behind 6-3 win against his hometown Bruins. the 23 yr. old Eichel has a had hat trick before and has had more four-point games before, which includes two already this year (both games 2+2.) However, he reached another level in last night's four-goal game in the Sabres 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. It's not just the fact that he scored four goals or that he outscored Ottawa himself, Eichel carried his team on his back when they needed it most.

The Sabres have been struggling since getting off to a torrid start to the season, came into the game on a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) and as a team couldn't beat Sens goalie Craig Anderson last night. It's a movie Buffalo hockey fans have seen over and over again for over a decade, one in which they played a team they could or should beat, but in the end were left to lament that they worked hard and had the chances but just couldn't finish and/or didn't have puck luck. For the Sabres other 17 skaters on the ice against last night, that part of the equation was true.

What those previous teams didn't have was a player like Eichel who has the skill-level to defy that scenario.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Now might be a good time for the Sabres to start winning

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 11-16-2019

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of tonight's matchup between the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center, tonight is Hockey Fights Cancer Night around the NHL. To those  who've been touched by this dreadful diseases, the millions whose stories are many and varied, prayers and best wishes to you.

The Sabres game tonight against the Senators has a definitive connection to Hockey Fights Cancer Night in the form of center Rasmus Asplund. The 2016 second round pick (33rd-overall) saw both of his grandparents succumb to cancer with his grandfather passing the day after he was selected by Buffalo. "He basically waited for me to get home from the draft and show the draft jersey and all that," said Asplund to the gathered media this morning. The 21 yr. old center was called up from Rochester yesterday and found out a bit later that he will play in his first NHL game tonight.

Asplund will take the place of an injured Johan Larsson centering Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo. He'll be the second new face up front joining Curtis Lazar who scored his first goal in his first game for Buffalo in the Sabres 5-4 overtime loss versus the Carolina Hurricanes. Larsson, it should be noted, scored the game-tying goal with just over a minute to play in the third period.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Special. Teams. Matter.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 11-15-2019

Yes, we know. A vast majority of an NHL game is typically played 5-on-5. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out. However, when the a powerplay is awarded, it's up to that team to capitalize on it and, conversely, it's imperative that the shorthanded team prevent a goal. Unfortunately for the Buffalo Sabres, they haven't been scoring on the powerplay and they haven't been getting the job done on the penalty kill.

"Specialty teams did decide the result again today," said Buffalo head coach Ralph Krueger as his team dropped a second consecutive game to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 Global Series. "Definitely out powerplay let us down as did our PK this weekend."

Krueger's Sabres dropped Game-1 vs. Tampa 3-2 and lost 5-3 the next night. Buffalo went 0/2 with the man advantage in each of those games while the Tampa Bay went a combined 3/7 (1/4 in the first game, 2/3 in the second game) on their powerplay opportunities. Fast forward to last night's 5-4 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and Krueger's words once again rang resoundingly true. The Sabres went 0/3 with the man advantage while the 'Canes scored on two of their three oppoprtunities.

With the loss last night the Sabres are now winless in their last six games (0-4-2) with every game save for the 6-1 loss to the Washington Capitals and the two-goal loss to Tampa being one-goal affairs. They lost in the shootout to the Arizona Coyotes and in overtime last night and were shut out by the Islanders 1-0.

Specialty teams are very much situational opportunities to grab or thwart momentum and for the Sabres Krueger has said time and again that the offense feeds off of their powerplay and having it go 1/14 (7.1%) in their last six games (0/10 in their last four) pretty much explains why Buffalo is 0-4-2 during that span scoring a total of 12 goals. The other part of the equation is Buffalo's penalty kill where in those six games, the opposition went allowed six goals on 14 powerplay opportunities, or a 57.1% kill-rate.

For a team that has had trouble scoring a struggling powerplay is problematic and for a team that is in a 0-4-2 slump, preventing as many goals as possible is most definitely in their best interest. Regardless what the analytics community might think or believe, special teams matter. Especially to this Buffalo Sabres team right.

And with that, I yield back my remaining time.

Friday, November 15, 2019

"Twenty-one games to Christmas"

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 11-14-2019

That was Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger talking to the gathered media post practice yesterday concerning their upcoming schedule. His Sabres squad had just come back from participating in the 2019 Global Series which featured a somewhat compact schedule in October and early November, five days to travel and acclimate to Stockholm, Sweden for their back-to-back against the Tampa Bay Lightning last weekend and another four days to reacclimate to North America. Sunday was a travel day with Monday and Tuesday being mandated days off. The Sabres resumed practice yesterday and will have a game tonight at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Krueger said that the team will have a pregame skate this morning because they haven't been on the ice and mentioned how he and his club will be approaching 21 games in 39 days leading up until the Christmas break. "The reality is we have the 21 games 'til Christmas and we're breaking it up into little groups. We've got five games, two-day pause;  six games, two-day pause;  six games, two-day pause; four games."

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Some mid-six juggling and the search for secondary scoring (again)

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 11-13-2019

You have to like the gumption Krueger has shown in sticking to his system of beliefs. With his Buffalo Sabres on a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) and mired in a 1-5-1 slump with litany of offensive woes plaguing his team, Krueger is standing firm to what he laid out in the beginning of the year and continues to defend his players work-ethic. Krueger was on the WGR550 radio this morning and once again he talked about how hard everyone has been working on the ice but not having the results there.

It's common theme Sabreland has heard dating back the Lindy Ruff years and unfortunately, on the whole, it's lead to full-season results that have kept them out of the playoffs or worse for a NHL-long eight seasons. Last season we heard head coach Phil Housley talking about playing a good team over there while coddling his players despite some despicable efforts and we found out, among a number of things, that he wasn't really cut out for the job and that his team was lacking in a few key areas.

Things have changed for the better with the Sabres as general manager Jason Botterill added key pieces to his blueline and added to his forward ranks. Early in the season it looked like it was a huge step in the right direction but with this recent streak there have been calls for Botterill to make a move if he wants his team to take a big step over last season. Perhaps there are things in the works, but the third-year GM runs a pretty tight ship with very few leaks coming out during his tenure.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Nikita Kucherov's dirty hit on Sobotka and what it might mean for the Sabres

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 11-9-2019

Tampa's Nikita Kucherov will never be misconstrued as a Cro-Magnon, Milan Lucic-type player who's main purpose on the ice is to use his animal instincts to intimidate the opposition. Kucherov couldn't be further from that as he's a brilliant offensive player for the Lightning and unlike the hulking Lucic, he's all of 5'11" 180 lbs. However, the dirty hit that took out Sabres forward Vladimir Sobotka tapped into that type of mindless intimidation.

Sobotka was low-bridged by Kucherov late in the first period of Buffalo's 3-2 loss in yesterday and unlike challenging a 6'3" 231 lb. Lucic, any number of Sabres players on the ice at the time could have come at the smaller Kucherov with little fear for their personal safety. But they didn't:

--Casey Mittelstadt had a front row seat for the hit, as did the official who did not call an interference penalty on the play (at least.) He's 6'1" 199 lbs.
--Defenseman Colin Miller was on the ice and had the same view. He clocks in at 6'1" 193 lbs.
--At 5'11" 195 lb. Jeff Skinner is about the same weight-class as Kucherov but had his back to the play. Skinner has shown enough gumption in the past as to not take something like that lightly, so one would assume that if he saw what happened he'd have been all-in
--Henri Jokiharju is 6'0" 195 lbs. He was on the ice too.

Size-wise, none of them had anything to fear but, they all went about their business as if nothing of note had happened, even with Sobotka laying on the ice in obvious discomfort clutching his leg.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Game-day...finally: BUF/TBL at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Can anyone in Sabreland remember Buffalo's last game? Sure you can go to the scoreboard and see that the NY Islanders defeated the Sabres 1-0 and you might remember that the Islanders scored early before playing lockdown, 90's trap-hockey to secure the win. 

Buffalo hasn't played a game since that Saturday night loss at KeyBank Center and that's OK. The National Hockey League tabbed them to play in their Global Series over in Stockholm, Sweden against the Tampa Bay Lightning which is an honor, especially for six Sabres players who made the trip and are returning to their homeland as a part of an NHL team. Hats off to Sweden-natives:

D, Rasmus Dahlin
F, Marcus Johansson
F, Victor Olofsson
F, Johan Larsson
G, Linus Ullmark
D, Lawrence Pilut

Friday, November 8, 2019

An eye on the Amerks with Don Stevens

A dozen games into their 2019-20 season, the Rochester Americans are doing well. They're tied for third in the division right now with a 7-3-1-1 record with those 16 points placing them tied for fourth in the conference. Rochester is also fifth in the AHL with a .667 points percentage. 

But it hasn't been easy road to get there.

The Amerks started out the season with their head coach up in Buffalo serving as a Sabres assistant. Chris Taylor got the call to Buffalo after Sabres assistant coach Don Granato was hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, which his brother Tony described as a "scary" situation. Don Granato was hospitalized for an extended length and Taylor was picked to take his spot behind the bench while his assistant, long-time hockey-man Gord Dineen, became the interim bench boss in Rochester.

According to long-time Amerks broadcaster Don Stevens, whom I chatted with yesterday, things look as if they'll be returning to normal as Granato's "getting better" and they expect him back soon. 

Checking in on the Sabres prospect pool with Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com, Part II

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 11-5-2019

This is the second of a two part series looking at the Sabres prospect pool with Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com. Part I can be found by clicking here

As laid out in the previous blog, what Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill has been able to do on the blueline for his team the last three years has been pretty impressive and that's without landing a franchise-type defenseman in Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. Botterill fortified and modernized his D-corps through some savvy trades while he and his scouting staff focused on the blueline at the draft using eight of their 18 picks on defensemen.

That's the good part of the prospect pool. The not so good part comes into play when we take a look at the forwards and goalie situation.

There's a two-fold reason for the not so good part when it comes to the forwards in the system. Botterill inherited a pool bereft of forward talent because a.) they were still recovering from the scorched-earth rebuild of his predecessor and b.) the Sabres top prospects were picked high in the draft and quickly made their way into the NHL lineup. Second-overall picks Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel were playing for the Sabres as teenagers, while 2017 eighth-overall pick, Casey Mittelstadt also started out his rookie season as a teenager. Which is fine as those top picks are expected to be on a fast-track to the NHL.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Checking in on the prospect pool with Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com, Part I

This is the first of a two-part series looking at the Sabres prospect pool as of today with Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com.

After chatting about the Sabres prospect pool with Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com, one is left with the sense that the organization has come a long way in the last three years but that there is also still plenty of work to do.

Right now there's a symmetrical dividing line between the Tim Murray regime and that of present general manager Jason Botterill as each was in charge of three NHL Drafts. The difference between Murray's picks from 4-6 years ago and Botterill's from the last three years can't be fully compared as not enough time has elapsed for the players selected to reach their ultimate hockey potential, but what we do know is that Botterill took over as general manager with a thin prospect pool and that he pretty much had to rebuild a rebuild.

"It took some time to reset some things when Botterill came in," said Baker via a phone interview yesterday. "The previous regime didn't really draft and develop all that well. Murray's group had a couple of guys out of [those drafts] but you're not really gonna screw up when you're picking at the top of the draft with players like [Sam] Reinhart and [Jack] Eichel. They go through the prospect ranks fairly quickly. When that happens you don't have a lot of depth behind them."

Monday, November 4, 2019

Sabres five-game recap

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 11-3-2019

You don’t need a lot of analytics to figure out that the Sabres hot start has cooled to the point where it looks like they’re struggling. Something as simple as their record is a good place to start. Buffalo began the season going 4-0-1 then went 4-1-0 which included a three-game California road trip. However this last stretch of five games hasn't been too kind to the Sabres as they could only manage a 1-3-1 record.

Quality of competition might be a big factor as the first five teams they face had a combined 44% win percentage through their first five games, the second grouping was at 42.5% through their first 10 games while the last grouping of teams Buffalo has played clocks in at a 56.7 win-percentage, and that includes the top team in the NHL, the Washington Capitals and the second best team in the Metropolitan Division, the NY Islanders, who are a combined 20-5-3 on the season.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Buffalo Sabres 2019-20 Team Stats--October

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 11-1-2019

It should be an interesting night at the rink in Washington DC tonight when the Sabres face off against the Washington Capitals. Fans in the nation's capital are celebrating their first World Series Championship since 1924 as the Washington Nationals finished off a heavily favored Houston Astros team in seven games, winning all four on the road. The 2019 Nats championship comes on the heels of a 2018 Stanley Cup win by the Capitals, their first-ever Cup win.

Party vibes will be swirling all around the Sabres as they take on the Caps and hopefully Washington captain Alex Ovechkin has been showing his baseball counterparts just what celebrating is all about. Ovechkin and his team mates embarked on a legendary post-championship party that began in Las Vegas, where they defeated the Golden Knights in five games, with the party stretching from days into weeks. The captain was quoted as saying, "Get some beers, get some whatever and start celebrating."

That they did.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Buffalo Sabres 2019-20 Individual Stats Leaders--October

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-30-2019

With three days between games, the Sabres are getting some time in the gym and on the practice rink as they get ready to start a new month with a back-to-back this weekend. Buffalo just concluded a stretch where they opened the season playing 13 games in 26 nights, which included a California road trip of three games in four nights, and they came out pretty well with a 9-2-2 record.

New head coach Ralph Krueger has his team playing an on-your-toes, up-tempo, 200' game and because of their early-season success he's been able to keep his lines and pairings intact. That continuity has led to some nice chemistry, most notably up-front with Marcus Johansson centering Jeff Skinner and the d-pairing of Marco Scandella and Henri Jokiharju.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Sabres and Bills both need to make a move

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-29-2019

Prior to Sunday the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills had a combined 14-3-1 record and both were in great spots moving forward--the Sabres were atop the NHL and the Bills were second in their division, squarely in a wild card spot. After this last night both were still in solid spots but a little shine taken off of their armor. The Sabres went 1-1-1 over a three-game stint from Thursday to Monday while the Bills ran into a road grader in the form of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday who beat them 31-13 in Buffalo.

The Bills couldn't handle an Eagles team that was embarrassed the week before in Dallas. Philadelphia came to Buffalo with their backs against the wall in a fight for their playoff life and used an NFC East-style running game led by a big and mean offensive line to plow their way to 218 rushing yards and three touchdowns. After the game, Eagles running back Jordan Howard was quoted by the as saying, "We were able to wear their defense down. You could tell at the end of the game that they really didn't want to tackle us."

Having said that, you couldn't place the blame fully on the Bills defense as the offense sputtered. Once Buffalo fell behind they were throwing the ball more, getting nowhere in the process, and eventually the Eagles just ground them down as evidenced by a very lopsided 35:57 to 24:03 time of possession in favor of Philadelphia.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Sabres looking for a 10-win October

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-28-2019

The longest winning streak in Buffalo Sabres franchise history came in the month October as that 2006-07 team won their first 10 games of the season. That record was matched last season as the team won 10 in a row in November. What followed those two streaks couldn't be more extreme. The '06/'07 Sabres went on to win the President's Trophy for most points in the NHL that year while the '18/19 Sabres missed the playoffs and finished 27th in the league.

With a win tonight Buffalo will become the first team to 10 wins this season and they would also tie that '06/'07 Sabres team for most points in October, albeit having played two more games. They're also off to a 5-0-0 start at home which is the first time a Buffalo team has done that since 1984-85 and a with win tonight they will tie a franchise record set in 1975-76 for best start at home.

Monday, October 28, 2019

That winning feeling

Back in 2006/07 when the Buffalo Sabres were the surprise of the National Hockey League with a team that embodied "the new NHL," Buffalo captain Chris Drury said their goal was to not lose two games in a row. The team came out on fire winning their first 10 games of the season before dropping one in the shootout and would go 11-0-1 before their first regulation loss. That Sabres team wouldn't lose two games in a row until mid-December and went on to win the President's Trophy with a 53-22-7 record. They finished the season with consecutive losses a total of five times (thrice in January.)

Although it's still a very young 2019-20 season, this edition of the Buffalo Sabres has yet to suffer back-to-back losses. Of the 12 games they've played thus far, three of them have not gone well but they managed to follow those up with some solid performances. The Sabres lost in overtime at Columbus but followed it up with a 5-4 overtime win at home against the Montreal Canadiens, they got manhandled for the final 40 minutes in 5-2 a loss at Anaheim then shut out the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 the following night, and last night they shut out the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 after losing 5-2 the previous night at New York against the Rangers.

A quick qualifier:  Montreal, Los Angeles and Detroit are a combined 11-18-2 thus far on the season.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Down goes Buffalo. Detroit up next tonight.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-25-2019

For as good as the Buffalo Sabres have been this season, their Achilles heel has been their performances on the road. They're most definitely getting it right at home as a the Sabres are sporting a rather robust 5-0-0 record (which includes two wins in overtime and one in the shootout) while outscoring their opponents 22-11, their play on the road has been suspect.

After getting shellacked by the NY Rangers last night 6-2 their road record is a pedestrian 3-2-1 and they've played their three worst games this season away from KeyBank Center. They were outplayed in Columbus but pulled out a point against the Blue Jackets, were manhandled by the Anaheim Ducks, and outplayed by an opportunistic Rangers team last night. They were outscored by a combined 15-7 in those three losses.

The most noticeable shortcoming in those three games is from Buffalo's top line as Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson have combined for one goal and zero assists at even strength with a minus-12 total rating. Teams are taking advantage of having the last change at home and are able to match up their best checking lines against the Sabres top line and so far Buffalo has had no answer.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Buffalo beats San Jose 4-3 in OT plus your five-game Sabres recap

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-23-2019

We're not sure if you can ask for a much better start to the Sabres season. After their 4-3 overtime win last night, the Buffalo is now 8-1-1 and though it's not the 10-game winning streak from last year, early indications are that this is not the same team as last year's either. This edition of the Sabres looks like they have many of the pieces in place to make this more sustainable, not 120-point sustainable, but at least playoff contender-worthy right now.

With last night's win over the San Jose Sharks, Buffalo is still undefeated at home, although three of the five wins came in the extra session and in two of them they blew two-goal leads. Against San Jose they actually came back from a 2-0 deficit and played their game to a 3-2 lead before surrendering the game-tying goal past the half-way point of the third period. They never wavered in this one and finished the Sharks off in overtime.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

On Krueger's goalie rotation and line stability plus tonight vs. SJS

Normally when a goalie pitches a shutout he gets the next start and chances are the head coach will ride him until he cools off. Exceptions to that rule may include playing back-to-back nights or having the No. 1 goalie back in net no matter what the back up does but "riding the hot hand" is usually what a head coach does especially if a team is in a 1A/1B situation with their netminders.

The Buffalo Sabres do have a No. 1 goalie in Carter Hutton but he and Linus Ullmark seem to be more of a 1A/1B than a 65/17 starter/backup tandem. Neither had a great 2018-19 season, especially in the second half when the team collapsed, and coming into camp new head coach Ralph Krueger stressed competition. Hutton got the start in the season opener, which isn't all that unremarkable considering the respect he garners on and off the ice, and after a 29-save, 3-1 win in Pittsburgh he got the start in the home-opener as well. The Sabres won that game 7-2 before a home rollicking crowd celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the franchise.

Krueger gave Ullmark the next start in Columbus and the 26 yr. old managed to salvage a point for Buffalo with a 40-save performance in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets and the duo have been rotating ever since. Which is rather curious considering Hutton blanked the Dallas Stars before the team embarked on their just completed three-game California road trip.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

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

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-20-2019

Who would have thought?

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

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

Sunday, October 20, 2019

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

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-19-2019

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

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

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

Saturday, October 19, 2019

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

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

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

Friday, October 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

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

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-16-2019

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Looking legit

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-15-2019

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

You betcha.

Are they legit?

Um...It's looking that way.

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

more on that later.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 14, 2019

Ralph Krueger's handling of Rasmus Dahlin plus line notes

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-13-19

Sabres bench boss Ralph Krueger sat sophomore defenseman Rasmus Dahlin the final eight-plus minutes of their 3-2 overtime win against the Florida Panthers on Friday night and his reasoning had a lot of truth packed into it. "We've gone 11 days in a row without a day off to start the season," Krueger told the media postgame. "There's been a lot of effort invested in getting the results we've had and we could see a few guys tapering off. We just thought we were protecting him in that little stretch. We knew Florida was going to push hard and we went with a little more experience there.

"Rasmus has played outstanding and is learning and growing every day," the coach continued, "and there's going to be moments like that were we're going to reduce the lineup to go with the guys we think we have the best chance of closing and he will definitely be in that mix eventually."

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Big challenge tonight for the fourth...err, Larsson...umm, checking line?

A line by any other name, in this case the Johan Larsson line otherwise known as the fourth line to some, still smells like a checking line. And it's a good one.

Although Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger says he refuses to count the lines, stating that every line has equal importance in his scheme, we all really know better. Jack Eichel leads the forwards in even-strength time on ice and his linemates Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson are second and third, respectively. The next three in order are Jeff Skinner, Marcus Johansson and Vladimir Sobotka, who represent a line.

Perhaps it gets a little hazy after that as the Larsson/Zemgus Girgensons/Kyle Okposo line rank seventh, eight and ninth on the team in EV ATOI which might earn them the title of Buffalo's third line. Yet Okposo had this quote when discussing the effectiveness of his line, "We're a pretty formidable line right now, he said. "You look across (as an opponent,) you see a fourth line (his line) and you say, 'What the hell am I doing in my D-zone?'"

Friday, October 11, 2019

Sabres putting the "power" back in their powerplay

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-19-2019

Never underestimate special teams, specifically the powerplay.

Sure, there's a vocal faction the truly believes that special teams really don't matter much because most of the play is at 5v5. There's a point to be made there and we can look specifically at the Buffalo Sabres who, in the 2016-17 season had the NHL's No. 1 powerplay (24.5%) but finished 26th in the league due in large part to the seventh-worst goal production in the league and a seventh-worst goal differential (-36.)

Analytics has it's place in the world but there are things that can't be charted, such as momentum. And, of course, there's a strong vocal minority that refuse to believe momentum exists in sports, but anyone who's played organized sports outside of intramurals would have a differing opinion. Heck, even in pickup games one can sense riding a  hot hand and/or the tide turning at any given moment. That said, things like momentum can't be empirically charted therefore in this Aristotelian age of statistical importance, the unquantifiable doesn't matter.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Can the Sabres make KeyBank Center a nightmare for other teams?

The goal is and always been to make KeyBank Center a tough place for the visitors to play. We've heard it year-in/year-out for, what seems like, ever and the results have been unimpressive lately. Beginning with the two years Dan Bylsma was head coach, Jack Eichel's first two as Buffalo's franchise center, the Sabres won only 16 home games the first year and posted a 36-34-12 record for 84 points out of a possible 164 total points. After Bylsma was fired, Phil Housley took over and the team won only 11 home games in the 2017-18 season while on their way to the No. 1 overall pick. In Housley's two-year tenure the Sabres record got worse at home overall at 32-40-10, but showed stronger tendencies last season with a 21-15-5 record, best in the prior four seasons.

This year under new head coach Ralph Krueger the Sabres began the home portion of their 50th anniversary season with an electrifying 7-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. Fans leaving KeyBank Center that night, and fans across Sabreland, had the feeling that this could be a real special season, at least at home. The Sabres came back to reality a bit on Monday night as the Columbus Blue Jackets put the clamp-down on Buffalo and defeated them 4-3 in overtime.

Krueger insists the Sabres are in a "learning phase" right now so we should expect a lot of growing pains. "It's important sometimes to have tough nights," he told the media yesterday. "Those setbacks are really, really good, especially when you take a point out of them.

"That's the way we're managing it today."
The Sabres will have the opportunity to keep it rolling at home as they face the Montreal Canadiens tonight to kick off a three-game home stand. Montreal offers up a different set of problems to overcome for the Sabres and are backstopped by one of the best  goalies in the game, Patrick Roy. Buffalo is 5-3-2 in their last 10 home games against Le Habitants.


A lot has been made about forward Evan Rodrigues being in the lineup for the first time this season. Rodrigues was relegated to the pressbox by Krueger to start the season, a move which left him "shocked."

"That was obviously not a situation I thought I'd be in," he said

For as surprising as it was to him, and pretty much everyone else including this writer, Rodrigues handled it like a pro.

"Evan's been outstanding," said Krueger of Rodrigues' professionalism. "I mean he's the one that said to me, 'Somebody's going to be in this spot all season long.' 

"He's been nothing but supportive to his teammates and to the process," said the coach.

Rodrigues is in the lineup because forward Conor Sheary is week to week with an upper body injury and it looks as Krueger opting to simply replace Sheary with Rodrigues and not mess with the other lines. Without a morning skate one would expect that Krueger will stick with his lines and pairings he used for the first three games:

Olofsson - Eichel - Reinhart
Skinner - Johansson - Sobotka
Vesey - Mittelstadt - Rodrigues
Girgensons - Larsson - Okposo

McCabe - Ristolainen
Dahlin - Miller 
Scandella - Jokiharju

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Lessons to learn.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-8-2019

The Columbus Blue Jackets did to Buffalo what the Sabres had done to the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils in their opening two games. Columbus harassed and pressured Buffalo from start to overtime finish in their 4-3 win and generally made life miserable for the visiting Sabres as they cut of passing lanes and used deft stickwork to throttle a previously high-flying Buffalo team.

Sabres captain Jack Eichel and his linemates Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson were held scoreless until Olofsson slapped home the game-tying goal with just 1:14 left on the clock with the goalie pulled and Buffalo on the powerplay. The 6-on-4 advantage came courtesy of a late faceoff violation on the Jackets' Boone Jenner as he used his hand to move the  puck on the draw. Olofsson set up in his spot on the left circle and slapped home a one-timer off a feed from Rasmus Dahlin for his third goal in as many games.

That was about it for Buffalo's top line as they could only muster a total of six shots on goal--one from Eichel, two from Reinhart and three from Olofsson--which wasn't bad considering the Sabres totaled only 18 shots the entire game. Columbus on the other hand peppered goalie Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark with 44 shots on goal, which was only two less than the Sabres allowed to the Penguins and Devils combined.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Sabres off to a raucous start this season

The Buffalo Sabres couldn't have asked for a better start to their Golden Season as they're off to a 2-0 start with wins at Pittsburgh and at home against the New Jersey Devils by a combined 10-3 score no. Buffalo showed their new approach by throttling the Penguins 3-1 on Thursday through a high-pressure game-plan while outshooting Pittsburgh 41-29. They followed that up with an even more impressive performance in a 7-2 win before a raucous KeyBank Center crowd. In both instances it was full-throttle forward for the Sabres as they took it to both clubs.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sabres kick off home portion of Golden Season tonight vs. NJD

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-5-2019

When all was said and done Thrusday night after the Buffalo Sabres disposed of the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1, the general feeling from head coach Ralph Krueger on down was that the win was great, but there's a long hard road to hoe. "We haven't achieved anything yet with this win," the coach said to the gathered media post-game. We're just at the beginning of a long, long, difficult challenge to go where we want to go."

Where the want to go is the post-season, a place the Sabres haven't been since 2011 with their eight-season playoff drought being the longest current drought in the NHL. Since then there's been a full turnover of executives, management, the coaching staff and the roster. Terry Pegula had bought the team in February, 2011 and had been their owner only three months before his Sabres made a late-season run to get to the playoffs before they lost in seven games to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Since then. Nothing. Nada. Nyet, Zilch, when it came to playoff appearance. Heck, since then their highest point total and highest finish was 2012-13 when they had 89 points and finished third in the division. They eclipsed 80 points only one other time ('15/16,) had a couple of seasons with mid-70's point totals, hit 62 points once and tanked for 52 and 54 points in 2013-14 and 2015-16, respectively (or disrespectfully, if you choose to describe those two seasons.)

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Buffalo Sabres 2019-20 season preview

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-2-2019

The Mood

How many "next year's" are there in the annals of Buffalo sports history? For fans of both the Sabres and Bills there have been way too many, especially this century, but for Jason Botterill, this will be his third season as Buffalo's general manager and as their 2019-20 roster might indicate, he seems to have more of a focus on next year than the upcoming season. Botterill has four forwards, four defensemen and one goalie on the books for 2020-21 and an additional of seven players under their control leaving seven openings to be filled with around $34 million in cap space.  

Which is great....for next year. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Should he stay or should he go?

Preseason ended for the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday with a 3-2 shootout win against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Yesterday the team had a very early practice so they could be at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY to watch the Buffalo Bills take on the New England Patriots (which turned out to be a defensive struggle with the Pats coming out on top 16-10.)

Today the powers that be are huddled in Sabres offices trying to figure out who should stay and who should go. Yes, we know Sabreland, if it was up to the most vociferous of the fan base Kyle Okposo and Rasmus Ristolainen would have been traded by now, Vladimir Sobotka bought out, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Scott Wilson all waived with Marco Scandella given a one-way ticket to anywhere in the world and every one of those fans willing to drive him to the airport. 

Ain't gonna happen.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Scandella, Girgensons lead comeback in Pittsburgh last night. Training camp closes.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-29-2019

That headline was a fun to write because it will draw the ire from a number of fans in Sabreland who see Buffalo Sabres defenseman Marco Scandella and forward Zemgus Girgensons, among others, as utter deplorables. Having both players score to help Buffalo overcome a 2-0 deficit at Pittsburgh before the Sabres eventual 3-2 win in the shootout was satisfying in a way. About the only thing better would have been for Vladimir Sobotka to score the shootout winner instead of Casey Mittelstadt, which would have a medal-sweep by "The Deplorables." 

Of course, it's only preseason, unless you're talking about 18 yr. old Dylan Cozens whom many believe should have a spot on the Sabres roster based upon one very strong preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Or Rasmus Asplund who performed very well in his role as a two-way forward to the point where a case could be made for him to be in a fourth-line role in Buffalo. Asplund outperformed fourth-line/depth players on the Sabres as well as Mittelstadt and there was a groundswell calling for Mittelstadt to be cut and Asplund up with the big club. Both Cozens and Asplund would be welcome faces to replace a group we've seen plenty of the past two-plus seasons. And they will be in Buffalo, just not now.

As we head towards the final cuts this year, fans in Sabreland are tired of seeing the likes of Scandella, Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Vladimir Sobotka on the team and would gladly throw the likes of Mike Card and Michael Funk in there if just for a change of faces. Last year young players Alexander Nylander and Tage Thompson were pined for as replacements for some in that group even though Nylander wasn't ready. Nor was Thompson, as we found out after watching him for a couple months.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Last shot to make a preseason impression as Buffalo travels to Pittsburgh

A few Sabres players will have one last shot to make an impression as Buffalo takes on the Penguins in Pittsburgh for their final preseason game. Whether that will be enough for any individual player to unseat a veteran on this team is another story but how they grasp what new head coach Ralph Krueger and his staff are trying to do will go a long way in determining their organizational status this season. 

The Sabres are loaded with veteran players in lower roles, especially up front, who look to have one more season to prove themselves in the Blue and Gold. Vladimir Sobotka, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Scott Wilson are all bottom-line/reserve players who are all pending unrestricted free agents. They also play the same style game, are interchangeable and, it would seem, ultimately have the spots to lose. 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Dylan Cozens sent to Lethbridge (WHL,) Sabres top-six taking shape

Published by hockeybuzz,com, 9-26-2019

There was huge groundswell of emotion touting at least a nine-day trial-run for 2019 first round draft pick Dylan Cozens as he showed very well in training camp this year. However, it was for naught as the Buffalo Sabres announced today that the 18 yr. old center will be headed back to the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League to further his development in Canadian Junior.

At 6'3" 191 lbs., Cozens has a good NHL frame and he displayed some great skating ability and skills while throughout training camp. However, this is how Sabres head coach framed the decision while talking with the gathered media today (via John Vogl tweets):

"This decision today is about the development and future of an outstanding young man and athlete. It's maybe some pain for him at the moment, but there's a pace and there's an intensity to the National Hockey League season that we just didn't feel he was quite ready for. We believe he's going to come back and make a very hard push for being part of this team next year."

Thursday, September 26, 2019

This is a roster that looks to be in tune-up mode for the season opener

With only two preseason games left and less than 10 days until the Buffalo Sabres open up the regular season at Pittsburgh against the Penguins, head coach Ralph Kreuger is icing a lineup tonight that will be very similar to the one he'll be using on October 3. At least up front.

Although injuries have been a huge factor on the blueline, the forwards look to be pretty set with maybe a few question marks, and here are the projected lines for tonight's game against the Columbus Blue Jacktes (from sabres.com):

Victor Olofsson - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner - Marcus Johansson - Kyle Okposo
Jimmy Vesey - Casey Mittelstadt - Evan Rodrigues
Zemgus Girgensons - Vladimir Sobotka - Tage Thompson

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Building the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster--Reserves and Contenders

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-24-2019

Today we fill out a potential final 2019-2020 opening night roster with three more players. As we've gone through this process, more than a few of the names presented here have drawn the ire of many Sabres fans, yet they more than likely will be there on opening night. Names like Kyle Okposo, Johan Larsson, Zemgus Girgensons and Marco Scandella represent bad times in Sabreland however for various reasons they'll probably be there come October 3.

While many have clamored for an influx of youth and vitality, as well as speed and skill, it would seem as if Buffalo GM Jason Botterill will be sticking with the tried and true (at least to start the season) with regards to the lower lines and pairings. Fact is, although there's some talent waiting in the wings, Botterill is a firm believer in developing that talent. He seems willing bring players up full time only if their ready, which is why some youngins will end up in their proper developmental leagues while the Sabres under new head coach Ralph Kreuger trudge their way through yet another season of transition. 

With that in mind, the first name we trot out for a reserve spot on the Sabres roster won't make a lot of fans happy, but is logical in the sense that he'll be in a reserve/fourth-line role:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Routsalainen and 14 other Sabres get cut plus some quick notes

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-22-2019

The Buffalo Sabres finished a home-and-home with the Toronto Maple Leafs with a split after a 5-3 win at KeyBank Center last night. A Sabres squad that will look very much like the one they'll be icing on opening night took care of business against that was minus the likes of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Morgan Reilly and No. 1 goaltender, Frederik Andersen.

Even without those top Leafs players, Toronto looked extremely sharp led by John Tavares and Mitch Marner along with defensive anchor, Jake Muzzin. Head coach Mike Babcock has had his system in place for four seasons and he's running it with a talent pool that's deep and high on skill and speed.

For their part, the Sabres are on their third coach since Babcock was hired in Toronto and by the looks of it, they've taken to a system that pushes the pace and allows for plenty of creativity.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

BUF/TOR Part II tonight plus putting the breaks on rushing prospects

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-21-2019

Buffalo's roster for the second of a home-and-home preseason matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs was released and it has the look of what the Sabres may be icing come October 3, their season opener. Last night a Sabres B-squad went out against the likes of the Leafs Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Morgan Reilly, Codi Ceci and goalie Frederik Andersen and played well despite being shutout 3-0 in Toronto. Buffalo head coach Ralph Krueger was more interested in his teams overall play really liked the way his team played.

"They really pressed hard early," said the coach of his team, "they played and aggressive, pressure game. I thought that Toronto had to make adjustments for the pressure we were giving. We're practicing hard, we're practicing without any eye on the game."

With the team down 2-0 in the third Krueger urged his team to press. "We were obviously pushing," he said, "we were asking everybody to push, push. We gave the green-light for risk and one bounced in the other way."

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Brandon Montour injury clouds Sabres blueline, highlights Rasmus Ristolainen trade rumors

The Buffalo Sabres announced that defenseman Brandon Montour has a hand injury, the severity of which has not been revealed. The Sabres tweeted today that Montour "will miss the rest of the preseason due to a hand injury" and that they'll update his status "at the conclusion of training camp."

So much for the right-handed, log-jam on defense.

Buffalo general manager Jason Botterill acquired the 24 yr. old Montour from the Anaheim Ducks on February 25 for d-prospect Brendan Guhle (2015, 51st-overall) and a 2019 first round pick (LW, Brayden Tracey, 29th.) Montour was the first of three right-handed d-men acquired by Botterill the past seven months as he also acquired Colin Miller from the Vegas Golden Knights on June 28 and Henri Jokiharju from the Chicago Blackhawks on July 9.

When added to roster players Zach Bogosian and Casey Nelson, those acquisitions loaded up the right side and really fueled speculation that disgruntled defenseman, Rasmus Ristolainen, a righty himself, was on the move. The Sabres have been adamant since that they were not shopping the 24 yr. old Ristolainen but there was said to be a lot of smoke surrounding his name with the Winnipeg Jets seemingly as the most likely match in a trade. Deductive reasoning has the Sherlock Holmes' of the internet hockey world pairing the Sabres and Jets in a two-plus-two scenario beginning with the Jacob Trouba saga with the plot thickening even more the past couple of weeks. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Evaluation time as the Sabres players get a day off

Whelp, it wasn't the best of performances last night at Columbus against the Blue Jackets. At best it could be described as a group of players still grappling with chemistry and structure while hitting the ice against real competition for the first time. At worst it was a throwback to some pretty dismal times in Sabreland as the team looked outclassed and disjointed and generally looked flat-footed until they found themselves down by two goals late in the third period.

Then again, it's best to remember this was game No. 2 of the preseason.

"It looked a little sluggish at the start," new Sabres bench boss, Ralph Krueger said in his post-game interview, "The first period I thought were a little bit flat but we did like some things that developed in the second period. There were moments where we found our game, we created some nice o-zone time. In the third [period] we put up a good fight but in the end didn't really do enough to deserve to win here."

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Plenty of Sabres players to watch as Buffalo visits Columbus tonight

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-17-2019

Last night the Buffalo Sabres displayed some star-power in their opening preseason game at Pegula Ice Arena on the campus of Penn State University. The 'Pegula' mentioned above is the Pegula family lead by patriarch Terry who sold interests in his East Resources Energy company and donated over $100 million dollars to his alma mater to start a NCAA Division I hockey program. The crown jewel of Terry's generous donation is the 6,000-plus seat multi purpose arena that began hosting Sabres preseason games in 2016 with a game versus the Minnesota Wild. For the past three years Buffalo has opened up the home portion of the preseason against the Pittsburgh Penguins, an organization that Pegula also has ties to.

So it's not surprising that the Sabres trotted out captain Jack Eichel, 2018 first-overall pick Rasmus Dahlin, 40-goal scorer Jeff Skinner and 2019 first round pick Dylan Cozens for last nights game in the hopes of some fireworks, especially with a new head coach in Ralph Krueger. The Sabres dominated the first two periods outshooting the Penguins a whopping 37-9 and took a 4-1 lead into the third period. That would dissipate, however, as Pittsburgh scored three unanswered goals to send the game to overtime. Eichel saved the day as he scored the overtime winner with only eight seconds left in the extra session.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Sabres haul out the big names for tonight's preseason opener

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-16-2019

Preseason begins tonight for the Buffalo Sabres as they make their annual visit to Pegula Ice Arena to face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7 p.m.

Among the marquis names to hit the ice for the Sabres tonight will be captain Jack Eichel, 40-goal scorer Jeff Skinner and 2018 first-overall pick, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. Joining that star-studded trio will be forward Jimmy Vesey along with defensemen Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju, all three of whom were traded for in the off season. Also on the ice will be 2019 first round pick, forward Dylan Cozens.

The Sabres had 52 players at training camp (28 forwards, 18 defensemen and six goalies,) four of which are on the injured list--defensemen Zach Bogosian, Matt Hunwick and Lawrence Pilut plus goaltender Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen. They were broken into two groups, Blue and Gold, with the Gold Group first up tonight and the Blue Group set to face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena tomorrow night.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Building the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster--The Fourth Line

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-15-2019

In this series we build the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster one by one leading up to the season opener on October 3.

There will be a lot of competition for a role on Buffalo's fourth line as the additions of top-nine forwards Marcus Johansson and Jimmy Vesey push players down the depth chart to where they should be in the first place. Sabres general manager Jason Botterill and new head coach Ralph Krueger have a group of veteran fourth-line players that are interchangeable battling for three spots on the line and they'll be joined by a former goal-scorer who's struggled in that department, some young bucks trying to make a name for themselves and a couple of AHL scorers trying to crack an NHL lineup. 

One thing we probably won't see this season are young skilled players/scorers, like first round pick Dylan Cozens or Tage Thompson, skating in a fourth-line role as players will sink or swim with the skills, and within the roles they were drafted for.

Which is a good thing.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Building the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster--G, Linus Ullmark

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-14-2019

In this series we build the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster one by one leading up to the season opener on October 3.

G--Linus Ullmark
26 yrs. old
6'4" 213 lbs.
2012, sixth round (163rd overall)

Career stats: 63 games played | 24-27-7 record | 2.87 GAA | .910 Sv% | 2 shutouts

Sabres backup goalie Linus Ullmark had a rude awakening last season, although you'd never have known it as the player with the twitter handle, "Icebear Dude," is always chill even in the face of the disaster like the one that unfolded during the second half of the season for the team and himself. Ullmark takes it as it comes and maintains his calm demeanor opting for a general philosophy that involves inevitability and acceptance rather than fits of emotion. Just how far this takes the 26 yr. old netminder in the National Hockey League remains to be seen, but goaltenders are a quirky bunch so...whatever works.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Sabres hit the ice for Ralph Krueger's first practice as Buffalo head coach

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-13-2019

It seems like a classic wash-rinse-repeat September day as on-ice sessions begin for the Buffalo Sabres. Five years ago it was Stanley Cup-winning head coach Dan Bylsma taking over for Ted Nolan, who coached the Sabres through most of their 2013-15 tank seasons. Bylsma was relieved of his duties two years later and in came rookie head coach Phil Housley, who's top-notch work with the Nashville Predators defense as an assistant turned him into a top head coach candidate.

The tenures of Bylsma and Housley both lasted two years, both ended up with underachieving clubs and prior to their dismissal, both had lost the locker room. They finished 23rd, 26th, 31st (a first for the league with the inclusion on the expansion Vegas Golden Knights) and 27th, respectively, and combined for a 126-157-454 post-tank record, which was last in the league during that period. It was a dismal showing, especially for a team and fanbase where the promised "suffering" of 2013-15 came to fruition but wasn't followed by any modicum of success save for maybe the 2015-16 season. 

So out went an aloof head coach in Bylsma and a rookie coach in Housley who was in way over his head and in comes Krueger.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Building the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster--RHD, Colin Miller

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-12-2019

In this series we build the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster one by one leading up to the season opener on October 3.

RHD, Colin Miller
26 yrs. old
6'1" 196 lbs.
2012, 5th-round pick (151st-overall, LAK)

Career Stats:  250 games | 22 goals | 77 assists | 99 points | -4

Where Colin Miller ultimately ends up in the lineup for the Buffalo Sabres is dependent upon a number of things, including the status of fellow right-handed defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. With plenty roster decisions up in the air right now, Miller should get the opportunity to skate next to top defenseman Rasmus Dahlin at training camp, which begins today, before eventually settling into his role on the Sabres.

Miller started last season on the top-pairing in Vegas while Golden Knights d-anchor Nate Schmidt served his 20-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policies. He struggled next to Schmidt's top-pairing partner, Brayden McNabb, while playing against the league's best (0 goals, 6 assists, minus-4 rating) during that time and fell down the depth chart and back into his usual third-pairing role when Schmidt returned. Although Dahlin and McNabb are totally different players in style and caliber, it would be tough to see Miller in a top-pairing role as his offensive-minded game and struggles defensively against the league's best players may not translate well. However, new head coach Ralph Krueger is looking for chemistry up and down the lineup and if it works, he'll go with it.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Building the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster--LHD, Marco Scandella

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-11-2019

In this series we build the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster one by one leading up to the season opener on October 3.

LHD--Marco Scandella
29 yrs. old
6'3" 210 lbs.
2008, 2nd round (55th-overall, MIN)

Career Stats: 518 games | 38 goals | 86 assists | 124 points | -38

One can almost feel the angst and anger emanating from Sabreland with the placing of left-handed defenseman Marco Scandella in this slot on the third pairing. Hell, there's a large contingent that are upset just seeing his name in print as part of the Buffalo Sabres and will just rail on him ad infinitum and another group that will bust out charts and colorful graphics to back their opinion that he shouldn't be on the team. Maybe any team.

Make no mistake, Scandella had a rough 2018-19 season. Everything from an offensive or possession standpoint went south last season for the former second-round pick and he, like other defensemen on the Sabres, looked as if he was just plain lost much of the time. Some of that might be traced back to coaching where former head coach Phil Housley produced a train wreck on defense. As he was trying to bring his Nashville system to a Buffalo team that had nowhere near the high-end personnel the Predators had, the only full-time Sabre last season to rise above the malaise on the blueline was Rasmus Dahlin who, as a first-overall pick with a franchise label attached to him, has the talent to rise above almost anything. Even as an 18-yr. old.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Onward to training camp as the 2019 Sabres Prospects Challenge ends

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-10-2019

It was a good weekend for the Buffalo Sabres prospects, even though it would be hard to characterize some of them as "prospects" as their ages push that term to it's very limits. Players like winger  24 yr. old Victor Olofsson stood out and was clearly head and shoulders above the other skaters out there. As he should have been. Olofsson looks as if he's ready for a top-nine role in Buffalo this year after playing nearly four full seasons in the Swedish Elite League before hitting North America last season and leading the Rochester Americans in scoring.

Others on the near-term radar include center Rasmus Asplund, who had a great September last year and looked even better this year, and defenseman Will Borgen, who has become quite the presence on the ice after only one full pro season. It will be tough for either of them to crack the Sabres lineup for 2019-20 but their development has them on pace to be there in a full-time role next season. Forward Andre Oglevie and defenseman Brandon Hickey look like they'll be carrying some heavy weight in Rochester while defensemen Jacob Bryson and Casey Fitzgerald look primed to compete for bigger minutes with the Amerks in their first pro seasons.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Building the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster--RW, Conor Sheary

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 9-9-2019

In this series we build the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster one by one leading up to the season opener on October 3.

RW--Conor Sheary
27 yrs. old
5'8" 176 lbs.
Undrafted free agent, 2015

Career Stats: 262 games | 62 goals | 65 assists | 127 points | +7

Forward Conor Sheary was a tribute to the development process in a very successful Pittsburgh Penguins organization, of which Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill played a big part. The undrafted college free agent out of UMASS (Amherst) was signed by the Pens in July, 2015 while Botterill was making his way up the managerial ranks and it would prove to be a pretty shrewd signing.  Sheary would make his mark with the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins for a season and a half (27 goals and 81 points in 90 games) before getting the call to Pittsburgh for 44 games during the 2015-16 season. The following year he blew up for 53 points (23+30) in 61 games in a season where the Pens would go on to win the first of two consecutive Stanley Cups. However, his production fell off in 2017-18 and he would be traded to the Buffalo Sabres that off season.