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Farewell Miserable November December 2, 2011

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With the month of November in the rear-view mirror, the Sabres will be hoping Santa doesn’t have lumps of coal waiting for them in the bottoms of their stockings. Between the calamitous injury situation, the collective turtling in the face of the big bad Bruins and the simultaneous initiation of half-a-dozen rookies into the senior ranks, the Sabres actually didn’t do too badly, finishing 7-6-1 (15 out of a possible 28 points). Yes I know, my glass of Blue Light is half-full, but I do have a six-pack of PBR tallboys chilling in the fridge if things had been more miserable. Player A could have been out for the season, Player B could have broken more bones, Player C could have missed more games, etc etc (I am not naming names lest even more Sabres find their way onto the injury report). In fact, we could have gone 0-14-0 and where would we be then?!

So with that in mind, here are some things to look forward to in this festive month –

  • Ryan Miller will be back very soon. Hopefully refreshed from an early season break. And hopefully in a better frame of mind than the time he got injured when he was quite dreadful at times, no thanks to the vanishing act by the supporting cast in front of him.
  • Tyler Ennis gets to try again. ‘Enzo’ needs to be better during Take Two. In the first go-around of seven games prior to his injury, he looked nothing like his 2010-11 avatar that scored 49 points. It might help that Leino is settling in and has been playing better, but all signs point to Ennis getting first dibs on the line with Roy and Stafford as soon as he is back.
  • Tyler Myers continues his comeback. After a pretty rough start culminated in his benching for a game, Myers had a couple of solid efforts and it looked like he was back to form again. However, an innocuous-looking collision resulted in a broken bone and he has been sidelined until the middle of this month.
  • Thomas Vanek and team captain Jason Pominville have both been playing like elite wingers, and have combined to drag the Sabres out of their proclivity to slump to long losing streaks. We would love to see this pair keep scoring and lead from the front.
  • Zack Kassian is here. The fan-proclaimed future of the Sabres finally made his way up to the senior team, and promptly went about earning his keep as a physical forward with an eye for goal. If he can continue to combine his feisty approach with some timely scoring, the Sabres will be vindicated in spending the 13th overall pick on him in the 2009 Entry Draft.
  • Big Joe Finley getting a stint with the Sabres. I propose that the moniker ‘Big’ be permanently prefixed to Finley’s name – the 6’8″, 260lb behemoth is not only big, he plays big too, laying crushing hits and gleefully dropping the gloves. And in his spare time he tosses around lawnmowers and kitchen tables, and slashes team mascots too. Read all about him here.
  • The rise of Brayden McNabb. Another one of the big-bodies that is expected to form the new Sabres core, he has settled in very well, fighting for the puck in the corners, clearing the blue ice of foreign matter (and players) and distributing the puck effectively up the ice too.
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Goaltending controversy (or not) November 7, 2011

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Before I go muckraking some more like the conventional press has been with the apparent conflict within the Sabres regarding who the starting goalies should be, I would like to apologize for being MIA in between games 4-13 on this blog. In that period, Sabres fans have gone from humming “ooh ahh Sabres on the warpath” to screaming “it’s the same old story, same old song n’ dance my friend” from the rooftops. After the European road trip the bonhomie was flowing over and any apparent faults on the team were being overlooked by fans wearing Stanley Cup-shaped glasses. Nothing like some adversity to ground everyone back in reality and remind us all that the playoffs are still a whole 69 games away. Hehe, yes, I said 69 (Beavis and Butthead is back on TV, you can see I missed them).

So, to the question of goalies. It has been so long since we have had a capable backup for Ryan Miller that this is an unfamiliar situation for younger (and bandwagon) fans of the Sabres. By using the adjective ‘capable’ I am automatically eliminating any ‘tenders who answer to the first names of Ty (Conklin), Jocelyn (Thibault), Mikael (Tellqvist) and Patrick (Lalime). In all fairness though Conklin is the only one who has gone on to have any sort of success post-Sabres. Anyways, that takes us all the way back to the trade deadline of the ’06-’07 season when a certain Marty Biron last played second fiddle in goal here. That same season was the last time when Miller missed back-to-back games while healthy, until this last Saturday.

My take on this is that I insist we do not have a goaltending controversy here in Buffalo. We are in a situation where the lead goalie is playing like crap (and he knows it), and the backup has a hot hand and is therefore starting, and winning to boot. If Miller is pouting about it and showing pressmen some attitude.. good! I for one do not want any players on this team to be riding the pine and shrugging their shoulders going “Woe is me, I’m not playing”. I’d like them to be bleeding mad that they are not on the ice doing what they are being paid to do.

Jhonas Enroth is doing what he is being paid for, which is step in whenever required and win some games. Last season when Miller had his concussion problems, Enroth came in and kept the playoffs charge alive. Not only did he contribute to us making the playoffs, he was a key element. He is 4-0-0 so far this season, 1.41 GAA and .952 SV%. Ruff knew what he was talking about when he said he wanted to give Enroth more than 20 games this season. In fact, last season Enroth was 9-2-2,  2.73 GAA & .907 SV% – quite respectable don’t you think? In his last thirteen starts the shortest goalie in the league (at 5’10”) has gone 12-0-1!

This is not a controversy people, we are playing the better goalie at the moment now so that we can win games. What’s happening in our blue ice here is a distinctive reminder of what has been happening in the Boston Bruins net. In ’09-’10 Tim Thomas was having a rough go of it and the new kid on the block Tuuka Rask took over the reins, going 22-12-10 and going on to stymie the Sabres in the first round of the playoffs. The next season Thomas came back with a vengeance and went on to win the Vezina last year. Remember a certain member of the Sabres goaltending unit who not so long ago was the winner of that piece of silverware? Don’t write off Ryan Miller, the man is tougher and better than a lot of us give him credit for.

Sabres vs. Flyers Game 6 4/24/11 Postmortem April 24, 2011

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Let’s do this. I want to see a handshake.

Liked:

  • Gaustad gets things started early for the Sabres by bodyslamming Hartnell to the ice behind the Flyers net.
  • Niedermayer starts the scoring with one Leighton probably should’ve had.
  • Miller has made a couple of big saves early in the first period.
  • Cody McCormick draws a penalty and the Sabres make the Flyers pay as Vanek scores on the power play.
  • The Flyers penalty box is getting crowded. Amanda approves.
  • Heh. Vanek comes through with another one. It’s 3-1 Buffalo. There have been three Buffalo goals on seven Buffalo shots. Time for a new goaltender?
  • And what do mine eyes see? Why, it’s Boucher in net!

Didn’t like:

  • A total defensive breakdown leads to Philadelphia’s first goal.
  • Ryan Miller is beaten cleanly on the second goal.
  • Boooo. The Flyers tie it up.

Left for the in-laws with about ten minutes to go in the second period. Wasn’t able to watch it the way I watched the first half of the game, but based on the outcome, I think that’s okay with me. Sabres LOSE. On to Game Seven in a very hostile building. Good luck, boys.

Sabres vs. Flyers Game 4 4/20/11 Postmortem April 20, 2011

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Do or die? I’d say so. Let’s get this thing started!

Liked:

  • Kaleta makes his presence felt in his first shift.
  • The crowd sounds alive tonight.
  • The Sabres are really buzzing in the first three minutes. Make that five minutes…
  • I approve of Drew Stafford on the penalty kill.
  • Butler saves his goaltender’s bacon. Miller owes him a steak.
  • Pommer gets his first of the playoffs off a gorgeous pass from Niedermayer.
  • The Sabres are on the power play because Carcillo is a stupid hockey player.
  • Gerbe goes through three guys and still gets a shot off. Heh.
  • Tyler Myers makes an all-star play to prevent a goal. Miller’s going to be doling out steaks to the D with the way things are going.
  • Myers can’t BELIEVE he hit the post on that one, but Timonen takes a penalty hauling Grier down.
  • Apparently Myers is okay from his collision in the first period. Thanks, hockey gods!
  • Miller makes a big stop on Richards.
  • The Sabres are on the Flyers like white on rice here in the first 10 minutes of the second period. The line of Gaustad, Kaleta, and Boyes is the Flyers’ worst nightmare right now.
  • Vanek strips the puck quite neatly. hee hee hee
  • Kaleta out-muscled a guy behind the Flyers net like he was an annoying little gnat.
  • The Flyers take a too-many-men penalty in the waning moments of the second period. In obvious news, now would be a good time to take a two-goal lead.
  • Richards gets five minutes for elbowing. Amanda approves.

Didn’t like:

  • Weber gets called with a silly penalty. Borderline, but what can you do?
  • Stafford negates the power play with a holding penalty. Again, dubious.
  • Connolly lets his man go on the power play and the Flyers nearly score short-handed.
  • Ennis doesn’t look right. Neither does Leopold.
  • Boyes hits the second post of the period.
  • Myers takes a knee-on-knee hit from Carter and goes down like the giant he is. The building shook.
  • Wow. That was one of the worst five-minute power plays I’ve seen in my entire life.

On to game five!

Sabres vs. Flyers Game 2 4/16/11 Postmortem April 16, 2011

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I would love to see the Sabres win Game 2 but I fully expect the Flyers to come out, well, flying.

Liked:

  • Sekera just stripped the puck from Carcillo in a ruthlessly efficient play. Heh.
  • The Sabres strike back with Vanek.
  • Then Paul Gaustad puts Briere on the ground during the ensuing faceoff. Scott Hartnell challenges him to a fight, but I’m not sure you can call what happened next a “fight”. It was more like “Gaustad makes Hartnell look silly.”
  • Where was this Niedermayer all season long?
  • Yay! Vanek scores again. I think he’s got a sense of Brobowski now (someone asked Vanek if he had a “sense of Brobowski” after the first game – Bulldog mentioned that Vanek probably got a sense of him during the four regular season games in which they faced him).
  • Sekera puts Buffalo ahead for the first time in the game. Bobrowski’s night is over. Amanda approves.
  • Hartnell takes another stupid penalty.
  • Man, Vanek really wants a hat trick…
  • McCormick brings the Sabres to within one.

Didn’t like:

  • The building erupts as the Flyers score first.
  • Shortly after the Gaustad fight the Sabres have a brain freeze in their end and Carcillo *blech* scores.
  • Philly’s penalty box is getting mighty crowded. Amanda approves.
  • Oh, Miller. Seriously?
  • Gerbe gets an extra two minutes for humiliating Giroux.
  • The penalties are just getting out of control now. I think the refs are making stuff up.
  • The puck deflects off Briere’s skate and goes in. Boooo.
  • Well, I would’ve made more comments on the second period, but DD decided to be needy. ED NOTE: This needy behavior continues into the third.

I didn’t really expect the Sabres to win this game, but it sure would’ve been nice. On to Game 3.

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