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SEASON PREVIEW, PART 2: The Smart Tweets, and a Prediction

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Remember hockey? It’s back.

This is what it used to feel like:

 

Then we were dragged through hockey hell…

 

Fan reaction happened. This was the smartest, in my opinion:

 

And now hockey is back, and in a wonderful new way:

 

Obviously, you can add Ennis to that old tweet.

A new era of Sabres hockey begins this weekend. A few big pieces of the old core (Pominville, Vanek, Roy, Stafford and Hecht) remain in the Blue and Gold, but the culture has vastly changed. Gone are Roy and Connolly, whose games brought plenty of flair but never struck any fear against the opposition.

Yes, the Sabres haven’t played a single game yet. But they look fearsome on paper. And don’t think for a minute other teams haven’t been reading up.

 

Remember the “Hardest Working Team in Hockey?” By far, that Ted Nolan led squad was not the most talented group of guys in the league, but they were fun as hell to watch. And they were a hell of a team to play against.

This year’s squad is an intriguing mix of – dare I say it – elite talent AND fear inducing grinders. Obviously, Vanek, Pominville, Ennis (possibly even Grigorenko) et al will put up the points. This team has never really been at a lack for goal scoring in recent years. The trade of Roy for Ott might seem like a swap of points for punches, but that is far too simple. That trade might be the centerpiece around what is really an entire culture change for the Sabres.

A return to a “Hardest working team in Hockey” mentality.

A return to a team that opponents fear to play against.

Yes, the Sabres haven’t played a single game yet. But they look fearsome on paper. And don’t think for a minute other teams haven’t been reading up.

  • Foligno
  • Gerbe
  • Kaleta
  • McCormick
  • Ott
  • Scott
  • Regehr
  • Weber

Darcy Regier has been slowly, quietly writing his roster on sandpaper. Ott is just the latest piece. The best part about this new “grit,” really, is that most of these guys can score. Foligno, Gerbe, and Ott can chirp, hit, and chip in their share of points. McCormick can score. Kaleta’s got offense.

These are the types of guys that make a team a nightmare to play against – they keep the opposition’s head on a swivel and help to keep the red light active all at once. It sure doesn’t hurt that they make it far easier for guys like Vanek and Pominville to play their game.

Hockey Heaven has some Hell on ice in store for the NHL for this go around.

hell on ice SEASON PREVIEW, PART 2: The Smart Tweets, and a Prediction

This is going to be a fun ride.

 

FEARSOME Prediction:

The Sabres will take the NE Division. They’ve got veteran scoring up front, and dynamic young studs like Ennis and Hodgson that are ready to come out and party. They are deep and seasoned corps at defense. They have a roster infused with former and current team captains. They have a (former) Vezina winning goaltender and a very capable backup. They’ve got two checking lines that can control the puck and the boards (or put it the puck in the net and the bodies into the dashers).

Most importantly, this is a team to fear. Last year’s late-season mantra of “We’ve got to take their will away from them” is going to be a lot easier this time around.

Badass.

I’m hoping that’s the word that sticks to Buffalo this year. That, and playoffs.

Give ‘em hell, boys.

Go Sabres.

 

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Sabres Lose in a Slushy Excuse Fest, Remain Rightfully Mired in 10th Place

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We must all be a bunch of suckers.

In his post game interview, Derek Roy was quick to point out a couple big reasons for the Sabres’ shootout loss to the Florida Panthers last night:

  1. The ice was “chippy”
  2. Brad Boyes hit some posts in the shootout

 

OK.

The ice might have been a bit slushy in Sunrise, Florida, at this time of the year. And I am not sure anyone can calculate the odds of Boyes hitting the post and the crossbar in the shootout, on a shot that would have won the game. I’m pretty sure those odds are double-infinitesimal.

Still, neither of these things accounts for taking only 5 shots in the 3rd period. Make that 4 shots for Buffalo, and 1 for Florida. It also doesn’t account for 0 shots in overtime. Make that 0 shots for Buffalo, and 0 shots for Florida.

Buffahorse 300x179 Sabres Lose in a Slushy Excuse Fest, Remain Rightfully Mired in 10th Place

The Sabres' effort was there. In the stands.

Both teams seemed content to play it safe and earn the gimme point for this one. Instead of a playoff dogfight, fans were treated to hockey played as if it were out in the open air Everglades. The game was mush. The ice was a swamp.

Maybe Roy did have a point about the ice after all. But in hindsight, it wasn’t the ice that made this game what it was. The Sabres joined the Panthers in a contest featuring two teams playing too careful for fear of a loss in a tightly wound playoff race. Fear, or just playing too damn careful, turned the playing surface into a woeful retreat from the front of the net, from the offensive zone, and turned the neutral zone into slush (go figure if the neutral zone was sloppy, since that’s where most of this game was played).

The Sabres skated out like it would seem with what they wanted. They played not to win, but not to lose, and moved on to Tampa Bay after drawing the 50/50 loser point. Lindy Ruff wasn’t happy over the game shootout either in his post game interview:

“Any point you lose right now is a lot. If it was a half a point it would be a lot. It’s disappointing. The points in the shootout are big points. I picked one good shooter and six bad ones tonight.”

Yea. It was those six bad shooters in the shootout. We’ll just forget about the 18+ guys who couldn’t even put a shot on net during the actual game itself.

Yea.

We must all be a bunch of suckers.

Epilogue: Of course, it’s not all bad news. The Sabres are now just 2 points out of 8th, tied with Winnipeg at 76 points. The Caps sit in eighth, with both the Caps and Jets having one game in hand over the Sabres. Ten games left.

May the best team not lose.

Go Sabres.

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Roy, Sabres Searching for Answers

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Remember the good ol’ days of 2010-11 for #9?

This hasn’t been the best of seasons for Derek Roy and the Buffalo Sabres. It was summed up brilliantly bu Nick Mendola in his latest piece – I highly advise you go over and give it a gander.

– When Roy records a point, the Sabres are 12-2-3.

– When Roy fails to mark the scoresheet, the Sabres are 5-15-0.

Roy showed up on the scoresheet last night, recording the gaudy marks of -1, 1 shot, 5/10 on the faceoff dot. Roysie, I’m not sure what ails ya this season, but I do know that the Sabres are sinking. Quickly. And we need you to right this.

RoyPlague 300x186 Roy, Sabres Searching for Answers

Dark days, Roysie. Dark days.

Remember the good old days? Pre-injury, 2010:

Currently, the Sabres have 37 points in 37 games, and are idling and injured in 11th place in the East. Yes, the injuries have taken a big toll on the squad this year, but a healthy statsheet by Derek Roy would make a big difference. (Again, read up on the evidence.)

Get him going, Lindy.

Or get him gone, Regier.

Go Sabres.

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Weathering The Storm

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What in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks happened against the Pittsburgh Penguins? How can a team completely fall apart like that? We’re not going to make the playoffs with a team like this! We should trade Miller, Stafford and Roy, fire Regier and Ruff, burn the city to the ground and start over from scratch!

Ok, I’m overdoing it a bit. But it’s still pretty chaotic with all the injuries. Heck, even Thomas Vanek didn’t practice on Monday, sending tendrils of fear all through Sabres Nation. It’s been bad, and many are calling for heads to roll, for players to be traded, for Ruff to be fired… and worse. Wow.

A big part of the problem may be that we have a lot of history and buildup with the current team. Expectations were high even before Terry Pegula bought the team. Then he came in raised the bar even higher and said, “We’re going to hit this mark”.

Yeah, these Sabres are all over the map with their play, but that’s to be expected when your entire team consists of the entire roster of your minor league team, minus perhaps a goalie. When Lindy Ruff was asked about getting back to consistency he responded thusly:

“I don’t think you can talk about that until you get your team back,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “You’re looking at a line out there of [Evgeni] Malkin and [Chris] Kunitz, and I’ve got [Zack] Kassian, [Paul] Szczechura and Luke Adam on the ice. You’re asking a lot out of the kids, and they’ve played hard for us. But we need some bodies back.” (Source – Buffalo News)

On top of the injuries, another thing that really makes it hard for us fans right now is that we don’t know what we’ve got in this team. Unlike say, the Boston Bruins or Detroit Red Wings, we cannot unequivocally say we’re going to make the playoffs and be a real threat to go deep and win the Stanley Cup. And unlike the Columbus Bluejackets or New York Islanders we are not totally out of it and looking just to rebuild over the next year or two. No, the Sabres are… well, a pretty talented but young team with a lot of injuries.

And sure, there are a lot of negatives going on right now that we can point to as validation for hitting the panic button. For example, Ryan Miller’s stats are horrible. He has a GAA of 3.12, good for 37th in the NHL, with a save percentage of .902 (32nd in the league.) We also let a guy named Sneep score against us in his very first NHL game! Sneep! I’m sure he has a 1st name but I’d like to pretend otherwise. Sounds like a name from some children’s book. It is, you say?

 Weathering The Storm

The Sabres saw a Sneep. It lulled them to sleep. They barely even made a peep. They were in much too deep. (Dr. Seuss, I'm not.)

So with everything going crazy right now, some might point out the example of the Philadelphia Flyers who made some moves in the offseason that seemed insane at the time. But so far, trading Jeff Carter and Mike Richards has turned out pretty well for them. It feels good to hit the “detonate nukes” button. (It’s such a pretty, shiny, red button.) It’s easy to place the blame on one or two guys and just get rid of them.

It’s hard to not press the button.

But I don’t think we need to do that. Nor is it time to do so … yet. Now, I’m not trying to look at things through rose-colored glasses or tell you that everything is going to be just peachy (or be preachy). I’m just saying that Ted Black and crew deserve some time before we rush into destroying things that the Sabres have taken years to build. Shouldn’t Regier and Ruff get at least one full season under the new ownership to see what they can do? Haven’t they earned that? Same goes for the players.

Like Lindy Ruff teaches, perhaps we shouldn’t get too high or too low. Maybe we should just enjoy the season as it unfolds and take the long view. We’ll have some amazing hockey and some crap games as well. As the season progresses, the Sabres will hopefully gain more chemistry and consistency.

With that should come wins and a playoff spot. And if the younger guys’ streak of nastiness can mesh with the cores scoring ability? Come playoff time they could be downright dangerous. We just need to weather this storm for a while.

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Buffalo Sabres vs. Ottawa Senators Game Notes

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This wasn’t a complete game by either team, but for stretches it was one of the most entertaining of the year for the Sabres. Derek Roy’s shootout goal gave the Sabres the 3-2 victory.

Now just some quick hits of thoughts about the game.

gerbe 300x169 Buffalo Sabres vs. Ottawa Senators Game Notes

Gerbe doing his honey badger thing and creating the play that led to a goal. TENACIOUS G!

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I’d heard earlier in the day that Miller was getting the start, then about 15 minutes before game time Enroth got the nod.  Not sure if this was planned or Ruff was just going with the hot hand here.

A group of about 15 or 20 Sabres fans in Buffalo hats with horns were at the game. Think they just showed up randomly like that?  Also, how cool would it be if we had thousands of fans at FN Center with those things? You can get your own here.

Eric Karlsson has a gorgeous mullet that Patrick Kane should be jealous of. Not sure which is better, his mullet or the Zubaz that Gerbe and McCormick were sporting during their trip to the hospital that showed during intermission.

Speaking of sweet hair, Sens’ coach Paul MacLean has a monster walrus ‘stache. And does remind one of Zoidberg.   As @brianbund’s wife pointed out, Lindy Ruff’s mustache is nowhere near as noticable.  Two different men with two very different staches. I want to see an NHL coach mustache competition.

I am much more leery about breakaway / 1 on 1 situations with Enroth than with Miller. With Miller in net I have no worries for that, but more worry lately on the easy goals. Enroth stops the easy ones but isn’t as skilled with 1 on 1′s.

Maybe it was just me, but it didn’t seem like there was a lot of Sens apparel in the arena. As  @ScottyMCSS said, there was a guy in the front row wearing a Billabong shirt. Are you a fan of either team? If so, why not show it? If you like another team that’s not playing, wear stuff from that team. Show your loyalty, dammit!

Early on, we still looked horrible at giving away shorthanded chances. Meh.

Rick Jeanneret is an amazing personality with a unique voice and we love him – but I really had no problem with Kevin Sylvester as play-by-play guy and Danny Gare as color.

I did sort of miss Rob Ray’s interjections. Sometimes he’s thought of as a goonish athlete and RJ has even ripped on him, but he often provides nuggets that make you think. He’s not polished at communications, but that endears him to me. Kind of like a puppy behind the glass. He’s really cute and makes you smile sometimes.

Gragnani may not be nearly as NHL-ready as we’d thought after last year’s playoffs. A good reminder to really think about the sample size we had to go on.

Gerbe is so awesome that I think he’s got the most hockey talent per cubic inch. That goal he created was all about his tenacity. I saw @JoeBuffaloWins call him Taz and I loved it. Add that to the growing nickname list for Gerbs.

Man, Regehr can HIT. Nice to see him smash a couple of guys with perfect timing. How come he didn’t get the Carubba Collision? I thought his were more devastating, but the one they chose had two guys performing a double smack and looked better on the surface. #RegehrSmash

Derek Roy is looking great and perhaps close to back to 100%. He stole the puck away several times and controlled it for quite a while with some slick moves.

The Leino/Roy/Stafford line is looking good, with Leino creating some nice chances.

Win or lose, the shootout is THE most exciting part of a hockey game. However it still seems a little unfair to me that it can decide who gets a point. It takes away the team aspect. If we win, I’m ok with it but if we lose, I’m bitching. I’m guess I’m ok with it so long as it never makes it into playoff hockey.

This game is going to do very little to douse the flames of the Miller versus Enroth controversy by some of the Sabres faithful. Me, I think Enroth is fine … for a BACKUP. He’s still nowhere close to Millsie. That much was evident on breakaways and during the shootout, although Enroth *did* get better as the shootout went on.

That’s it and that’s all. (The whistles go whoo-whoo.) Any thoughts as to this format? Something we should continue? Did it make you chuckle, chortle or interested at all? Please comment below and let us know whether it should be continued.

 

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