The Sabres Observer
Entries with the tag: buffalo sabres
In his last 6 starts, Robin Lehner is 1-3-2 with a 3.94 GAA and a save percentage of .874. He's given up at least 5 goals in 3 of those 6 games. Yet at no point has Dan Bylsma dared to test fate by pulling him.
Not after falling behind 3-0 almost 2 weeks ago to Colorado in the first period, not last night after the second period when his underperforming goaltender was behind 4-2 in a still-winnable game against the Flyers, and at no point in between.
It's not crazy to think the January 17th fiasco in Toronto, when Lehner was posing for selfies by the bench and then staring down his coach after playing horribly and being yanked, is still in his head. Lehner made it very clear after that game that he always wants to keep fighting and not be taken out in those situations, sensible shake-things-up-to-jump-start-your-team strategies be damned.
Meanwhile, the once radical theory that Sabres players are consciously or subconsciously diverting a bit from the coaching staff's game plans -- out of confusion, inability, rebellion or indifference -- is actually starting to gain some legs.
There just isn't another reasonable answer available to the question of how so many defensive zone lapses can occur so often in so many games. Last night's parting of the Red Sea for Claude Giroux is Exhibit A.
In a nutshell, the inmates are running the asylum. Bylsma seems unable or unwilling to force his imprint on this group. He does not appear to have control of his team. And it doesn't fare well at all for his future in Buffalo.
Everything was supposed to be fine when Jack Eichel came back.
It isn't, and many Sabres fans are starting to get angry. Last night's 4-2 loss to Boston was a new low for this team. Seems hard to believe after a game in which they played their best first period of the season, but that fact is what makes it hurt more.
And, as expected, your humble Sabres correspondent received his usual daily dose of Fire Dan Bylsma tweets and emails. On top of that, in an unscientific twitter poll of nearly 450 fans last week, the coach was given the blame for Buffalo's struggles.
Funny thing is, when you ask them why Bylsma should be fired, the most common response is his system. But when you ask what's wrong with the system, most don't have a clear answer. They just say things like "he's stifling his players" but aren't able to get more specific. It kind of makes you wonder how many of those fans actually even know what Bylsma's system is.
Truth be told, and obvious to many, this coach has not been given a very good hand to play. But Tim Murray, Buffalo's lovable short-spoken everyman, has made it clear that the ascension to greatness is a process, and patience is needed.
Sabres fans for the most part are completely on board. When seeking a scapegoat for Buffalo's position at rock bottom of the standings, the GM is off the hook.
At least for now.
Things are getting a bit dicey on the Buffalo blue line, as the lack of a new contract for RFA and number one defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen means we could see Zach Bogosian getting the most minutes in Thursday's opener against Montreal.
For a team usually more than willing to open up the wallet to pay its best players, why the hard stance against Ristolainen?
Three points to be made here. First, the Sabres have about $8.5M in free cap space and will obviously be much tighter to the ceiling after signing their star defenseman. Tim Murray wants to leave himself the option of being a buyer at the trade deadline, and overpaying in this situation certainly won't help.
It's tough to tell a Sabres fan right now that the playoffs likely aren't in the cards for this season, considering the wealth of young talent and offseason acquisitions. Trust me -- you won't get a pleasant response.
The perceived lack of respect from prognosticators -- well, let's just say it hasn't been taken very well from a large number of diehards who expect Buffalo to leap into the postseason this coming April.
In an unscientific twitter poll I ran yesterday, 69% of 313 voters picked the Sabres to finish in the top four of the Atlantic Division.
Hey, I love the optimism and I hope they're right. But a 27-point jump from being one of the worst teams in the history of the NHL is one thing, and a 15-point improvement into the mid-nineties with some of the big boys is another.
I say the latter is tougher to accomplish, and the Sabres don't quite have the complete team that can do it. Not just yet.
It's not what many Sabres fans will want to hear, given Evander Kane's less than repentant attitude while speaking to the Buffalo media yesterday regarding his countersuit against the woman who accused him of assaulting her at the HarborCenter Marriott in December, but Tim Murray will probably need to grit his teeth and wait for this unwelcome soap opera to play out.
I get that Sabres fans love what they've seen from Jack Eichel this season -- count me in that group -- but some of the reaction over the phenom not getting serious consideration for the Calder Trophy has reached ridiculous levels.
It's been pretty clear for most of the season, at least since Connor McDavid's injury, that Artemi Panarin has been the frontrunner for top rookie. Against a tidal wave of scrutiny from a portion of Buffalonian twitter followers, I took the bold step on a few occasions of merely bringing this up. Many writers and broadcasters near the top of the media totem pole have felt the same way. And king of them all Bob McKenzie last night said he surveyed 21 NHL GM's and got 18 votes for Panarin, 2 for McDavid and 1 for Dylan Larkin.
Between that nugget and a twitter poll of hockey fans showing Eichel not listed in the top 4, you'd think from the response here that Buffalo is on the short end of the biggest conspiracy since No Goal.
Folks, it's OK to love Eichel AND be simultaneously and humbly appreciative that there are some other very, very good candidates out there as well. There's no law against that.
And, to be perfectly honest, most of those other rookies are more deserving.
From Howard Simon of WGR-550,
The Sabres are 18-13-7 in the second half of the season. That's 43 points in 38 games. If you project that over an 82 game season, it comes out to 92 points which, if you were wondering, would have the Sabres in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division today and in a playoff spot.
This doesn't mean General Manager Tim Murray doesn't have work to do. He still needs to improve the offense by bringing in another scoring winger for one of the top two lines and another top four defenseman would be nice too.
Are you happy with the progress of the rebuild, Sabres fans?
Buffalo (17-22-4) is on pace for 72 points, which would be 18 more than last season.
But 18 points better than one of the worst teams in NHL history isn't really as much as it seems. I was hoping for a bit more. If you've watched this group game after game for half a season, it should be pretty apparent why the jump hasn't been bigger.
Hey, Boston. I hear you're trying to make a deal quickly to stop your ship from sinking.
Looking to get a forward who can score but don't want to mortgage the farm to get him?
Having some conversations with Tim Murray but not ready to pay his asking price for big man Chris Stewart?
If no deal for a stud sniper falls on your lap soon, I have a lower-scale solution for you.
There have apparently been some rumblings in league circles that the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild are discussing a possible trade that would send goaltender Jhonas Enroth to Minnesota.
Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman talked about the Enroth rumor last night, saying both teams are denying it.
They did it again.
It took a shootout and recovery from blowing a 2-goal lead to do it, but the Sabres defeated Ottawa 5-4. Buffalo is now 4 points behind 8th in the East.
That's 10 wins in 13 games, despite only having outshot their opponent in 2 of them.
Do we chalk another one up to puck luck? There have been some games during this stretch where the Sabres were the recipients of good fortune (do you deserve to beat Calgary when you're outshot 45-19?), but last night's win was hard earned and well deserved.
Marcus Foligno and Brian Flynn each had a goal and an assist in this one. Tyler Myers (1 assist, 31:09 TOI), Rasmus Ristolainen (1 goal, 25:24 TOI) and Nikita Zadorov (4 hits, 2 blocked shots, 27:44 TOI) logged heavy minutes on the blue line. Jhonas Enroth looked like he could use a game off yet still made enough saves -- including some big stops in the shootout -- to seal the victory.
As these wins keep piling up, you wonder when the word "playoffs" is going to creep into the conversation.
That time is just about here. No matter what you think of your team, you can't ignore the standings.
The big question today isn't whether or not GM Tim Murray and the Sabres are up for an attempted run to the playoffs -- it's whether or not the fans are up for it.
Based on reports coming from Sabres practice this morning, it looks like Nikita Zadorov will be staying with Buffalo and not joining Russia for the World Junior Championship.
From Howard Simon of WGR-550,
What in the name of winning hockey is going on with the Sabres? How do you explain a team that was 3-13-2, winning 5 of its last 6 games? In short, they have a hot line, a very good, young defense pairing and a hot goalie.
Some Sabres observations the day after watching a game in a section of First Niagara Center that was infested with Bruins fans (although I will say they were a friendly and polite group):
- The Sabres can put a spin on it and say they played better last night in their 3-2 overtime loss to the Bruins, but comparing their performance to the Toronto game is setting the bar pretty low. Getting outshot 37-15 against any NHL team, including a Boston club that's fighting it right now and trying to find their game, doesn't entitle Buffalo to play the moral victory card.
From Ken Campbell of The Hockey News,
Based on where the Sabres sit in the standings, they are looking up, way up. But so are their prospects for success. And the best part of it for a guy like Murray, who has made a living on identifying young talent, is that the canvas is relatively blank. After they bought out Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff this summer, the only big-money, long-term contracts that remain on the books belong to Cody Hodgson, Tyler Myers and Matt Moulson. They have a very good stable of young prospects – defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov were both rated among the top 10 NHL prospects in Future Watch 2014 and center Mikhail Grigorenko made the top 50 – and at the trade deadline they picked up a rising prospect in Hudson Fasching. They have an owner who has been willing to spend, but that has been more of a curse than a blessing in Buffalo of late.
Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic have known Claude Lemieux's son Brendan since he sat in the Stanley Cup as a three-month-old baby in 1996. Brendan's dad remains good friends with Roy and Sakic to this day.
Lemieux (left wing with 27 goals, 26 assists and 53 points for the OHL's Barrie Colts last season) had made it clear Colorado was his first choice, and it seemed like a great fit.
So why did the Avalanche not take the 6'1" 209 lb. truculent forward at number 23, even though many had him rated as a first-round talent in this year's draft?
The answer is Conner Bleackley.
This morning on Buffalo radio, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press referred to Tyler Myers as a franchise defenseman with "a really appealing contract."
Those of you outside of Sabres Nation may not realize how many Buffalo fans had a good chuckle when they heard that one.
This is the same defenseman who has needed to spend occasional games in the press box to clear his head. And that's the same contract that was unappealing enough to some to put Myers on the list of compliance buyout candidates.
Tim Murray has put the Sabres hockey community on notice that he isn't messing around. Turning over a quarter of your roster in one day will usually do that.
The Buffalo GM added Brian Gionta and Andrej Meszaros, brought back Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick, and traded a future draft pick for Josh Gorges. He also signed restricted free agent Marcus Foligno, hefty raise and all.
Two things really stood out after all of these moves yesterday, and both are reasons for Sabres fans to get excited about what's ahead for this franchise.
Jay Grossman, who represents Latvian forward Kaspars Daugavins, told me today his client wants back in the NHL and confirmed that the Sabres are amongst his options.
Daugavins has 18 goals and 44 points in 44 games with Geneve-Servette of the Swiss Elite League this season, and was a member of the Latvian Olympic team coached by Ted Nolan.
The reports you've been reading linking the Sabres as a possible destination for Jaromir Jagr are not true.