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  1. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images The Sabres played better, but till fell to the Capitals Score: Capitals 2 | Sabres 1 Shots: BUF-31 | WSH-21 Sabres Goals: Rasmus Ristolainen (1) Capitals Goals: Jakub Vrana (2) and Tom Wilson (1) Minus 1 | Power Play The Buffalo Sabres power play let them down last night. They had five power-play opportunities and converted on none. In a close game like this one, that’s the difference between winning and losing. The more concerning part is on these five power plays they weren’t even able to generate many scoring opportunities. Minus 2 | Rasmus Dahlin Dahlin is broken again and someone needs to fix him ASAP. He, along with Brandon Montour, performed poorly for the second night in a row. The Sabres need Dahlin to take that next step this season to have any chance at competing for a playoff spot. Plus 1 | Better Performance Even though they lost, the Sabres did play a lot better than opening night. They controlled the shot and quality share at 5 on 5. They just couldn’t breakthrough on the Capitals rookie goaltender. Plus 2 | Ristolainen and McCabe Outside of the first period on opening night, Ristolainen and McCabe have played very well for the Sabres. Both of them have a goal in the first two nights of the season. They started off strong together last season as well. Sabres have to hope they can keep it going and not the skids again like they did last year. Next Game: Monday, January 18th at the Flyers View the full article
  2. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports After losing last night, the Sabres look to split the two-game series with the Capitals tonight Game 2 Buffalo Sabres (0-1-0) vs. Washington Capitals (1-0-0) Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY TV: MSG Radio: WGR 550 SB Nation Capitals Blog: Jasper’s Rink View the full article
  3. Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images Sabres look for early-season revenge after last night’s 6-4 loss Game 2 Buffalo Sabres (0-1-0) vs. Washington Capitals (1-0-0) Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY TV: MSG Radio: WGR 550 SB Nation Capitals Blog: Jasper’s Rink Know Your Opponent Washington Capitals (2019-20 Rankings) Record: (41-20-8) | 90 PTS Division Ranking: 1st in Metropolitan Division Conference Ranking: 3rd in Eastern Conference PP: 17th (19.4%) PK: 6th (82.6%) What to Watch 1. Second verse? Same as the first! In what will be a recurring theme this season, the Sabres and Capitals will resume their places at KeyBank Center tonight after a high-scoring affair last night. Same-city back-to-backs are a common theme throughout the NHL this season in order to limit travel in attempt to skirt the Covid-19 pandemic. So what affect will this have on the game? Well, there will be opportunity for adjustments, redemption, perhaps a little retribution. Buffalo will have to make some defensive adjustments, especially to the penalty kill, in order to prevent Washington from putting up another six goals on the board. The retribution aspect may create a little intrigue and rivalry, as surely the Sabres have Nic Dowd’s jersey number fresh in their minds after a hit to the head of respected veteran Eric Staal. 2. Sabres sans Staal? Speaking of Eric Staal, after leaving last night’s game after taking an elbow to the face, he is day-to-day and a game-time decision to play tonight. Center Cody Eakin was the in-game replacement for Staal yesterday, and will likely get first crack at the job tonight. Eakin played well last night, leading all forwards in corsi-for percentage and expected goals-for percentage, so we’ll see if he can continue that in a larger role this evening. His linemate, rookie Dylan Cozens, also played very well and should perhaps command more ice time. Ralph Krueger also stated that Riley Sheahan, not Cozens, would move to center tonight if Staal can’t go, so Cozens will remain on the wing for the time being. 3. No linemates? No problem! In an eyebrow-raising move, prized forward Jeff Skinner was moved out of the top six to start the season by Krueger and found himself on a line with defensive forwards Curtis Lazar and Riley Sheahan. So Skinner’s offensive impact would surely be limited right? Actually...wrong. Skinner was not only strong in both shot quality and shot attempt differential, but also single-handedly created two high-danger scoring chances and led the team in individual expected goals. Driving lines almost by himself is a familiar role for Skinner from his days in Carolina, so there is no reason to doubt he can continue to find success at 5-on-5 regardless of linemate quality. If he repeats his performance tonight, it will be interesting to see if Krueger finds a restored confidence in him to use in key situations. Projected Lineups Buffalo Sabres Forwards Taylor Hall - Jack Eichel - Tage Thompson Victor Olofsson - Cody Eakin - Sam Reinhart Jeff Skinner - Curtis Lazar - Rasmus Asplund Tobias Rieder - Riley Sheahan - Dylan Cozens Defense Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen Rasmus Dahlin - Brandon Montour Colin Miller - Henri Jokiharju Starting Goaltender: Linus Ullmark Washington Capitals Forwards Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson Richard Panik - Lars Eller - Conor Sheary Carl Hagelin - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway Defense Dmitri Orlov - John Carlson Brenden Dillon - Justin Schultz Zdeno Chara - Nick Jensen Starting Goaltender: Vitek Vanecek/Ilya Samsonov View the full article
  4. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Sabres’ lackluster effort falls short in 6-4 loss Score: Capitals 6 | Sabres 4 Shots: BUF-26 | WSH-28 Sabres Goals: Taylor Hall (1), Tobias Rieder (1), Jake McCabe (1), Victor Olofsson (1) Capitals Goals: Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson, Brenden Dillon, Jakub Vrana, Garnet Hathaway (EN) Minus 1 - Feels Like the First Time Thursday’s game was the first real action for the Sabres in a whopping 311 days, and it looked like it. From the get-go and throughout the night, little mistakes cost them. Passing was lackluster, giveaways were painful, the defense left Carter Hutton out to dry at some points and everything just felt so slow. The Sabres did have a little bit of extra training camp time compared to teams that made the playoffs, but it was still only a two-week camp with no preseason action. This was their first test, and they probably scraped together a C effort at best. Minus 2 - Use Somebody Jeff Skinner played only 14:31 in the season-opener. Dylan Cozens was on the bench for chunks of the third period, when the game was still within reach. And why not pull Skinner up to play with guys like Sam Reinhart and Cozens? If line combinations aren’t working, a team should be flexible enough to shift things around in the midst of a game, but that’s not really what we saw on Thursday night - and it didn’t work out very well for the Sabres. Plus 1 - On the Offense I’ll be blunt: Ilya Samsonov looked pretty bad on Thursday night, but the Sabres didn’t capitalize as much as they could’ve. The young goaltender flubbed on some shots and whenever Buffalo put the puck on net, he often looked out of place. Taylor Hall managed to strike first for the Sabres, notching his first goal in the blue & gold: Hall power play goal assisted by Olofsson and Eichel. 1-1 pic.twitter.com/uqQyfDi2JY — Ben Mathewson (Optimistic Sabres Fan) (@Ben_Mathewson) January 15, 2021 Later in the game, Jake McCabe scored this beautiful goal to reduce Washington’s lead to one goal. Tage Thompson was critical on this play, keeping the puck in the zone, followed by a pass from Eichel to the waiting McCabe who struck quickly. This could’ve easily been a game-changing moment for the Sabres - it was just 20 seconds into the third period - but was quickly followed up by a Capitals goal, rendering it essentially meaningless. McCabe Goal - Eichel assist 4-3 Washington pic.twitter.com/zs6Xab8kF6 — Ben Mathewson (Optimistic Sabres Fan) (@Ben_Mathewson) January 15, 2021 The Sabres did manage to keep Alex Ovechkin from scoring - though he did record a pair of assists - and held Zdeno Chara off the scoresheet in his debut with Washington. Things to Watch The Sabres and Capitals will meet again on Friday, same time, same place. It’s likely that Linus Ullmark will replace Carter Hutton in goal as a result of the back-to-back. Two players who may not be in the lineup on Friday night: Buffalo’s Eric Staal and Washington’s Nic Dowd. Dowd delivered a dangerous hit to the head of Staal in the middle of the ice. He received only a minor penalty on the play, but is likely to hear from NHL Player Safety and could miss some time. Staal, meanwhile, got up under his own power but headed straight to the locker room. If Staal has to miss any time, the Sabres could recall a player from the taxi squad, such as Casey Mittelstadt or Jack Quinn. Dowd hits Staal in the head pic.twitter.com/Fnztvqur6j — Ben Mathewson (Optimistic Sabres Fan) (@Ben_Mathewson) January 15, 2021 With one game in the books, Taylor Hall (1-1), Jack Eichel (0-2), Jake McCabe (1-1) and Victor Olofsson (1-1) are all tied for the Sabres’ point lead. Dylan Cozens also registered his first career NHL point on Thursday evening with an assist on Tobias Rieder’s second-period tally, while Tage Thompson recorded an assist for his first point since March 7, 2019. Next Game: Friday, Jan. 15 vs. Washington, 7 pm (MSG/WGR550) View the full article
  5. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports Sabres host the Capitals to open the season Game 1 Buffalo Sabres (0-0-0) vs. Washington Capitals (0-0-0) Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY TV: MSG Radio: WGR 550 SB Nation Capitals Blog: Jasper’s Rink View the full article
  6. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images After a 10-month hiatus, Buffalo is back in action to take on last season’s Metropolitan Division winner Game 1 Buffalo Sabres (0-0-0) vs. Washington Capitals (0-0-0) Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY TV: MSG Radio: WGR 550 SB Nation Capitals Blog: Jasper’s Rink Know Your Opponent Washington Capitals (2019-20 Rankings) Record: (41-20-8) | 90 PTS Division Ranking: 1st in Metropolitan Division Conference Ranking: 3rd in Eastern Conference PP: 17th (19.4%) PK: 6th (82.6%) What to Watch 1. New Year, New Look Sabres If the lines from Wednesday’s practice remain consistent, the Sabres will feature six new faces from 2019-20. Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, Tobias Rieder, Cody Eakin, Dylan Cozens, and Riley Sheahan will all look to make their presence felt early in their blue-and-gold debuts. As the most high-profile acquisition of the offseason, the pressure is on Hall to form an immediate chemistry with Jack Eichel on the top line. This may end up being his only season with the Sabres after signing a one-year deal at the start of free-agency, so he’ll want to make it count. On the second line, Staal is expected to fill the gaping void that has existed at center for the last two seasons. If he can replicate his production from last season with the Minnesota Wild, Buffalo will finally have an effective top-six forward group. 2. Renovated Special Teams Units This offseason, the Sabres’ front office made a point to address the team’s lackluster special teams performance from 2019-20. After a season where their penalty-kill and power-play units ranked 30th, and 20th, respectively, the hope is that their new additions will result in a significant improvement. Let's take a look at the power plays, shall we? PP1: Reinhart Eichel-Hall-Olofsson Dahlin PP2: Skinner Thompson-Cozens-Staal Ristolainen#Sabres — Brayton J. Wilson (@BJWilsonWGR) January 12, 2021 On paper, the new-look power-play features a lot of offensive talent. Hall, Staal, and Cozens should provide enough of a boost to give Buffalo two competent PP-units for the first time in what feels like a decade. Following a very hot start last year, teams started to figure out the Sabres’ one-trick pony attack plan (i.e. feed Victor Olofsson), and their early numbers quickly fizzled. As for the penalty-kill, most of the Sabres’ bottom-six additions like Rieder and Eakin were brought in specifically for their experience in that area. We’ll see if personnel was truly the issue. If Buffalo hopes to contend for a playoff spot, they cannot afford to have one of the worst shorthanded success rates in the NHL. 3. No Excuses in 2021 Last season, as the reality set-in that the Sabres would increase their playoff drought to nine years, fans were rabid in expressing their displeasure (and rightfully so). Since Terry Pegula purchased the team during the 2010-11 season, they’ve only made the playoffs once. First-year GM, Kevyn Adams went out and obtained a lot of new blood to finally break the losing aura that has hovered over KeyBank Center for so long. With an increasingly frustrated franchise player, and a growingly disinterested fan base, the franchise must find success in 2021. Yes, the East Division is difficult, and the COVID-19 pandemic will present unusual challenges. Still, the fallout from missing the postseason again (or at least getting close) could be severe. From the starting netminder, to the head coach, to the general manager, the stakes are high. Projected Lineups (Based on Wednesday’s practice lines) Buffalo Sabres Forwards Taylor Hall - Jack Eichel - Tage Thompson Victor Olofsson - Eric Staal - Sam Reinhart Jeff Skinner - Curtis Lazar - Rasmus Asplund Tobias Rieder - Cody Eakin - Dylan Cozens Defense Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen Rasmus Dahlin - Brandon Montour Colin Miller - Henri Jokiharju Starting Goaltender: Linus Ullmark Washington Capitals Forwards Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson Richard Panik - Lars Eller - Daniel Sprong Carl Hagelin - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway Defense Dmitri Orlov - John Carlson Brenden Dillon - Justin Schultz Zdeno Chara - Nick Jensen Starting Goaltender: Ilya Samsonov View the full article
  7. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Hockey is upon us which means it’s time for some bold predictions By my count, it’ll be 307 days between games for the Buffalo Sabres. It feels like an eternity since we last watched a game featuring the Sabres but we made it. Another season of Sabres hockey is finally upon us. There’s a lot to be excited about with this club after the moves in the offseason. In my opinion, this is the best team they’ll put on the ice in at least two years. With the season getting underway tomorrow, it’s time for my annual bold predictions piece. If you want to have a good laugh you can take a look back at my predictions from last season to see how I went 0 for 3. I will say that I deserve half a point for the second bold prediction in there. Alright, let’s get to the fun. Bold Prediction #1: Tage Thompson will score at 25-goals over 82 games pace I’m fully onboard the Tage Thompson hype train this season. I liked how he played in limited action last year and he has picked up where he left off in training camp. It also appears that he’ll get the first shot as the other winger with Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall. Thompson goal off feed from Hall. pic.twitter.com/aTh7I3EECk — Ben Mathewson (Optimistic Sabres Fan) (@Ben_Mathewson) January 10, 2021 I think Thompson has learned how to use his size playing in the AHL and is playing with confidence. He’ll need to score at least 17 goals in 56 games this season to meet the 25-goal pace for this prediction. If he can stick on that top-line he’ll have a good chance and he’ll get some power play time this year on the second unit. Bold Prediction #2: Linus Ullmark will finish as a top-10 goalie in goals saved above expected in all situations Goaltending is one of the biggest issues for me this season, but I can see a scenario unfold where Ullmark surprises some people. He took a step last season, but still had some struggles. He finished the season ranked 15th in goals saved above expected at 5 on 5 among goalies to play at least 1,000 minutes, according to Evolving Hockey. Where he struggled was his performance while shorthanded. He finished as the seventh-worst goaltender in goals saved above expected on the penalty kill. Throughout his career, Ullmark has struggled on the penalty kill. However, I feel with an improved penalty kill unit he may improve his performance. If he can improve in this area and take another step at 5 on 5, then the Sabres may get a better performance in goal than most of us think. Bold Prediction #3: The Sabres will make the playoffs This is the most optimistic I’ve been about a season in a few years. I still think it’s more likely that they don’t make the playoffs, but it’s not by much. The new division isn’t any more difficult than the Atlantic would have been. I’m also not a believer in teams like the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Islanders. All of those teams have question marks and I can see them taking a step backward. The Sabres added some impact talent in Hall and Eric Staal. Rasmus Dahlin could also take that big step in year three. That would go a long way in the Sabres improving to being a team that can challenge for a playoff spot. Micah McCurdy’s projections going into the season is a perfect example of how I feel. It’s likely they finish on the outside looking in, but they still have that potential to push into the top four in that division. Point projections, very nearly up to date: pic.twitter.com/3DuJwHXagH — Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) January 12, 2021 I’m excited to finally get back to watching Sabres hockey and hopefully we get a good team to talk about. It has been a while since we really had the chance to have a discussion about the playoffs late into the season. View the full article
  8. Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images The editorial staff makes their predictions as we approach the start of the 2020-21 campaign We’re finally here. After 311 days without Buffalo Sabres hockey, the 2020-21 NHL season has arrived. Following the longest non-lockout offseason in league history, there are a lot of storylines surrounding the blue-and-gold. In what promises to be a bizarre year of revised divisions and pandemic-related obstacles, the range of potential outcomes is vast. As is tradition, the editorial staff has come together for their yearly prediction on a few specific categories for the upcoming campaign. Unlike last season, there is a little bit more variety here in terms of the answers each writer came up with. Given the fact that the Sabres could reasonably dress up to seven new players from opening night in 2019, that really isn’t a surprise. It will certainly be interesting to look back at the end of the year to see how well we prognosticated the results of a season that will likely throw a few curveballs at us. Without further delay, let’s take a look at the responses. Team MVP Jack Eichel (9 Votes) - Anthony, Austin, Calvin, Chad, Chris, Jason, Melissa, Ryan, Steve Alright, we started with the first of three unanimous categories on the list. Let’s be honest with ourselves - after an MVP caliber performance in 2019-20, Eichel is the logical choice. Taylor Hall could contend here, and so could Rasmus Dahlin if he takes a quantum-leap into elite status on the back end, but the captain is by far the surest bet. Leading Goal-Scorer Jack Eichel (4 Votes) - Anthony, Austin, Jason, Ryan Taylor Hall (4 Votes) - Calvin, Chad, Melissa, Steve Jeff Skinner (1 Vote) - Chris We have our first tie! Following a 36-goal outing last season, Eichel is the easy answer here. That total could be replicated in 2021, but the presence of two more talented shooters on the top line in Taylor Hall and Tage Thompson, could turn Eichel into more of a setup man. That’s probably the logic applied to everyone who selected Hall, and it’s certainly founded in reason. Chris made a bold choice, projecting a bounce-back year for Skinner. Notoriously inconsistent year-over-year, he could very well rediscover his goal-scoring touch in a renovated top-six. Surprise Player Tage Thompson (4 Votes) - Anthony, Austin, Calvin, Chad Rasmus Asplund (1 Vote)- Melissa Casey Mittelstadt (1 Vote)- Chris Curtis Lazar (1 Vote)- Steve Riley Sheahan (1 Vote)- Ryan Carter Hutton (1 Vote)- Jason Nine voters, six different choices. Of all the topics to follow, this one was certainly the most diverse. Thompson was the leader, and it makes sense. After a really rough first season in Buffalo, the 23-year-old finally got a second chance with the big club after re-earning his place in Rochester. Sadly, his season was cut short in his first game back with the Sabres due to a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery. As of right now, he finds himself on the top line alongside Eichel and Hall. Best Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (9 Votes) - Anthony, Austin, Calvin, Chad, Chris, Jason, Melissa, Ryan, Steve I mean, who else is it going to be? Putting aside the fact that players like Rasmus Dahlin and Brandon Montour are routinely criticized for having poor underlying metrics, even in terms of base stats, Dahlin should run away with this one. Not only was he the top-point producer on the blue line last season, but he’s also now fully cemented as the lone defenseman on the top power-play unit. As a player who was billed as a generational talent in his draft year, fans are eager to see the next step from the 20-year-old cornerstone. Total Team Points 55 (1 Vote) - Jason 56 (2 Votes) - Calvin, Ryan 57 (1 Vote) - Anthony 58 (1 Vote) - Austin 61 (2 Votes)- Chad, Melissa 63 (1 Vote) - Chris 65 (1 Vote) - Steve We’ve got a pretty wide range of possible outcomes here, but the median lands a bit better than a .500 team. In a year where every squad will have to play the same set of seven opponents, the “predictably” of the final standings is probably less straight-forward than usual. Will The Sabres Make the Playoffs? No (9 Votes) - Everyone This is tough. Like I said above, the prediction models are probably a lot less predictable and will ultimately prove less accurate than they typically are in a normal season. Is there reason to believe the Sabres could make it? Of course. That being said, there are also conceivable scenarios where Buffalo finishes last. The East Division is widely considered the most talented in hockey, and features three teams that were on pace for 100+ point seasons before the 2019-20 campaign was cut short. If you want some good news, there is no juggernaut team to worry about this year. The Tampa Bay Lightning are gone, and the Boston Bruins are battling injuries to a couple of their top guys to start the year. Anything is possible, but for now, it’s tough to project the Sabres in the top-half of the division. Bold Predictions Anthony - Taylor Hall re-signs with Buffalo after an excellent season flanking Eichel Austin - Arttu Ruotsalainen scores more goals than Cody Eakin Calvin - The Sabres power-play finishes top-three in the NHL Chad - Linus Ullmark finishes top-10 in GSAx rate Chris - Eric Staal scores more goals than Eichel Jason - Dylan Cozens ends up on Eichel’s wing at some point Melissa - Casey Mittelstadt will spend more than half the season with the Rochester Amerks Ryan - Sabres miss the playoffs and Eichel demands a trade Steve - Thompson outscores Skinner at even-strength This section is always the most fun, because of the range of takes (some steamier than others). There are some wild ones here. I’ll save the commentary for this section and let you all be the judge(s). View the full article
  9. Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images Sabres make their final trim to their roster by sending four players to the NHL The final roster and taxi squad are due to the NHL by 5 PM EST. today. It appears as though the Buffalo Sabres made their final training camp cuts this morning. They sent four more players down to the Rochester Americans of the AHL after sending eight down yesterday. Today, Arttu Ruotsalainen, Jacob Bryson, Mattias Samuelsson, and Andrew Oglevie were the four players assigned to the Amerks. The plan, as of now, is for the Sabres AHL affiliate to open their training camp on Friday. They are still a few weeks away from their start date of February 4th. They appear to have all of the players that will be on the active roster and taxi squad with them now. We’ll wait to see later tonight who ends up on which list. Jack Quinn is one of the players that will likely be on the taxi squad as the Sabres await clarity from the OHL on their season. Dylan Cozens could be on the active roster or the taxi squad and the same goes for defenseman Will Borgen. View the full article
  10. Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images Sabres make their first trim to their roster by sending eight players to the Rochester Americans When the Buffalo Sabres resume practice tomorrow, they’ll only have two more ahead of their Thursday evening matchup with the Washington Capitals. They began to trim down their roster today by sending eight players down to the Rochester Americans of the AHL. Those eight players were Brandon Biro, Brett Murray, C.J. Smith, Casey Fitzgerald, Ryan Jones, Michael Houser, and Dustin Tokarski. Ralph Krueger indicated over the weekend that the Amerks are scheduled to open their training camp on Friday (1/15). Final rosters, including the taxi squad, are due to the NHL tomorrow. As of now, the Sabres have 31 players remaining on their training camp roster. They need to trim down to at least 29 players by tomorrow. They can carry 23 players on the active roster and a maximum of six on the taxi squad. The most likely candidates to be sent down to the AHL that remain with the Sabres are Mattias Samuelsson, Arttu Ruotsalainen, and Brandon Davidson. Check back tomorrow to see who ends up on the final roster and taxi squad heading into opening night. View the full article
  11. Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images Let’s talk about what’s going on in the world.. of the Sabres and the NHL Here’s an open thread for discussing all matters Buffalo Sabres and NHL related for this week. Of course, you can talk about anything else you like too. The Buffalo Sabres are back in action this week, after ten months than felt more like ten years! Here’s the full schedule if you haven’t seen it yet. [Sabres] A recap from the second and final Blue & Gold scrimmage along with highlights. [Sabres] The Sabres have assigned these 8 players to Rochester, so the ‘taxi squad’ is starting to take shape. [Sabres] Remember, the final rosters have to be submitted to the NHL by Tuesday 5pm EST, though teams will have Wednesday as well to make any LTIR-enforced changes. The Sabres play the Capitals on Thursday night. The Athletic had an anonymous panel of coaches and GMs rank all the starting goalies in the league, and Linus Ullmark fell in Tier 3, tied for 23rd with Juuse Saros, and received some very nice compliments too - “I’m a fan. I like his style. I love his compete. He plays with an edge. Ullmark has paid his dues. He’s going to surprise people. He can hold his team up this year.” Down Goes Brown [The Athletic] ranked all the teams, and didn’t have the Buffalo Sabres in either the ‘middle-of-the-pack division’ or the ‘bottom feeder division’, instead placing them in the ‘Your-Guess-Is-As-Good-As-Mine Division’ - “... we all apparently agree that Montreal is a playoff lock based on adding Josh Anderson and Jake Allen, while a Sabres team that finished last year with virtually the same record adds Taylor Hall and Eric Staal and we all think they’re still miles away? “They might be. Honestly, if they finished dead last I’m not sure I’d bat an eye. But if they shock us all and actually make a run at respectability, just remember that I kind of vaguely thought I might have seen it coming.” Start preparing your picks in the following categories, we’re going to have the DBTB team’s picks published on Wednesday and want to see yours then! Team MVP, Leading Goal Scorer, Surprise Player, Best Defenseman, Will they make the playoffs?, Total team points & Bold prediction Feel free to add any links to developing news items as the week goes on in the comments below. View the full article
  12. Hutton, Ullmark likely Buffalo’s goaltending tandem this season In most traditional hockey seasons, many given NHL teams have one “starting” goaltender, who plays a majority of the team’s games, and the back-up, who plays the rest or comes in to relieve him. This season, of course, is anything but traditional. NHL teams are allowed to carry up to three goaltenders, and the Buffalo Sabres are set to begin with a tandem of Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark. Normally, we’d be asking: who is the starting goaltender this season? But instead, I’ll ask: is there even really such a thing this season? Does it even matter? (Short answer: I don’t think so.) First, consider the format of this season. The Sabres (and all other teams, for that matter) will be playing a condensed season in a shorter timeframe. Buffalo will play 56 games in a span of 114 days, between January 14 and May 8, which equates to roughly a game every other day. Last season, the Sabres played 69 games in 158 days, a slightly longer timeframe which allowed games to be more spread out. The Sabres have seven sets of back-to-back games this season, and lots of one-day breaks between games. They’ll be playing between three and four games on a weekly basis, and he season begins with four games in six days. With all of that said, it seems likely that the team will utilize both goaltenders on a more regular basis. Rather than putting a majority of the workload on one netminder, it would make sense to give both more equal playing time so as not to tire them out. (This seems like a natural decision not just for the Sabres, but for most NHL teams.) If the Sabres elect to carry three netminders, I could see the team swapping between Ullmark and Hutton on a regular basis and bringing in the third goaltender perhaps once a week, to ensure they get regular playing time, too. Last season saw the Sabres utilize Ullmark and Hutton pretty much equally. Ullmark played 34 games, Hutton 31. (Jonas Johansson also played six games). Ullmark’s numbers were better, as he averaged 2.69 goals-against and a .915 save percentage, but we also know now about the vision issues Hutton was having that have since been corrected. (Read more in this piece from Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News.) Something else to consider: both Ullmark and Hutton are set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season. Hutton will earn $2.75 million in the final year of a three-year contract, while Ullmark earns $2.6 million in the deal signed back in October. The Sabres also don’t have a gigantic wealth of goaltenders for the future. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is signed through 2022 and is currently playing with TPS overseas at least through February 5. Dustin Tokarski (who will be playing with the Amerks) also has two years left on his contract, while Johansson is signed only through this season. If this were a normal season, I’d say ride Ullmark a bit heavier. He’s younger and he’s arguably the future in net for the Sabres. Buffalo needs to see what he can do with a bigger workload, and he’s got to be able to step up to the challenge. However, because this isn’t a normal season, everyone’s dealing with more these days as it is and the team will be playing this condensed schedule, it seems to make the most sense to utilize both netminders pretty much equally. Does it really matter if one goalie is the “starter” or not? We’re lucky to be having hockey at all, so let’s just make the best of what we’ve got to work with for the time being and figure it out as the season runs its course. View the full article
  13. Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images Sabres forward has appeared on top line with Eichel, Hall The National Hockey League is set to begin its season on Wednesday, with the Buffalo Sabres scheduled for their first game on Thursday evening against the Washington Capitals. As Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall and company prepare to face Alexander Ovechkin, Zdeno Chara and the rest of the Caps, I’m going to spend a little bit of time over the coming days investigating some questions that still lie ahead. First up: Just how much has Tage Thompson’s game improved, and how much more improvement can it see over the course of the season, particularly if he gets to play with guys like Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall? Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger called Tage Thompson “one of the bright lights” in camp this season (H/T Mike Harrington) and it’s hard to disagree. Thompson has looked sharp and has been a surprisingly good fit alongside Eichel and Hall on the team’s top line so far. Thompson goal off feed from Hall. pic.twitter.com/aTh7I3EECk — Ben Mathewson (Optimistic Sabres Fan) (@Ben_Mathewson) January 10, 2021 It’s particularly impressive given that he hasn’t played since November 2019 and appeared in just one NHL game last season. Overall, the 23-year-old - who is listed at a whopping 6’7”, by the way - has recorded 21 points in 107 NHL games to date. If you would’ve told me a year and a half ago that there was a chance Thompson would be playing on the top line - it would’ve been unbelievable. A lot can change in a short time, and while it’s clearly very early, I like what I’ve seen so far from his line with Eichel and Hall and I look forward to watching it in the coming days - and I’m not the only one. Here’s what Hall himself had to say about Thompson from his first impressions: Taylor Hall on Tage Thompson: pic.twitter.com/3Zf6nrbKVy — Heather Engel (@engelheather) January 10, 2021 From his past performances, it’s easy to forget that Thompson was, indeed, a first-round draft pick, selected by the St. Louis Blues among players like Max Jones, Riley Tufte and Brett Howden. It’s also easy to think of Thompson as just one of the pieces that the Sabres ended up with in the Ryan O’Reilly trade, but this is his chance to prove himself as more than that, and prove his legitimate worth as a player in the Sabres organization. He’s also starting this season with a fresh, three-year contract signed back in October, which will see him take on a $1.4 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons. In years past, Thompson has averaged roughly 12 minutes of ice time per game (though his time with Buffalo is obviously a small sample size). Among the forwards he’s seen the most ice time with during his time with the Sabres so far? Vladimir Sobotka, Casey Mittelstadt Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons. If he’s going to take on the first line with Eichel (a 50+ point player in each of his five seasons to date) and Hall (a Hart Memorial Trophy winner whose career high saw him accrue 93 points in one season!), it’ll be a big step up for Thompson in a number of ways. Expectations will be higher than if he’s playing third- or fourth-line. He’ll also see more playing time, and hopefully less time in the press box. His opportunities, too, will be boosted by playing among such high-caliber players, and this can only help his growth as a player. Personally, I’ve never been too high or too low on Thompson. Last season, he was barely a blip on the NHL radar and played only 16 games in Rochester, so we never really got a good look at him to make a fair judgement. His first season in Buffalo was fine, nothing spectacular but nothing overtly terrible, either. He’s one of those players that I’d like to see more from and really be able to see just what they’re capable of, and putting him on a line with two of the best players on the Sabres will give him the best opportunity to showcase that. Let’s see what they can do in practices the next few days and in the first couple games of the season, and go from there. View the full article
  14. Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images After entering camp on a PTO, Sheahan gets a one year deal with the Sabres Riley Sheahan entered Buffalo Sabres training camp last week on a professional try-out contract. One week later, he inked a new deal with the team. The Sabres and Sheahan agreed to a one year contract worth $700k. He has looked good in camp and the team may have had the desire to get a contract done eventually. However, the season-ending injury to Zemgus Girgensons made it a priority for them. They’ll lean on Sheahan to take on some of the role that Girgensons would have played in the Sabres lineup. Especially on the penalty kill where the Sabres will miss Girgensons. The last few days at camp he has been on a line with Curtis Lazar and Tage Thompson. The Sabres are back on the ice for practice this morning as the prep for their final team scrimmage tomorrow night. The Washington Capitals are in town to open the season six days from today. View the full article
  15. Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images Three Sabres prospects medal in international tournament Team USA captured the gold medal at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships, securing a 2-0 victory over Canada on Tuesday evening. With the loss, Canada won the silver medal, while Finland beat Russia earlier in the day to snag the bronze. Entering Tuesday evening’s game, it was an uphill battle for the Americans. They’d done well in group play and throughout the tournament, but now had to face an incredibly strong Canadian team. Although the game started off a little rough, Team USA quickly proved its worth and took control en route to the win. Let’s put it this way: Canada had not allowed an even-strength goal all tournament entering Tuesday. They’d also scored first in every game this tournament, and hadn’t been held more than four minutes or so into a game without a goal. All of that changed on Tuesday. Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings) opened the scoring with a goal more than midway through the first period, when the Americans were beginning to find their legs and put quality chances on net. They also had a crucial penalty kill later in the period; being able to stimy Canada’s offense put them in a good position heading into the middle frame. Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks) doubled their lead early in the second period, and it was all about maintaining the lead from there. Spencer Knight saved all 34 shots he faced to nab the first shutout at a World Juniors gold medal game since 2012. ICYMI: @usahockey toppled @hc_wjc in a 2-0 shut out, crowning a new #WorldJuniors Champion. Watch more pic.twitter.com/qnSVa0O2Oa — IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 6, 2021 Sabres prospect Ryan Johnson played 16:14 in the gold medal game and recorded one shot on goal. On the other side of things, Dylan Cozens had a relatively quiet game aside from a few good chances; he recorded one shot and played 21:27 alongside Connor McMichael and Jakob Pelletier. Jack Quinn was benched for much of the game and played just 9:13. Earlier in the day, Finland defeated Russia by a score of 4-1 to capture the bronze medal, but it was a much closer game than the final score would seem to suggest. Russia held a 1-0 lead for a bit, thanks to a goal from Ilya Safonov. Finnish captain Anton Lundell stepped up to tie the game early in the second period, and Mikko Petman broke the stalemate just 1:13 into the third period. Finland then added two empty-net goals, from Lundell & Juuso Parssinen, to secure their victory. ICYMI: 4️⃣ goals for @leijonat equaled a #WorldJuniors bronze medal win over @russiahockey. Watch more pic.twitter.com/gLM9SGHbU2 — IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 6, 2021 To little surprise, Zegras was named tournament MVP after recording 18 points. Cozens finished the tournament with 16 points, and now he & Quinn are coming to Buffalo for Sabres camp and the NHL season that lies ahead. View the full article
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