Quick Hits: Sabres at Flames

Photo: Gerry Thomas - NHLI via Getty Images

Photo: Gerry Thomas – NHLI via Getty Images

The last time the Buffalo Sabres were above the .500-mark in the standings was back on January 25, 2013. That was the shortened 2012-13 season when the Sabres were just 2-1-0 at that point of the season. That night, Buffalo suffered a 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes to fall to 2-2 on the season. Since then, it has been a long road of misery for the Sabres.

On Tuesday night, the Sabres would look to surpass the .500-mark with a win over the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The Sabres were also trying to break another long streak in the team’s history on Tuesday night. Buffalo had lost the past six matchups with the Flames at the Saddledome dating back to the 2003-04 season, when Mika Noronen pitched a 20-save shutout on October 18, 2003. 13 years to the day.

However, the Sabres will have to wait a bit longer to break each streak after Buffalo falls to Calgary in overtime, 4-3.

The Sabres would strike first in this game at the 7:25 mark of the first period with Zemgus Girgensons one-timing a pass from Tyler Ennis past former Sabres goalie, Chad Johnson. Girgensons had a chance earlier in the period on a feed from Dmitry Kulikov, but Girgensons would make up for his miss by netting his first goal of the season.

Calgary would respond a little less than nine minutes later with a goal from Michael Frolik. A shot from Brett Kulak at the point would be poked free by Mikael Backlund from under goalie Robin Lehner. Frolik would manage to put home the loose puck just before the officials blew the play dead. The goal would be waved off at first, but the call would be reversed after a conversation among the gentlemen in black and white.

The period would end with the Flames out-shooting the Sabres 15-6, but with the score knotted at one.

After an interference call against Calgary’s Matt Stajan just past the halfway point of the second period, Buffalo’s powerplay would go to work for the second time on the evening. After some nice puck movement in the Flames’ zone, Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly’s shot would bounce off of Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton and into the net for his third goal in two games.

The Sabres would hold on to its 2-1 lead into the second intermission, but Buffalo would be out-shot by a 23-10 total through 40 minutes of action.

Calgary would tie things up early in the third period with a goal from Michael Ferland. A pass attempt from Marcus Foligno would go off the official and straight to Ferland, who had a ton of room heading to the net.

Foligno would get his revenge just 2:39 later as he powers his way into the Flames zone and rips a shot past Johnson for his first goal of the year.

However, Buffalo’s third lead of the game would last just a minute and three-seconds. Flames rookie Matthew Tkachuk would take a pass on the fly from Stajan, streak into the Sabres zone and rip his first career goal past Lehner.

The Sabres and Flames would remain tied at three as time expired, which means everyone’s favorite five-minutes in hockey: 3-on-3 overtime.

In overtime, Flames forward Sean Monahan would get away with a cross check of Sam Reinhart in behind the Buffalo net, which would lead to a Buffalo turnover. Monahan would eventually get a nice feed from Johnny Gaudreau, and Monahan would score the game-winning goal with 2:34 left to go in overtime.

The Sabres are now 1-1-1 on the season, and will look to (technically) break the .500-mark on Thursday night in Vancouver, British Columbia when they take on the Canucks at Rogers Arena.

Now, the quick hits:

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    • Speed kills

The Flames have some good speed up front. Guys like Gaudreau, Monahan, Sam Bennett and company can create some havoc by using their speed to create chances and frustrate opponents.

Especially in the 3-on-3 overtime, the Flames were able to out-match the Sabres with their speed. Gaudreau had a couple of quality chances in overtime to put the game to rest, but Lehner came up with a couple of nice stops.

On the overtime winner, Monahan was able to use a burst of speed to get to Gaudreau’s pass and have space in behind O’Reilly to score.

Buffalo was able to keep Calgary’s speed under control for most of the game, but anything goes in overtime. Better luck next time.

    • Poo-poo officiating

Never like to rag on officiating because hockey is one of the toughest games to officiate, but Tuesday night was an exception.

It was a rough night for the officials in Calgary with quite a few missed calls, and some questionable penalties called.

On the Flames’ first goal, it was tough to see if the puck had come free, but to wave it off then reverse the call without getting consultation from the league is baffling. Good on them for meeting to discuss the play and making a call, but this is where officials should be allowed to go to Toronto to make sure they got a call right.

The referees would call a total of 13 penalties in this game, but none after the 13:05 mark of the third period. After that point, the refs may have put away the whistles and they let some penalties just fly over their heads. A couple of penalties that were called probably should not have been penalties, while there were a number of plays that probably were penalties that did not get called.

Even in the overtime frame, Monahan got away with a cross check that probably should have been a penalty. Even the Canadian media agrees that Monahan got away with a sure-fire penalty.

Did the NHL forget how to offense? Perhaps.

However, we are all human I guess. Nothing has been done to change that, and the NHL will continue its “All is well, nothing is wrong” mentality.

Carry on.

Quiet debut for Baptiste

While Nick Baptiste made his NHL debut on Tuesday night, nothing really happened for the 21-year old forward.

The former third round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft only played in 8:50 of action, and was a plus-1 on the evening.

Baptiste had a good finish to the 2015-16 last year with the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League, and put in the work in the offseason to earn his first game in the NHL. At development camp in in training camp, Baptiste was above and beyond the best young Sabres player on the ice, and he established himself as one of the top recall options for the Sabres this season.

It was unfortunate that the strong-skating, speedy, scoring forward did not get more action than he did. However, it did not help Baptiste to play in the bottom six with guys like Nicolas Deslauriers, Matt Moulson, and Derek Grant. Yuck.

Oh yeah, and why did Baptiste not get any action at all in the overtime frame? Why not fight fire with fire by playing Baptiste against some other speed guys like Gaudreau and Monahan?

That is something for head coach Dan Bylsma to figure out, because having guys like Josh Gorges on the ice in 3-on-3 overtime is certainly a head scratcher.

    • Rip Simonick, hockey legend.

Tuesday’s game marks the 3,500th of Rip Simonick’s career as an equipment manager for the Buffalo Sabres. In the history of their franchise, the Buffalo Sabres have played 3,575 games and Simonick has been a part of 97.9% of those games. Incredible.

  • Shaky Lehner

Tuesday night was certainly not the best of nights for Robin Lehner.

Lehner did face 34 shots on the evening, and made many good saves to keep the Sabres in the game throughout. However, Lehner did give up a couple of bad goals in this one.

On Tkachuk’s goal in the third period, Lehner did not get square to the shot and gave up a bad goal on the blocker, short side.

Then on the overtime goal, Lehner just bit the bullet too early and gave Monahan the entire top half of the net.

However, it looked as though Lehner knew that both of those goals were on him based on his body language. It is also very early in the 2016-17 season, which is why this analysis may be a huge overreaction at this point.

Lehner is expected to have the night off on Thursday night in Vancouver. Maybe a night off will help Lehner regain his composure.

Written by Brayton Wilson

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