Reaction to Canucks/Sabres 3.4.12

Positives:

– Ville Leino played his best game as a Buffalo Sabre in the team’s 5-3 victory over the NHL’s number one overall team, the Vancouver Canucks. Not only did he notch two goals (his first multi-goal game in nearly one year), he looked incredibly comfortable at the center position. He won faceoffs and made all the “little” plays. Most important, he has found chemistry with Nathan Gerbe and Pat Kaleta, which leads me to my next point:

– Patrick Kaleta has found a way to be more than relevant again in the NHL. He is often penalized for otherwise legal play, with a large target on his back in the eyes of the NHL. He has found new life, playing more like Nathan Gerbe and making things happen in the offensive zone. His two assists were well deserved. Not to mention, he is playing well without friend and linemate Paul Gaustad (who had an assist in his debut as a Predator tonight).

– Ryan Miller looked great again. The goals against were not a result of poor play by any means.

– Matt Ellis, Corey Tropp, Mike Weber, Andrej Sekera, and Alexander Sulzer all had very solid games.

– The Sabres played incredibly well in the third period, despite giving up a few goals. Their work ethic was top notch and enabled the team to get a win. Short shifts were the key.

– Christian Ehrhoff scored in his return to Vancouver after last season’s Stanley Cup Finals run.

Negatives:

– Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani decided to show up. Interesting, given their play was next to useless in Buffalo earlier this year.

– The Sabres almost blew an early 3-0 lead, but almost doesn’t count. They escaped this time.

– The officiating by tonight’s referees was brutal. Three debateable calls included two high-sticking penalties in which the sticks did not even touch the opposing player (very good acting on Vancouver’s part) and a penalty to Pat Kaleta in which his head was rammed into the crossbar by Alex Edler of the Canucks. This cost Ryan Miller his shutout streak in the second period.

– Kassian and Gragnani again. I’ve never seen two players play further from their regular games in order to prove a point to their old team. Vancouver fans will be severly disappointed if they expect to see the pair play that way every night.

Summary:

The Sabres are now just two points behind eighth place Winnipeg. This is incredible, considering this team was dead and in last place one month ago. They are 11-3-3 and have points in 8 straight games. Are we seeing a repeat of last year? Time will tell. Buffalo fans should be rooting for Philadelphia tomorrow (actually later today), as a Capitals win would place Buffalo three points out. The Sabres face the Jets monday in the most pivotal matchup of the season to date.

Follow Josiah LeRoy on Twitter @JosiahDLeRoy

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The Buffalo Sabres: Deadline Dealers

Paul Gaustad was traded to the Predators for a 1st-round pick

For the hours leading up to 3:00 PM eastern time, it was eerily quiet.  There was one move made in the morning, with the Predators acquiring Andrei Kostitsyn from the Montreal Canadiens, and there were sporadic deals here and there between the hours of 12:00 and 2:00.  The Wild slowly told Nick Schultz that he was traded to the Oilers, and the Lighting began Carter Ashton’s quest to become just like his dad, Brent, who called eight different cities his home in the NHL.

Then things got going.

Sammy Pahlsson was dealt out of Columbus to the Cup contending Canucks, giving them a solid defensive center.  Ottawa sent Brian Lee to Tampa Bay for Matt Gilroy.  Jamie McGinn went to the Avalanche for T.J. Galiardi and Daniel Winnik.  The Jets sent Johnny Oduya to the Blackhawks for a 2nd- and 3rd-round pick.

But between 2:00 and 3:00 PM, it seemed the Sabres did nothing, or so we thought.

At 3:00 PM, the exact time of the trading deadline, Sabres fans gave their last honk for the Goose, as it was reported that Paul Gaustad had just been traded to the Nashville Predators.  Twitter erupted, with everyone wondering what the Sabres possibly could have gotten for the defensively sound center.

Sammy Pahlsson, a player very similar to Gaustad, had been traded the hour before for two fourth round picks in 2012 and a defensive prospect, so it was only safe to assume that Darcy Regier traded Gaustad for a seemingly similar package.

Not a single person expected Paul Gaustad to go for a first-round pick, except for maybe Darcy Regier, who stuck to his guns on his market price for the Goose.  David Poille, fresh off his new extension as G.M. of the Predators, gave in to Regier on his demands, while Regier threw in a 4th-round pick in the 2013 draft.  The Sabres scored the Preds first-rounder in 2012.  The only way this trade could have gone better for the Sabres is if the Predators gave up a 2013 first-round pick instead, as the Predators are seemingly going all in this year not knowing what the future might bring them, but I’m not going to berate Regier for turning his 7th round pick from the 2000 draft into a first-round pick 12 years later.

Still, the day left a dry taste in the mouths of Sabres fans.  All these weeks, begging Darcy to do something, and yet all anyone can say about him is that he dealt Paul Gaustad for a 1st-round pick.

Oh wait, there was that one surprise.

Zack Kassian’s name got out somehow, being sent to the Vancouver Canucks, but no one knew who the Canucks were sending back in return.  Sabreland erupted.  Zack Kassian?  The Sabres’ version of Milan Lucic (laughable, by the way)?  What did they possibly trade him for?

Probably one of the most intriguing prospects the Canucks had on their roster.

It’s hard not to like Cody Hodgson.  There’s not much you can find not to like about him.  The 10th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Hodgson played in 63 games, grabbing 33 points, 16 of them goals.  While this may not seem astonishing, this is while logging a small amount of minutes as a 3rd liner on a team that boasts Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler as their 1st- and 2nd-line centers, respectively.

Hodgson will be given every chance to succeed with the Sabres with the amount of ice time he deserves.  He has brilliant hands and a magnificent shot to go along with it, not to mention he’s solid in his defensive zone.  He is one hell of a complete player, and could be the 1st- or 2nd-line center the Sabres have been waiting for.  It’s easier to find toughness than it is to find a potential top-line center, and that’s what we’re dealing with here: potential.

The Canucks also took defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani off the Sabres hands, which many outlets are saying is the wild-card of this deal, citing Gragnani’s +10 as a positive for the young defenseman.  If only the NHL kept official stats of giveaways…

The Sabres also picked up defenseman Alexander Sulzer, but he probably doesn’t figure into the Sabres future plans, as Sulzer is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year.  The Sabres could look into signing him for the Rochester Americans next year, but that’s the best-case scenario for Sulzer.

All-in-all, this deadline was a win for the Sabres, and their fans, whether they’re ready to admit it or not.