Tag: Matt Donovan

Zach Bogosian, Boone Jenner

Sabres’ biggest question: Defense


As much as the Buffalo Sabres have improved lately, it still seems like they’re going to struggle on defense.

Honestly, there are strong odds that they’ll struggle a lot.

You can trot out the simplest stats (Buffalo allowed a league-worst shots on goal average of 35.6 per game, two more than second-worst Toronto) or go a little deeper (the Sabres’ Fenwick Close was downright ghastly), but the bottom line is that Buffalo was atrocious on D. Their offensive firepower was meek in 2014-15, yet the Sabres’ work in their own end was the leading reason people described them as “historically inept.”

Just look at the dregs of NHL.com’s “SAT” stat and you’ll see just how much worse Buffalo was than the rest of the worst:

26. Columbus: -365
27. Toronto: -515
28. Calgary: -839
29. Colorado: -984
30. Buffalo: -1,789


GM Tim Murray made this team better in many ways – and certain facets should benefit Buffalo defensively – but the personnel is still lacking.

Even if Dan Byslma’s a big difference-maker, it’s difficult to imagine him working many miracles with some combination of Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian (pictured), Josh Gorges, Mike Weber, Matt Donovan, Mark Pysyk, Jake McCabe and Carlo Colaiacovo.

(Seriously, take a step back and ponder that group for a moment.)

Look, players like Ristolainen could very well make significant strides in 2015-16. Buffalo is also likely to enjoy better two-way play from its forward group, as Ryan O’Reilly and David Legwand both possess some defensive chops. Again, Byslma’s systems could at least drag the Sabres closer to respectability, as well.

If you dial down the optimism to more reasonable levels, the Sabres are likely to put a ton of pressure on Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson next season, as that defense stands as a work in progress … at best.

Sabres re-sign Pysyk: two years, $2.25 million

Columbus Blue Jackets v Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres have re-upped with RFA blueliner Mark Pysyk on a two-year, $2.25 million deal, per CBC.

Pysyk, 23, just wrapped his entry-level deal with Buffalo — he was the club’s first-round pick (23rd overall) in 2010 — but only appeared in seven games for the Sabres last year, spending most of the season in AHL Rochester before collapsing during a pickup basketball game in February.

(Pysyk, once medically cleared, did return to play three games for the Amerks at the end of the season.)

This new deal has a $1.125M cap hit, and Pysyk will carry that into next season looking to become a full-time NHLer. He appeared in 44 games during the ’13-14 campaign, but was dispatched to the AHL last year to work on his game; Pysyk’s chances of sticking with Buffalo in ’15-16 should be aided by the fact three regulars from last year — Nikita Zadorov, Andrej Meszaros, Andre Benoit — are no longer with the club.

That said, GM Tim Murray did bring in a trio of veteran presences in Matt Donovan, Carlo Colaiacovo and Bobby Sanguinetti this offseason.

Sabres, Varone avoid arbitration with one-year, $600K deal

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders
1 Comment

Just over a week after filing for arbitration, Phil Varone has avoided the hearing by agreeing to a one-year, $600,000 deal with the Sabres.

The contract is of the two-way variety.

Varone, 24, split last season between the Sabres and their AHL affiliate in Rochester, appearing in a career-high 28 NHL games while scoring five points. With the Amerks, he had 15 goals and 44 points in 55 games — and it was the AHL part of his contract that led to the original arbitration filing, per the Buffalo News:

Varone had a pro-rated NHL salary of $595,000 last season and made $62,500 in the AHL. The Sabres tendered him his NHL qualifying offer by last week’s deadline, which would push his NHL salary into the $655,000 range. He’s likely looking for a much bigger salary for the AHL portion of his deal, given the large minor-league salaries the Sabres handed out last week in free agency.

Buffalo will be paying former Utica Comets captain Cal O’Reilly $700,000 next season to play in the AHL, while defenseman Matt Donovan would make $400,000 with the Amerks, defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti would make $300,000 and forward Jason Akeson would be at $250,000.

Varone will be in tough for minutes with Buffalo next season. The team will be dramatically different at center, with Ryan O’Reilly as the new No. 1 and both Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart looking to crack the roster and be full-time contributors.

GM Tim Murray also added some depth in veteran David Legwand, acquired from Ottawa in the Robin Lehner deal.

Hamonic suffered torn MCL on Scuderi hit, no surgery required

Rob Scuderi, Travis Hamonic

The day after the Isles were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, news finally started to surface about their injured players — specifically, defenseman Travis Hamonic.

Hamonic, who missed the entire Washington series with an undisclosed ailment, revelaed he suffered a torn MCL on a hit from Pittsburgh’s Rob Scuderi in the second-to-last game of the regular season (as pictured).

That was Hamonic’s last hockey-related activity of the year though, per Newsday, the tear didn’t require surgery — in fact, Hamonic was holding out hope of a Round 2 return, should the Isles have won Monday’s Game 7.

There’s no denying Hamonic was missed. The 24-year-old averaged nearly 22 minutes per night this season and broke out offensively, scoring a career-high 33 points in 71 games. Hamonic was also largely assigned the task of defending Alex Ovechkin during the Isles’ regular-season tilts against the Caps, a job that fell to Johnny Boychuk instead.

Boychuk fared well against Ovechkin but, with injuries also hitting blueliners Calvin de Haan and Lubomir Visnovsky, the Hamonic ailment was even more pronounced. On Monday, the Isles were forced to play AHL recall Scott Mayfield and little-used Matt Donovan a combined 26:24 against Washington.

Your Caps-Islanders Game 7 officials are…

Anaheim Ducks v Phoenix Coyotes

Referees Dan O’Rourke (No. 9) and Dan O’Halloran (No. 13), linesmen Greg Devorski (No. 54) and Michel Cormier (No. 76).

Standbys are referee Francis Charron and linesman Tim Nowak.

Some notes on tonight’s zebras…

• O’Rourke worked Saturday’s Game 6 — a 3-1 Isles win — along with Brian Pochmara, and the two were responsible for containing the end-of-game melee that resulted in 26 PIM. Just prior to those shenanigans, O’Rourke gave Isles d-man Matt Donovan a 10-minute misconduct after what Newsday described as a “routine-looking post-whistle shoving match.”

• Speaking of end-of-game shenanigans, O’Halloran’s had some experience in that department as well. He called Game 2 of the Calgary-Vancouver series — y’know, the one that ended with a massive brawl and over 100 PIM.

And now, some Game 7 notes, courtesy NHL PR…

• Home teams are 91-65 (.583) all-time in Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but were 1-6 in 2014.

• The team that scores first is 115-41 all-time (.737), including a 4-3 mark in 2014.

• Thirty-nine Game 7s have required overtime (39-of-156, 25%). Road teams enjoy a narrow edge, 20-19 (.513).

• A total of seven series went to a Game 7 in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, tying the single-year playoff record set in 1994 and matched in 2011.