After five games, the Buffalo Sabres are still searching for answers to questions that shouldn't be this hard.
Head coach Ted Nolan was one of many Sabres tonight scratching his head after yet another poor effort from his team. "We're trying to find ourselves and what kind of team we are," said the coach, though anyone who's watched them play this year knows full well that the correct answer to the question of what kind of team the Sabres are is "a very, very bad one".
Out of the gate, Buffalo was manhandled by the Florida Panthers in every way imaginable. You want advanced stats? The Sabres were outshot 16-3 and had a -18 Corsi rating in the first. You want the eye test? Florida was flying all over the ice, not giving the Sabres a chance to think or move with the puck, and kept Buffalo hemmed in to their own end almost the entire period, save one power play. The only place the Sabres weren't trailing after one was on the scoreboard, as they escaped the period tied 0-0 thanks to a strong effort all night from Jhonas Enroth.
The second period would see Florida's puck possession pay off, however, as Sean Bergenheim put a weak shot between Jhonas Enroth's legs three minutes in. Throw enough pucks at the net, and some of them will start bouncing your way. The Sabres did a bit more of that in period two, looking slightly better in the second than they did in the first, but the only excitement for Buffalo came when Zemgus Girgensons rushed to the rescue of Jhonas Enroth, who was bumped behind the net.
Buffalo's strong third period effort was helped by a string of Florida penalties (more on that below) but despite a frantic final ten minutes, the Sabres simply couldn't put anything past Roberto Luongo, who earned his third consecutive shutout against the Sabres - with 25, 25, and 26 saves, respectively.
The team gets a chance to take out their frustrations tomorrow night as the Boston Bruins come to town for a Saturday night showdown.
Sequence of the Game
Midway through the third period, the Sabres got a :49 second 5-on-3 advantage, and hope swelled in the First Niagara Center - this was it! This was their chance to tie things up and right the ship!
The Sabres, being the Sabres, did not score, and actually ended up with two guys standing at the point or on the half-wall right next to each other on multiple occasions. As soon as the first penalty expired, Chris Stewart found himself with the puck all alone, five feet from the crease, and missed the net entirely. Out of mindless frustration he immediately hacked at the ankles of Scottie Upshall, earning a terrible tripping call and ending his team's power play chance.
1. Who will look better - the #1 or #2 pick in the 2014 draft?
Sam Reinhart played nine shifts, finished with 7:09 of total ice time, won 60% of his faceoffs, and did not register a shot. Aaron Ekblad played 21 shifts, finished with 20:28 of ice time that included over two minutes on the power play, and did register a shot on net. Ekblad will be in Florida all year. Reinhart will be heading back to Kootenay soon, but will be back next season, bigger and better. It wasn't really a fair comparison to begin with, but Ekblad looked more NHL-ready.
2. Will the team continue to get secondary scoring?
3. Can Meszaros bounce back after his healthy scratch?
Kinda. While Mesz was the best Corsi player on defense tonight, he also coughed the puck up a few times in terrible situations and took a horrible second period penalty after one such cough-up. He had a nice third period though, so I'm gonna count this as a win.
Comment of the Game
Hey guys! Guys!
#AtLeastWeGotTequila needs to be co-opted by the Sabres Twitter account.