For much of the season, the Buffalo Sabres have lived and died by their power play. When it's going good, they're a competitive team that can hang with almost anyone in the NHL. When it's not, well, you get games like we saw tonight, as the Sabres lost to the Boston Bruins 4-1.
Buffalo squandered some great chances in the second period, when Boston gave the Sabres three power plays in rapid succession. Despite some really strong looking stretches with the man advantage, the Sabres failed to find the net on all three. Another power play late in the third proved fruitless, and the Sabres weren't able to generate much five-on-five offense to compensate in the three-goal loss.
For a moment at the beginning of the game it looked like we'd have another dull first period at the First Niagara Center, with the Sabres not recording their first shot until more than six minutes in to the game. Things would get very exciting, very quickly, however, as David Legwand opened the scoring with his third goal of the season, a nice wraparound through the legs of Gustavsson. And on the next faceoff, Johan Larsson would have an inspired brawl with Max Talbot. Legwand scoring and Larsson fighting - what a world we lived in for those five minutes.
That lead would stand for just one minute into the second period, when Matt Belesky would tie the game. Boston would go on to score the next three goals, one with the empty net, in the 4-1 victory. It was a bit frustrating, because the middle two Boston goals seemed like they went in thanks to chance rather than skill. Zdeno Chara scored on an easy shot that Robin Lehner never saw, and Ryan Spooner scored when Lehner deflected the puck between his own legs.
In his first game back, Lehner had a bunch of good and a little bad, like the aforementioned own-goal. Despite that, he played a very strong game tonight, especially considering how poorly his conditioning stint in Rochester went. His positioning, reflexes, and rebound control were all pretty good tonight, and should continue to round into shape as he plays more over the coming weeks.
The Sabres lost more than the game tonight, as Zemgus Girgensons went to the locker room in the middle of the first period after laying down a big open ice hit and gingerly skating off. In his post game presser, Dan Bylsma said that Girgensons suffered an upper body injury and that the team would likely require a call-up for tomorrow's game.
The Sabres laid another egg at home, going 0-5-1 in their last six home games and scoring just eight goals in that stretch. Luckily, things should get easier as the team will play again at home tomorrow night against the...Capitals. Oh, crap.
Well, at least they'll be wearing white at home?
1. What will Robin Lehner look like in his first game back?
Lehner looked pretty good tonight, aside from one bad goal. Let's be honest - this was his first game back and we need to hold off major evaluation until he's gotten a chance to play consistently. Still, tonight was a promising start.
2. Why is Mark Pysyk not playing? OR Will Mike Weber make a case as to why he should play over Pysyk?
Weber took another awful penalty tonight, but the goat of the game defensively was Jake McCabe. The young blueliner had a number of bad turnovers, inaccurate passes, and poor decisions. I would be shocked if Pysyk wasn't in the lineup for one of these two tomorrow night, especially considering the team's loss.
3. How will Jack Eichel follow up his last game against Boston?
Eichel played a heck of a game tonight, and while he didn't get his name on the scoresheet, he made two handfuls worth of flashy plays. Seeing-eye passes, strong rushes up the ice, slick puckhandling that left Boston defenders spinning, and was second on the team with four shots. Another strong game against his hometown team for Eichel.
Comment of the Game
*Raises a shot of Calico Jack*
To better days ahead, boys!
*Turns Goo Goo Dolls on max volume*
*Listens until 2017-18 season*