All season long, the Buffalo Sabres have been such a hard team to judge.
Has the onslaught of injuries to key players derailed an otherwise promising team, or is this a team whose depth is too thin to overcome such injuries? Do they let in goals at unfortunate times because they have weak goaltenders or because they have a weak defense that can’t clear the puck? How many times has their penalty kill been this close to killing it off, only to have a bad bounce or pass sink them?
Tonight was another example of the enigmatic team that is the Sabres, and it left many of us fans scratching our heads in defeat.
The team got off to a fast start tonight, scoring on their first shot just three minutes in thanks to Matt Moulson’s ninth goal of the year. Of course, the penalty kill would soon rear its ugly head, as Tamp Bay tied the game with Ondrej Palat’s power play goal just three minutes later.
Palat would put home his second of the night five minutes into the second frame, finishing with two goals and team-high five shots. Nikita Kucherov would put the Bolts up two later in the period, and the Sabres found themselves yet again trailing going in to the third.
Could they come back? Would they show a better effort in the third? The answer was yes, but some head scratchers that came late derailed another promising comeback.
Evander Kane continued his hot streak ten minutes into the third, cutting the Tampa lead to 3-2 with his third goal in five games. And then, despite a feisty effort from Buffalo - maybe too feisty - things started to fall apart.
A terrible power play, another theme of the night, forced Anders Nilsson to make two key saves. Poorly timed penalties by Brian Gionta (maybe?) and Evander Kane’s 2-for-1 (iffy call, but still dumb) in the final five minutes really derailed any hope of a comeback late in the game, and Tampa would add the empty netter to win 4-2.
So what derailed the Sabres tonight, weak officiating or poorly timed penalties? Are they a team with a strong finish or do they finish strong because they tend to dig holes in the first 40 minutes? Will they ever win an important, playoff-implications game or was their strong third period effort sidetracked by a wonky power play and bad penalties?
These are questions we’re still trying to figure out 41 games into the season, and despite the fact that the Sabres lost tonight, there was enough good in their game to look forward to tomorrow, when we’ll try and continue to figure out answers to some more of these questions.
1. Will Jack and Sam play together again, and will Reinhart continue his hot streak?
They did for a bit later in the game, but of course we jinxed Reinhart’s recent play by mentioning it here and he was held pointless tonight. Eichel earned an assist on Kane’s goal. Despite the lack of production, the duo once again showed promise when paired together, especially with another speedster like Kane on the other wing.
2. How will the Sabres attack the returning Ben Bishop?
Scoring on your first shot seems like a good start, but the Sabres only had 15 shots through two periods, against a goalie who was struggling with the puck at times. Gotta be better there.
3. Will the Sabres earn their first five-game point streak since 2012?
Nope. Maybe in 2018?
Comment of the Game
Oh, wait… this was a PP… Womp womp womp
Posted by Mattd017