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Sabres handed first regulation loss in Anaheim

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Despite holding a two-goal lead early, the Sabres opened their west coast road trip with a 5-2 loss to the Ducks

Buffalo Sabres v Anaheim Ducks Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Despite holding an early 2-0 lead in the first period, the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t keep up with a very physical Anaheim Ducks squad on the road. The 5-2 loss to kick-off their Western Conference road trip was their first regulation defeat of the season. The Ducks simply had answers for all of the things the Sabres had previously done well to start the 2019-20 season.

Plus-1: The Skinner-Johansson-Sobotka line

Despite not registering any goals in this one, Jeff Skinner and Marcus Johansson put together very strong individual analytical performances. Vladimir Sobotka participated on that line as well, though he wasn’t nearly as effective in that regard.

As a trio, they accounted for a relative Corsi of 44.41-percent, which was by far the best mark by any of the Sabres’ forward lines last night. This line continues to push pace, and create chances at 5-on-5, despite really only possessing two offensively capable assets.

Minus-1: The Vesey-Mittelstadt-Rodrigues line

In virtually every one of the team’s first seven games to date, the combination of Jimmy Vesey, Casey Mittelstadt, and Evan Rodrigues has been disappointing, to say the least. Perhaps the return of Conor Sheary (who is apparently close to recovering from the upper-body injury he sustained last week), will help them find their scoring groove.

Still, even with Sheary manning the right side, their line has only accounted for one even-strength goal on the year (which was scored by Sheary). While Mittelstadt continues to look overwhelmed on a nightly-basis, Vesey (a player, for whom the Sabres dealt a third-round pick this summer) has been one of the team’s least effective forwards. Perhaps Krueger will consider a personnel adjustment, because this line simply isn’t working.

Minus-2: Anaheim disarmed the Sabres’ biggest weapon

Last night, the Sabres’ power-play (which was operating at a 42.86-percent clip prior to yesterday’s contest) was effectively shut down, going 1-for-7 on the evening. Victor Olofsson was able to capitalize on his eighth-consecutive power-play goal on the team’s first opportunity, but the Ducks did a fantastic job of using an aggressive approach for the rest of the game while shorthanded.

Hopefully this was just a one-game blip for Buffalo. Their proficiency on the man-advantage has been a key component to their hot start. Given the amount of firepower they possess, they should be fine, but their future opponents would be wise to emulate the Ducks’ approach, because it was extremely effective.

Minus-3: Physical toll in first game of road trip

This isn’t really a “minus” in the sense that it was the Sabres’ fault, but in the first of a three-game stint out west (not to mention the first game in a back-to-back), they had to deal with a very physical opponent. It seemed as though after they went down 2-0 early, the Ducks flipped a switch and became a faster, meaner, more aggressive group.

While the Sabres did do a nice job of trying to match their physicality, there will be some residual effects after this one. Hopefully there isn’t a noticeable effect when they square-off against the Los Angeles Kings tonight.

Final Thoughts

Everyone knew that a regulation loss was coming at some point, but this game was pretty rough overall. Dropping a two-goal advantage is never good, especially on the road against a very talented goaltender. How the team responds tomorrow night will be interesting to monitor. The Kings aren’t a very strong opponent, but will be a good test for a team coming off a very physically taxing affair.

Puck drop tonight is at 10:30PM at Staples Center.