The Buffalo Sabres are back from Sweden, and it’s time to get back to the business of the NHL regular season. After picking up two losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the past few days, the Sabres will return to action on Thursday.
Before we get there, here’s a few things we can take away from their recent trip:
1. They’re (still) having offensive troubles.
Sam Reinhart knows how to score goals. Jack Eichel is pretty good at hockey. So is Jeff Skinner. But overall, the Sabres are still having trouble finding depth scoring. In order for the team to succeed, you need more players stepping up offensively - particularly among the forwards.
Victor Olofsson scored in Saturday’s loss, but aside from that, it’s been far too long since any of the other forwards on the team have scored. (The last was Vladimir Sobotka, back on October 24.)
2. Special teams could use some polishing up.
The Sabres allowed one power-play goal in Friday’s loss to the Lightning, and failed to capitalize on two advantages of their own. Things were even worse on Saturday, as Buffalo gave up two power-play goals to Pat Maroon and Victor Hedman. They again failed to capitalize on either of their own advantages.
Head coach Ralph Krueger was quick to point out that both the power play and penalty killing units let the team down this weekend.
Overall, the Sabres still have the fifth-best power play in the league (25.0%), but their penalty killing has dropped significantly. - now at 77.1%, 24th overall in the league. (For comparison’s sake, San Jose’s penalty kill is running at 91.2%, while Pittsburgh has the best penalty kill in the Eastern Conference, at 87.5%).
3. It turns out Victor Oloffson can score at even-strength!
Finally, Olofsson scored at 5-on-5. We all knew it was coming eventually, but it’s no doubt refreshing for fans, media and the player himself to see it come to fruition. And what a move it was, too
Okay yea Sabres lost and Bills lost, but what about this pass from Jack to set up Olofsson who powers through Victor Hedman to score. In slo motion. So. Yea. pic.twitter.com/VaNUeriwAc— Luke (@haag_luke) November 11, 2019
4. Mid-season international trips are a bit strange.
While it’s undoubtedly a cool experience for the team to travel like this, and for fans overseas to be able to experience NHL hockey in person, it’s hard to ignore that doing an international trip like this, in the middle of the season, is a bit strange.
The Sabres had a week between games, some lengthy flights, a significant time zone change, then a pair of games that started less than 24 hours apart... before more lengthy flights, time zone changes back to Eastern time, and now, a few days to recuperate before getting back to game action.
5. Whether we like it or not, the Sabres are in a slump.
The two games in Sweden showcased a slumping Sabres team that is just having trouble stringing anything together right now. Buffalo is now on a five-game losing streak, 1-5-1 in their last six games and 9-6-2 overall.
How they come back from this Europe trip, and how they show up on Thursday against the Hurricanes, will set the pace for the next few weeks of hockey - and these are big weeks ahead. After dropping two to a division rival (Tampa), six of their ten remaining games in the month of November are also against divisional opponents.
These are crucial points that can make the difference when April comes around.