Shots on Goal: Sabres 30 | Lightning 29
Sabres Goal Scorers: Reinhart (9), Vesey (1)
Lightning Goal Scorers: Kucherov (8), Sergachev (2), Gourde (6), Paquette (3), Palat (8)
Minus-1: Special Teams Are Still Atrocious
Any game where a team let’s up two shorthanded goals (let alone on the same power-play) is a bad outing on special teams. While shorthanded goals-against haven’t been a recurrent problem for the Buffalo Sabres, their inability to score on the power-play has. Tonight, they were blanked yet again, going 0-for-4.
As we approach the end of November, the Sabres have one goal in their 31 power-play attempts. After tonight, there have allowed more goals on the man-advantage than they’ve scored. That is beyond unacceptable, and if the coaching staff intends to right the ship, they need to reconfigure their approach.
Minus-2: Losing Rasmus Dahlin
As a whole, the officiating in this contest was questionable at times, but the most egregious missed call of the evening came when Erik Cernak hit Rasmus Dahlin in the head with a viscous elbow. The 19-year-old defenseman would not return to action. The exact extent of the injury has yet to be announced.
It goes without saying that losing Dahlin for any period of time would be a blow to the Sabres’ blue line. The NHL Department of Player Safety needs to take a good, long look at that sequence and determine discipline for Cernak. The fact that it was missed by the referee should not matter. The play was blatantly dirty and needs to be handled by the league.
*Edit: Head Coach Ralph Krueger announced during his post-game interview that Dahlin has a concussion.
Plus-1: Olofsson at Five-on-Five
While he was very effective as a sniping specialist on the power-play to start the 2019-20 season, Victor Olofsson’s play at even-strength continues to improve. Tonight, the Olofsson-Eichel-Reinhart line was the only positive impact line for Buffalo, analytically, and the 24-year-old played a very positionally sound game overall.
Last season in Rochester, he was criticized a bit early on for his five-on-five play, but most everyone would agree that it improved substantially as the year marched on. Perhaps we’re seeing the same process taking place again as he continues to adjust to NHL action. His situation will be interesting to monitor. The Sabres certainly need more consistent contributors at even-strength, especially if the power-play continues to flounder.
For as bad as it was to give up four unanswered goals after taking a 2-1 lead early in the second period, the game was closer than the final score indicates. The Sabres out-shot their opponent 30-29, and they were the better team for the first 40 minutes. Allowing several odd-man rushes against a high-octane team like the Lightning will almost always come back to bite you.
There is no question that things fell apart at the seams in the final frame. Having just played against the Florida Panthers the night before, seeing the Sabres come out flat in the third period isn’t necessarily surprising. We’ll see how they rebound at home against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.