Score: Vancouver: 6, Buffalo: 3
Shots: VAN-35, BUF-28
Buffalo Goalscorers: Brandon Montour, Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons
Vancouver Goalscorers: Brock Boeser (2), Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Jake Virtanen, Loui Eriksson
Plus-1: Depth Scoring
The defense has become a more active feature in Buffalo’s scoring attack, which is obviously important; in addition, depth forwards have been contributing more regularly. Of course, they’d almost have to with all of the injuries that have piled up for the Sabres, but we’ve seen seasons where the responsibility fell to the depths to score, and they failed to. The team scored only one goal for a top-line forward today, and it came on the power play. It’s good to see things begin to spread out more.
Minus-1: Playing with the lead
Buffalo scored first, which should be a plus. Vancouver scored next, and the Sabres spent the rest of the game trying to play catch up. How this team continues to fail at keeping a lead is utterly mystifying. It’s not something that can be practiced; there is no drill for playing with a lead. It’s just a matter of continuing to do the things that work and adjusting the things that don’t, and somehow, for more than a decade, the Buffalo Sabres can’t do that with any sort of regularity.
Plus-1: Special teams
While it’s true that Buffalo had only one successful power play on the day, there is an underlying accomplishment that won’t be measured by statistics. The first opportunity with the advantage did not generate many shots. The team was, however, able to maintain possession for much of the power play, and for an extended period of time after that. This kept the same Vancouver players out on the ice for literal minutes with no stopage in play. Buffalo was able to change for some fresh legs, and eventually break down a tired Canucks line. Montour scored on a beautiful shot to take the lead for the only time in the evening.
You can’t score goals if you don’t take shots. Buffalo is successful on 9.4 percent of their shots as a team - better than the league average of 9.2. It begs a strategic question; if the team could manage ten more shots per game, statistically, they’d score another goal per game. While that wouldn’t have necessarily made a difference this afternoon, how many games would it have made a difference?
It was definitely time for Carter Hutton to get a start. He hadn’t had a home start in just a few days shy of two months, and it had been a while since he had a shot at all. While Linus Ullmark has put himself solidly in the starter’s spot, Hutton was due for a chance. Given the time he’s spent on the bench, maybe he was a bit rusty, but you really want to see more from him, technically and positionally. Several times, he put himself out of position to make a follow-up save, and while the next shot didn’t always come, Vancouver was able to make it count when it did. It seemed like Hutton had trouble tracking the puck at times - you could see him looking around for it after saves or blocked shots. Maybe it’s a confidence thing, but you want to see more awareness from your goaltender.
A 6-3 loss to a beatable team is disappointing to see. It’s most unfortunate because there were standout individual performances that fans should be able to celebrate, but the result clouds any of the bright points from the game. The tragedy is that all of the points made regarding this game can be applied over and over to any game throughout the season - observable issues just don’t get fixed. It’s difficult to blame it on coaching, because the team hasn’t had a solid coach in nearly a decade - at some point, one of them should have been able to get what they needed from the squad. Kruger seems to have the tools to fix the team. We all hope he can sooner rather than later.