Final Score: Nashville 2, Buffalo 1
Shots: NSH-36, BUF-31
Buffalo Goal Scorers: Sam Reinhart,
Nashville Goal Scorers: Ryan Johansen, Craig Smith
Minus-1: Slow start
Sure, Buffalo took the 1-0 lead...with just over a minute left in the first period. The team took over 12 minutes to register a shot, and at one point, were down 10-1 in the category. There is some statistical evidence that the goaltending has been suspect this season, but it is games like this that really stand out for the netminders. Linus Ullmark kept the team in the game in the first, and deserves credit for that.
Minus-1: Playing with the lead
Buffalo scored first, which should be a plus. Nashville 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.
Minus-1: Special teams
In one-goal games, special teams routinely makes a difference in the outcome. Such is the case tonight. Buffalo failed to score on its advantage opportunities, and gave up a goal while on the penalty kill. There are five teams in the NHL worse on the penalty kill than Buffalo. That’s not the type of thing that you expect to see from a contender. It has to be better. On both sides, it has to be better.
Yes, goaltending was mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Yes, it’s something that people point to when they talk about a lack of success from Buffalo this season. Tonight, though, Ullmark was a difference in the game. Outshot 37-31, Ullmark not only kept the Sabres in the game, he gave them chance after chance to get back into it - including a last-minute disadvantage in which me made several key saves. Say what you will about the coming-of-age netminder, tonight he looked great and his team could not manage more than one goal.
Watching fans assess Sam Reinhart is like listening to someone dissect Picasso. We all understand you don’t get it, but that doesn’t mean you’re right. Reinhart is going to get 20 goals again this season. He’s done that every year but one so far in his professional career, which has yet to reach its peak, and still, he has to deal with the hate from the fans. Why? He’s top-5 in scoring on the team EVERY YEAR. Don’t hate. Appreciate.
It was a winnable game against a beatable opponent that saw the team slowly convince itself out of a win. You can’t head into someone’s building and get outshot and hope to win. You can’t go on the road and wait more than 12 minutes to take a shot. You can’t give up a goal on the penalty kill and not even it out on the power play. You can’t take a penalty down 2-1 with 200 seconds left. You have to be better. At some point, this team has to be better..