Final Score: Buffalo 4, Ottawa 7
Shots: BUF- 27 | OTT - 40
Buffalo Goal Scorers: Brandon Montour (2), Kyle Okposo, Victor Olofsson,
Ottawa Goal Scorers: Vladislav Namestnikov, Artem Anisimov (2), Drake Batherson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau (2), Anthony Duclair
Minus-1: Hutton’s Struggles Reemerge
Prior to tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators, Carter Hutton seemed to be turning a corner on what he been arguably the worst season of his NHL career. Riding a four-game winning streak, the collapse he experienced at the hands of one of the worst offensive teams in hockey was pretty unexpected. The 33-year-old finished the evening stopping 33 of 39 shots-against (.846 save-percentage) and found himself fighting the puck for the entirety of the first period, resulting in four goals-against on a mere 15 shots after 20 minutes.
Though Hutton did recover to a small extent as the game went on, Sabres fans anxiously await the return of Linus Ullmark. If the franchise hopes to make a miraculous run into playoff contention, they need to have good, consistent goaltending. They’re not getting that from Hutton, and rookie Jonas Johansson appears to be in over his head in small samples.
Plus-1: Goals for Montour
From an analytics standpoint, the combination of Rasmus Ristolainen and Brandon Montour hasn’t been a positive impact pairing this season. Recently, while their defensive struggles have continued, their offensive impacts have been strong. Tonight, Montour was rewarded with the Sabres’ first two goals of the game. While the two did get caught looking a few times defensively, they did their part once again in the offensive zone.
The 26-year-old found himself in the right offensive position on more than one occasion tonight, and it resulted in scoring opportunities for his squad. As he approaches RFA status this summer, how he finishes the 2019-20 campaign will be critical. If he can keep up his strong play as of late, he could earn himself a few more dollars in the form of what seems like an inevitable extension with Buffalo.
Minus-2: Special Teams Struggles
In a high-scoring affair like this, special teams can tell quite a story. Tonight, the Sabres struggled away from even-strength. Though they were able to convert on one of their four power-play opportunities, they also allowed a shorthanded goal late in the first period. Sloppy, inconsistent play both on special teams, and at even-strength told the whole story.
On the flip-side, the penalty-kill continued to struggle, as it has all season. The Senators were able to convert on both of their power-play opportunities on the evening and it ultimately ended up being the difference. Whether or not the penalties against Buffalo should have been called is up for debate. Regardless, the shorthanded unit needs to be better.
Minus-3: Opportunity Squandered
We’re not under any delusions here. Even with a win tonight, the Sabres playoff chances would have still been pretty slim. Still, with the Toronto Maple Leafs dropping another decision in regulation tonight, this was a prime opportunity for Buffalo to further close the gap against a very weak team.
After a full-blown social media revolt last week, fans had their ears perked up after the blue-and-gold collected three consecutive victories. Unfortunately they failed to get a fourth, which would have been their first time winning four consecutive games since last season’s infamous 10-game winning-streak. The steep climb to a top-three slot in the Atlantic Division just got a little more insurmountable.