Score: Buffalo 2, Colorado 3
Shots: BUF-33 | COL- 34
Sabres Goal Scorers: Zemgus Girgensons, Curtis Lazar
Avalanche Goal Scorers: Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Kaut, J.T. Compher
Minus-1: The Penalty Kill (what else is new?)
Every single week it feels like the Buffalo Sabres’ penalty-kill unit costs them points in the standings. Tonight, that group was only able fend-off one of Colorado’s three opportunities on the evening, and in the end, it was the difference.
At the end of the season, fans will talk about inconsistent goaltending, and a lack of secondary scoring as major issues, but if the Sabres could be just average on the penalty-kill, they’d be much more of a realistic potential playoff squad. With only 19 games remaining on the docket, we don’t expect much to change for the second-worst unit in the NHL, but they cost themselves two precious points tonight.
Plus-1: Playing Up to Their Opponent
Give the Sabres credit in this one. They certainly looked like they belonged on the same sheet of ice as the playoff-bound Avalanche. Sure, Colorado was missing a few of their roster regulars, but they played their typical high-octane offensive game (while remaining defensively competent), and for the most part, the Sabres matched them stride-for-stride.
At five-on-five, an argument can be made that Buffalo actually had the stronger performance, but Pavel Francouz was up to the task, and stopped several would-be goals to keep his team ahead late in the contest.
Minus-2: A Tough Night for Ristolainen-Montour
Don’t be surprised if Ralph Krueger breaks up the defensive pairing of Rasmus Ristolainen and Brandon Montour at practice tomorrow. Tonight, the two of them were absolutely torched, posting relative Corsi marks of -31.73, and -20.98, respectively. On the season, the two have made for a sub-par pairing, relative xG percentage of -6.44.
Though the two of them experienced some semblance of success together early-on, it’s time to shake up the defensive corps. While Carter Hutton was able to bail them out a bit at even-strength tonight, they couldn’t have looked worse.
Plus-2: They Haven’t Quit Yet
Sure, the Sabres’ playoff odds are slim. Some would argue insurmountably so, but can we all just take a minute and appreciate that, as we approach the month of March, the players on the ice are playing like they’re still very much in this thing?
By January of last season, Phil Housley’s squad was already starting to mail it in. Credit to the coaching staff for the fight this group appears to still have in them as we approach the final stretch. Even if they don’t qualify for the post-season, this group will earn some much-needed goodwill from the fan base if they fight the way they did tonight until the bitter end.