Final Score: Buffalo 1, Winnipeg 3
Shots: BUF-26 | WPG - 35
Buffalo Goal Scorers: Rasmus Ristolainen
Winnipeg Goal Scorers: Kyle Connor (2), Tucker Poolman
Minus-1: Bad From The Start
To be quite blunt, there wasn’t a single point following the opening face-off where it felt like the Buffalo Sabres had any semblance of control in this one. While they did manage to keep their opponent off the board well into the first period, the blue-and-gold produced nothing in terms of offensive chances, and things went from bad to worse when the Jets scored two goals in the back-half of the opening frame.
Saturday’s loss to the Arizona Coyotes felt like the final dagger in the Sabres’ season, and it showed tonight in Winnipeg. The all-too-familiar March feeling of hopelessness manifested yet again as fans prepare to watch a defeated club take the ice for the final month of the 2019-20 campaign.
Plus-1: The L-O-G Line Continues to Impress
In terms of positive things to take away from this one, as has been the case all season long, this loss certainly can’t be blamed on the Sabres’ de-facto fourth line. The trio of Zemgus Girgensons, Kyle Okposo, and Johan Larsson were excellent yet again, posting a relative-Corsi of 17.95-percent, and a relative expected-goals rate of 35.25-percent.
Aside from Jack Eichel’s entrenchment at a top-10 forward in the NHL, the “LOG Line” is probably the biggest, most consistent bright spot from a season that has essentially failed to impress in most areas. Whether or not a new GM enters the fold next year remains to be seen, but whomever is in charge moving forward would be wise to retain this group, two of whom (Larsson and Girgensons) are pending free-agents this summer.
Minus-2: Meaningful March, We Barely Knew Ye
We won’t pretend that any existing delusion existed pertaining to the Sabres’ playoff chances heading into this one, but boy if this wasn’t a fitting finish to a four-loss run that followed Jason Botterill’s sentiment about playing “Meaningful games in March” immediately following the trade deadline last month. While it was nice to still have a sliver of hope before the final 20 games of the season, that was squashed in short order, and as it stands, the Sabres are on pace to finish Botterill’s third year with 82-points.
It’s an all too familiar feeling, and there isn’t too much else to say about it. Fans in Western New York deserve better than to have their hockey playoff hopes cut short after 60 (or fewer) games on a perennial basis.
After an effort like this one (and the string of games leading up to it) it’s hard not to be let down. From a personal standpoint, I for one was really hoping that Buffalo would make my 81-point projection from the beginning of the year look foolish, and really put together a solid closing stretch. Even if they didn’t ultimately reach the post-season, a fight to the bitter end would have been nice to build upon.
Spectators will get no such fight from this club, and an obviously injured Jack Eichel won’t be able to single-handedly will it out of them.