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Hobbled and Rusty Sabres Fall to Islanders

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After nearly two weeks off, a shorthanded Buffalo squad fell apart quickly at home

New York Islanders v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Score: Islanders 3 | Sabres 1

Shots: NYI 29 | BUF 21

Sabres Goals: Victor Olofsson (5)

Islanders Goals: Anders Lee (5), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (5), Brock Nelson (3)

Observation 1 | Fatigue

Let’s not kid ourselves. The Buffalo Sabres looked like a team that was struck with a debilitating virus for two weeks. On top of that, they were missing a lot of roster regulars.

For those reasons, we won’t do our typical plus/minus game observations. Instead, we’ll keep it to observations, and the first one was that the Sabres ran out of fuel quickly in this one.

After what looked like a very good start to the game, Buffalo fell apart as soon as Anders Lee put the first goal on the board late in the first period. By the final 20 minutes, the patchwork Sabres were clearly gassed, posting zero shots on goal in a full period for just the fourth time in franchise history.

Hopefully as the team continues to get healthier, their stamina will return. To be quite frank, their short-lived pace tonight was to be expected, to an extent.

Observation 2 | A Common Theme

Personally, I’ve yet to cover a game recap this year where the Sabres were actually victorious. So, I feel a bit like a broken record because every time I write that inferior goaltending was a major theme in the game. This contest was unfortunately no different.

Obviously, goalies don’t grow on trees and it isn’t as simple as “just trade for one”. It’s an especially complicated ask in a year where quarantines are in effect, and newly acquired players are a minimum of a week removed from appearing in games upon acquisition.

All of that being said, the Sabres will not break the league’s longest current playoff drought with this type of play in net. In a critical year for pending UFA, Linus Ullmark, he has failed to justify his position as a starting NHL netminder.

Again, a lack of cohesion was to be expected, given the circumstances. Still, this isn’t new, and Ullmark needs to find his game in a hurry.

Observation 3 | A Tough Road Ahead

This part is rather ominous. We just saw a Buffalo team that was simply unfit to complete a 60-minutes contest (at least not in a competitive sense). Since this team was just off for two weeks while a majority of their roster recovered from positive COVID-19 test results, they will play eight games in the 14 days to follow (including tonight’s contest).

Again, at the risk of sounding presumptuous, tonight’s performance did not inspire any confidence in the players’ ability to complete such a run with any semblance of success. Time will tell, but from what we know about the COVID-19 virus, those affected don’t re-acquire their stamina right away. I don’t want to speculate as to the severity of how each player experienced the virus, but tonight was concerning.

The Sabres and Islanders will meet tomorrow at KeyBank Center. Puck drop is at 7PM.