Score: Sabres - 4 | Stars - 10
Shots: BUF - 29 | DAL - 49
Buffalo Sabres Goals: Greenway (3), Okposo (9), Skinner (28), Olofsson (24)
Dallas Stars Goals: Johnston (16), Pavelski (16), Benn (27), Kiviranta (7), Suter (2), Dadonov (6), Faksa (9, 10), Hintz (31), Marchment (11)
Minus 1: Where Do We Even Begin
Let me start off by pointing out a few of the positive things I noticed tonight (which is hard to even do after watching that performance).
1. Skinner is turning into an excellent playmaker and his contract no longer looks awful.
2. Greenway’s skillset should be beneficial to this team down the road.
3. JJ Peterka had a few explosive offensive shifts.
That was it, and even making those statements seems like beating a dead horse. Or a Buffalo for that matter.
It’s almost impossible to figure out who had a more embarrassing performance, Comrie or the entire defensive unit, as 10 goals and 49 shots is probably not a game either group can hang their hat on. The offense had very little sustained pressure in Dallas’s zone all night as well, and frequently turned over the puck, leading to multiple odd man rushes the other way, while then doing an awful job getting it back out of their zone. A performance like this is absolutely something the entire team needs to be held accountable for, as “no-showing” in the middle of a playoff race in March, after dropping a huge game to the Islanders, is a major slap to the face. While this team is still young and will have some growing pains, there’s too much talent on the roster to accept an outcome of this nature. This will be a big offseason for Adams and Co. to prove they will do what it takes to win sooner rather than later, and games like this just amplify the need for improvement.
Minus 2: Soft, Soft, Soft
While there are many apparent things the Sabres have to improve on in the offseason, the number one thing HAS to be their play around the net in the defensive zone. It seems like almost every game Buffalo gives up at least 1-2 goals because they are late to pick up a man, can’t locate the puck, and just simply get outworked. Unfortunately against the Stars, that number quadrupled, which exposed even more the lack of discipline and effort the Sabres have had this season in their own zone.
The duo of Power and Jokijarhu has just looked terrible since they were paired together, while Dahlin’s penalty trouble continued, putting him at a team leading 80 on the season. Stillman and Lyubushkin bring more of a physical presence than Clague and Bryson, but still make just as many mistakes, while contributing almost nothing offensively. I’m no GM, but losing in this fashion shows just how important it is for Buffalo to add a bonafide top 4 defenseman to their roster to allow Dahlin, Samuelsson and Power some leeway. As unreliable as the Sabres trio of goalies have been at times this year, it’s the defensive group that will have to make the biggest jump next season if we want to continue moving forward.
Even if the team seemed to give up around him, there’s no consideration that Comrie had close to a respectable performance either, as he was part of the reason the Sabres lost as badly as they did. His lack of rebound control and confidence in the crease is definitely not something you want in a backup goaltender, let alone a starter like he was projected. How soon can Devon Levi get to Buffalo...
Minus 3: So Much for Meaningful Games
And just as we all thought it was starting to get interesting, suddenly it feels like it’s all over.
Although the Sabres are nowhere near mathematically eliminated, they took a huge hit in the standings the past week, dropping to six points out of the last wild card spot, and have now lost three in a row. What hurts most it feels like, is that this team seemed to have a different vibe throughout the season and were competitive since the start, but Thursday night's game against Dallas just felt like the same old Sabres we’ve endured the last decade. Just lazy, uninspired, embarrassing hockey. For the first time in a long time this city has had meaningful games to look forward to at the end of the regular season, and that’s the kind of urgency they play with? Give me a break.
I do understand that many just wanted to see a competitive team, which is what we’ve had most of the year, so initially the expectations weren’t to the level they are at now. But these last 18 games should be a telling point of who actually wants to be here next season, and who needs to be shown the door, as it’s clear there’s multiple players that have been given plenty of opportunity but have shown little improvement. If a 10-4 embarrassment at home and a roster spot on the line isn’t motivation enough, I don’t know what is.
What area do the Sabres need to improve on/add to the most?
This poll is closed
Special teams (PP, PK)
It’s pretty clear that the injuries the Sabres have sustained over the past few weeks have had a far greater impact than expected, as Tuch’s absence for example, has been detrimental. Dahlin and Samuelsson also don’t seem to be playing with the same confidence and skill they had previously to their injuries, with the length of the season catching up to them. If your top defensemen are playing banged up consistently, while the other four struggle on a nightly basis, you’re going to have a tough time.
Thursday night’s game was another example as well of the work many Sabres offensive players (Thompson, Skinner, Cozens, Mittelstadt, etc.) have to do to improve on their play on the defensive zone. As awesome as they are creating opportunities and scoring on one end, in turn they also end up gifting chances to the opposing team, turning the puck over in their own end and the neutral zone far too often.
The Sabres play next on Saturday, March 11th as they face the Rangers for the first time this season, and the first of four matchups over the next month. Puck will drop earlier than normal at 5:00 pm ET.