Sabres Hit Brick Wall in Hellebuyck

Buffalo has now lost three straight.

Score: Sabres 2 | Jets 4

Shots: BUF 41 | SEA 27

Buffalo Sabres Goals: Victor Olofsson (16), Tyson Jost (4)

Winnipeg Jets Goals: Dylan Samberg (2), Josh Morrissey (8), Kyle Connor (21), Karson Kuhlman (2)

Minus-1: Hitting a Vezina-Caliber Goalie

A huge part of what contributed to Thursday night’s loss for the Sabres was the opposing goalie. Buffalo threw 41 shots on net, but Connor Hellebuyck looked outstanding. He stopped 39 shots, including eight on the power play. If he could see the shot, he was going to stop it - it was that kind of night.

The Sabres needed to get him moving and play more creatively, and find ways to get shots on net through screens instead, in order to have a chance of beating him.

In 32 games this season, Hellebuyck has a 2.41 GAA and .925 save percentage with three shutouts. He’s 21-10-1 on the season and is one of the top-10 goaltenders in the league.

Plus-1: It Wasn’t for Lack of Trying, But...

Although the end result wasn’t what the Sabres were looking for, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Some of the team’s biggest players threw shot after shot on net and just hit a brick wall. Alex Tuch, Dylan Cozens and Jeff Skinner each recorded five shots on goal. Victor Olofsson had six - and was rewarded with a goal as a result. From the backend, Owen Power had four shots on goal, while Rasmus Dahlin had three.

Minus-1: A Three-Game Slide

The Sabres have now strung together three straight losses since Monday. The 4-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers was followed by a narrow 4-3 loss to the Seattle Kraken the following night. Now, the Sabres capped off their homestand with Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Jets.

The big guns just weren’t producing enough (compared to the rest of the season), and it showed.

Over that three game stretch:

  • Tage Thompson: 0 goals, 1 assist, 7 shots on goal, avg. 20:13 TOI/GP
  • Alex Tuch: 2 goals, 0 assists, 10 shots on goal, avg. 19:22 TOI/GP
  • Dylan Cozens: 0 goals, 2 assists, 12 shots on goal, avg. 17:39 TOI/GP
  • Jeff Skinner: 0 goals, 2 assists, 7 shots on goal, avg. 20:22 TOI/GP
  • Rasmus Dahlin: 1 goal, 2 assists, 6 shots on goal, avg. 25:20 TOI/GP (wow!)/

And of course, the goaltending. It’s something the Sabres need to figure out. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been the team’s best goalie this season and finally returned to Buffalo ice on Thursday night after falling ill earlier in the week. Each of the team’s three goalies started one game this week. Anderson allowed four goals on 38 shots, a 4.00 GAA. Luukkonen allowed three goals on 26 shots, a 3.07 GAA. Comrie allowed four goals on 22 shots, a 4.16 GAA. Now, it’s a one-game sample for each of the netminders, but it extrapolates to the bigger picture of a struggling week for the team as a whole.

Final Thoughts

I think what makes a week like this more frustrating is that anyone watching the Sabres knows what they’re capable of, and this isn’t it. We’ve seen the team do some incredible things this season. We’ve seen Tage Thompson go on an absolute tear. We’ve seen Alex Tuch, Dylan Cozens, Jeff Skinner absolutely thrive. We’ve watched as UPL made some jaw-dropping saves, and even Craig Anderson, too. We’ve seen this team score six, seven, eight, even nine goals in a game. We’ve started holding them to higher standards - and no doubt they hold themselves to those higher standards, too - which makes it all the more disappointing when they can’t quite meet them.

As an aside, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from Tyson Jost since he came to Buffalo. He’s not the flashiest or most productive player out there, but he’s a quiet presence who could end up being a hidden gem.

The Sabres are scheduled to practice Friday morning before traveling to Nashville for Saturday’s game against the Predators. They’ll then come back home for Monday’s afternoon (1 p.m.) tilt against the Panthers, which kicks off a stretch of eight games in 13 days to finish out the month.