Dying Dreams in DC

Sabres let one slip away against the Caps.

Score: Capitals 5 | Sabres 4 (SO)

Shots: WSH 39 | BUF 27

Buffalo Sabres Goals:

1)     Lyubushkin (Krebs, Stillman)

2)     Peterka (Quinn)

3)     Jost (Unassisted)

4)     Girgensons (Krebs, Power)

Washington Capitals Goals:

1)     Oshie (Strome, Ovechkin)

2)     Kuznetsov (Alexeyev, Oshie)

3)     Ovechkin (Van Riemsdyk, Strome)

4)     Wilson (Backstrom)

5)     Kuznetsov (SO Winner)

Minus 1: Penalty-Killed

It’s been no secret that the Buffalo Sabres are brutal on the penalty kill. They are 31st in the league at an atrocious 72.3% success rate. They have ranked 23rd, 26th, and 30th in the past three seasons with last year’s 77.7% being their best showing. To put it in perspective, Sabre opponents over the last three years are averaging what would be at minimum a top 10 league-wide powerplay percentage against Buffalo. It severely cost them in this one. Washington went 2/3 on the man advantage, including the game tying goal with 62 seconds left in the game. Special teams can make or break a team on the bubble, and Buffalo is finding out the hard way.

Plus 1: He was free?

On a positive note, Tyson Jost continues to prove he was well worth the waiver claim. Late in the first, he saw the pressure Mittelstadt was putting on the Washington defender and got inside position on the supporting defenseman. He then made a slick cut back to open a shooting lane in the slot and ripped home a beauty of a goal. He now has 7 goals and 19 points as a Sabre in 48 games played. Even with his slow start in Minnesota, he only needs 5 points in the final 15 games to set a new career high. He is a great example of an NHL player needing a change of scenery to be successful.

Minus 2: Worst Lead in Hockey

This season, Buffalo has been as good at holding onto 2-goal leads as Bill Belichick is at showing emotion during press conferences. The season has been marred with blown leads and missed opportunities. This was the latest example. The Sabres entered the third with the same 2-goal lead they ended the second period with. After an early Washington goal, Girgensons regained the lead with under 15 minutes to play after a great forecheck and perfect pass from Krebs. However, it wasn’t enough as Ovechkin and Wilson beat UPL to send the game into overtime. Buffalo was outshot 19-9 in the third by a team that was actively selling players at the trade deadline and played the night before. Mistakes are going to happen, especially with a young team, but to come out that flat against a team they should beat in a near must-win situation is disheartening to say the least. Buffalo has no room for error and missing out on the second point in this one really hurts.

Final Thoughts

Playoff hopes had grown after an impressive come-from-behind victory in Toronto on Monday, in addition to losses by all other teams the Sabres are chasing. However, those hopes have grown dimmer after only getting one point in this one and an Islanders’ win in Anaheim. Overall, the Sabres played well, but they couldn’t seal the deal when it mattered most. While Sabre fans have been conscious of the youth factor, patience is an elusive virtue after over a decade of mediocrity. There is no excuse for getting outshot by more than double in practically a must-win game. Regardless of the opponent, Buffalo cannot afford to sit in a shell and protect leads. The second they try to, they become a completely different, and significantly worse, team. They do not have consistent enough goaltending or team defense to sit back and kill the clock. Hopefully, this young team can develop a killer instinct to put games away when they have the advantage. Until then, disappointments like this one will continue to happen.

The Sabres head to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers tomorrow night. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.