Sabres slip up against Oilers

McDavid and the other Skinner ensure Buffalo’s run of futility at home continues

Score: Sabres 2 | Oilers 3

Shots: BUF 39 (15-13-11) | EDM 37 (20-6-11)

Buffalo Sabres Goals: Jeff Skinner (27) [Thompson (41)], Dylan Cozens (24) [Bryson (8), Mittelstadt (30)]

Edmonton Oilers Goals: Connor McDavid (53) [McLeod (10), Ceci (11)], Derek Ryan (11) [Shore (6), Nurse (27)], Connor McDavid (54) [Foegele (8), Ekholm (15)]

Minus-1: McDavid = McJesus

Buffalo had the perfect gameplan to limit the best player in hockey last night - keep him to the outside where possible, get early sticks in whenever he got the puck, limit his shooting attempts, and don’t give up powerplay opportunities. They even managed to do most of those things quite well, but there is a reason why Connor McDavid is so damn scary to play against and he showed it again yesterday.

McDavid only had three shots on goal, but scored on two of those. The hapless Jacob Bryson had a grandstand view of both goals as the Rocket Richard race leader added his 53rd and 54th of the season, though goaltender Craig Anderson will feel unlucky to have not saved at least one of the pair.

The dagger though was giving up a third goal to the Oilers fourth line, at the end of a long shift when Zemgus Girgensons seemed more interested in examining the ice surface after falling down in front of Anderson than blocking a shot, while Victor Olofsson was headed off to the races on a stretch pass that never came.

Plus-1: Second Period Key

Going back at least a few games, the Sabres ‘winning’ the second period has pretty much determined whether they would win the game or not. Last night, they were incredible in the second stanza, holding Edmonton to only six shots in the period with the bulk of them coming later on, while they poured on the offense on the other side with 13 shots of their own, including a significant number of high danger chances.

Unfortunately, they ran into an inspired Stuart Skinner (no relation to our Jeff) who it seemed was hellbent on recreating the heroics of Dominik Hasek in Buffalo’s barn. Also, the goalframes at KeyBank Center have to be the most dinged up pair in the entire NHL with how often Sabres’ shots seem to ring off the iron.

Minus-2: “This House is not a Home”

Sellout or empty seats, library atmosphere or wild party, bottom feeders or playoff locks, somehow the Sabres just cannot get those critical wins at KeyBank Center. Maybe some sort of in-game exorcism is in order when the Dallas Stars come visiting on Thursday to lift the hex.

The Sabres home blues wearing blue continued with last night’s loss to the Oilers, and Buffalo are now 13-17-2 at home, only 27th best in the league. Its not like they play terribly in all of those defeats either, they just don’t seem to have that extra ounce of determination or luck when playing at the KBC. Maybe move the next couple of games to Niagara Falls or Hamilton or something.

Plus-2: Miscellaneous Thoughts

Three Sabres were simply outstanding for me last night, and I’ll start with the eldest of the trio, Casey Mittelstadt. Mitts has quietly put together a very decent streak, and has 12 points in the last 12 games for the Sabres. A lot of fans were down on him in his initial couple of seasons, but has found a way to reinvent himself and his workrate on ice has got to be something Don Granato is really happy about.

Next up is a future captain of the Sabres, the Workhorse from Whitehorse, Dylan Cozens. On any other night he could have easily had a hat-trick well before he did finally beat the metalwork and Skinner in goal to level things up early in the third.

Finally, it’s been up and down for Owen Power recently. The absence of Rasmus Dahlin thrust him into the spotlight, and while he’s been chewing up minutes he’s also gotten eaten up unfortunately when playing better teams like the Boston Bruins. Last night, with Dahlin still looking like he’s not quite at 100% yet, Power got the bulk of the minutes at even strength as well as featuring on both special teams units, and did very well.

The absence of Mattias Samuelsson was desperately felt last night, as it was the last time he spent some time on the sidelines with injury too. Buffalo is going to need their key players fit and healthy in this mad dash for the two wildcard spots.

Final Thoughts

Hey at least we didn’t get blown out on a game recap I was writing! Unfortunately the end result was the same, and the Sabres couldn’t even pick up a crucial loser point despite an excellent effort from a number of players.

No time to get down in the mouth about last night’s defeat as Buffalo will need to step it up a gear against the New York Islanders who watched this one at home with their feet up, waiting for the Sabres. The Gorton’s Fishermen currently occupy the first wildcard spot four points ahead of the Sabres, but have played three more games too. At this time of the year, it’s always a trade off - better to have points in the bag, or games in hand? A case could be made either way, but tonight is a wildcard race four-pointer and Buffalo simply have to win with the logjam of four teams all sitting on 68 points.

Comment of the Game

Once again I go with an Apologist42 comment, because the Oilers goalie won them the damn game, no doubt.

Nice of Grant Fuhr to show up tonight for EDM. jerk