Too Little, Too Late

Buffalo’s third period rally wasn’t enough, as they fall 5-3 to Columbus

Score: Sabres - 3 | Blue Jackets - 5

Shots: BUF - 42 | CBJ - 36

Buffalo Sabres Goals: Thompson (41), Quinn (11), Peterka (8)

Columbus Blue Jackets Goals: Johnson (13), Robinson (6,7,8), Jenner (19)

Minus 1: Defensive Zone

The defensive effort against Columbus by virtually everyone in a blue and gold sweater was not only bad, it was downright embarrassing. For starters, Anderson had one of his rougher games this season, letting in four goals through the first two periods, while never looking fully in control. Stops were very much possible on all four, and Andy was out of position on Robinson’s first one of the night, as he had dropped down in the butterfly too prematurely.

However, those chances may have not even happened in the first place if it wasn’t for the Sabres atrocious play in their zone. The only Buffalo defenseman that had a somewhat respectable game was Clague (ironically), while the rest fumbled the puck, were out of position, and just looked soft. Power had possibly his worst game as a Sabre (which as he is still only 20 years old, can be forgiven), while Jokiharju, Bryson and the rest of the core continue to show just how badly Buffalo needs a (real) defensive piece at the deadline if they want to make the playoffs. And don’t even get me started on a few offensive players effort in their back end, who frequently are a liability.

Continuing with the defensive woes, the Sabres appear to be inspired to claim the worst penalty kill in the league this season, as they’ve now given up a powerplay goal in four of the last five games.

Dahlin needs to come back, and soon.

Minus 2: Finishing on the Attack

Buffalo was able to put three past Merzlikins, but honestly could’ve had a lot more if they had not been so hesitant to shoot the puck at times. Too often this season have opportunities been presented to get a quality shot on net, and one pass too many was made. Casey Mittelstadt, for example, had a couple of great looks against the Jackets but either passed up the puck or missed the net with his shot. It’s hard to be upset at this point as I can appreciate how the group has evolved with their playmaking this season, but getting too cute with their puck possessions can cause missed chances or quick breakouts the other way.

On top of that, there were multiple battles around the net during the game that the Sabres just couldn’t get to bounce their way, as Columbus did a good job tying up bodies and clearing out the crease (something I wish we could do consistently). Thompson and Peterka each had a few good opportunities as well to cash in their second that they couldn’t finish on as the game dwindled away.

The chances were certainly there for the Sabres to have taken at least a point in this game, but three goals are unfortunately not good enough given the teams uncertainty in net and in the defensive zone most nights.

Plus 1: No Quit

While I look at it as a plus that the team is good enough to be dangerous in almost every game no matter the score, they still fall behind too often and then can’t catch back up (see Leafs game exactly a week ago).

Alas, the third period was electric after Quinn potted his 11th of the year, as Buffalo gave by far their best effort of the game from that moment on. They created chances, drew penalties and had Columbus scrambling in their own zone on multiple occasions. JJ Peterka, who hadn’t had a point all month (let alone a goal), was able to break his 26-game goalless drought, and had 1-2 more great looks to get another towards the end of the third.

Although the game was tough to stomach for the first 45 minutes of action, it was nice to see the Sabres dig deep and make it competitive in the last 15, even while falling short. Dropping a game like this to Columbus is painful as the playoff race is heating up, but it’s certainly something the group can learn from.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this was a poor effort from the Sabres side, even as they clawed their way back into it late in the game. Even Don Granato isn’t safe from criticism as he continues to struggle to figure out when to pull the goalie for the extra attacker. Once again this team will have to recover from a loss like this against tougher opponents, as points become more and more important as the season winds down.

You also know it’s a bad game when possibly the best player on the ice Tuesday night was playing in Rochester a week ago. Personally, I think Hinostroza should be in the lineup most nights, and is at worst a healthy scratch (*mic drop*).

The Sabres will head to TD Garden for a matchup with the NHL’s best and everyone’s favorite team, the Boston Bruins. Puck drop is set for 7:00 pm ET.