Sabres Shutout The Wings – 5 Thoughts

Final: BUF 1 DET 0
Shots: BUF 32 DET 32
Power Play: BUF 0/4 DET 0/2
Hits: BUF 28 DET 19
Blocked Shots: BUF 8 DET 6

Goals

BUF: Benoit Pouliot (2) assisted by Victor Antipin (1) and Taylor Fedun (1)

  1. The Struggling Power Play

You know you have a problem when you have given up more shorthanded goals than powerplay goals. Buffalo’s powerplay has been borderline atrocious so far this season and this game was no different as they were 0/4 on the night. It’s very surprising that this team, who had the number one ranked power play last season, has been this bad so far. So what’s the problem here? Is it the departure of Bob Woods who was an assistant coach of Dan Bylsma last season? I could be but that doesn’t make much sense though as most of the players that are on the current power play units were on the team last season and were contributing factors to their success on the power play. They’ve just made so many bad decisions while on the power play that are just killing them. Turnovers that lead to odd-man rushes that then lead to shorthanded goals. Also, no-look passes in the defensive zone to star calibre players that lead to shorthanded goals (I’m talking to you Beaulieu). They need to clean up their act defensively that’s for sure. One thing that I’ve noticed so far is that Jack Eichel isn’t utilizing his insane shot on his off wing. Jack has one of the best shots in the NHL and I can’t fathom why he’s not ripping one-timers from the off wing like Alex Ovechkin. Seems like someone will set him up for the one-timer but then he’ll look to make the pass instead. On behalf of all Sabres fans, shoot it, Jack!

2. Robin Lehner Gets The Shutout

Lehner had another strong performance on Tuesday night. He was sharp all game and he made a few great saves including a huge save on Red Wings former 2nd round pick, Martin Frk to preserve the shutout. That was Robin’s 6th shutout of his NHL career. Lehner has been playing much better as of late. In the beginning of the season, Robin gave up a few soft goals but right now, it looks like he’s been better. He had a nice game against the Bruins on Saturday night despite giving up 4 goals. Now to the blind eye, you may see four goals against and go to assume that he had a terrible game. But, as per usual, Lehner was left hung out to dry on many occasions that night. The defense was better in all aspects against the Red Wings. With the solid play of Lehner and the improved play of the defense, they earned the shutout. Robin has now gone a little over four periods without allowing a goal. Lehner was asked in his postgame scrum about how he felt about his shutout and he absolutely threw some shade at the Lehner haters.

There’s honestly nothing that he can do to win over the nonbelievers. Hypothetical here, if Chad Johnson was the goaltender to get the shutout last night, how much fanfare would there have been? The answer is a ton. Johnson could give up a soft goal, exactly the same way as Lehner would and there would be no reaction. But if Lehner gives up a softie, all hell breaks loose. Fans just need to completely get over and forget about trading the 1st round pick. You’ll never be satisfied with Lehner if you just keep thinking about the trade. Get over it.

3. What’s Up With Okposo

Okposo has been by far the most disappointing Sabre through the first ten games of the season. He has a grand total of one point in eight games this season and that’s just not good enough. Okposo was placed on a line with Evander Kane and Jack Eichel on Tuesday night presumably to give him an opportunity to boost his production but that didn’t work out. I’d like to see him stay on the Eichel line and see what can come from that. I for one, don’t like seeing a player with a $6,000,000 cap hit not produce at what he’s capable of. With Evander Kane playing out of his mind right now, I would love the Sabres to extend him because you know, to win in this league you kind of need players to put the puck in the back of the net and Kane can do just that. But the problem here is, how will they be able to afford to keep Kane? The answer is they’re going to have to move a couple overpaid/underperforming players. It’s safe to assume the Sabres will buy out Matt Moulson come July. The other player that could be moved is Kyle Okposo. But the problem there is, what team will take 6 million for 5 more years? He definitely needs to step it up.

4. Players Stepping It Up

Over the last few games or so, it’s pretty clear that there’s been noticeable improvement out of many players. Specifically, Marco Scandella, Ryan O’Reilly, Victor Antipin, and Benoit Pouliot. Scandella, who was coming off of offseason hip surgery, has been probably the Sabres best defenseman for the last few games. He was below average to start the season in all honesty and that was expected considering he was rehabbing his hip all summer as well as the fact that he didn’t get in any preseason games. He looks like the player we all thought would he’d be right now and that’s encouraging. He made a great defensive play last night where he actually took away the pass on a 2 on 1 so Robin Lehner could focus on the shooter. I know this sounds like simple defense here but for guys like Matt Tennyson, not so much.

Like Kyle Okposo, Ryan O’Reilly was also awful to start the season. But O’Reilly has really turned it around as of late including a two-goal performance against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night. O’Reilly now has 7 points in 10 games and the Sabres will need him to keep producing if they want to make the playoffs.

After being scratched for 3 games, Victor Antipin looks as if he’s been slowly but surely making his adjustment to the North American game. He’s been getting more power play time and unfortunately, Housley and the coaching staff aren’t playing him in the slot on the power play which worked out a lot for him in his years in the KHL. I’d like to see them try him out in the slot. If it doesn’t work out, then just move on, it’s not a big deal. Antipin got his first point of his NHL career last night after Jimmy Howard kicked out a big rebound to Benoit Pouliot for a wraparound goal.

That was Pouliot’s 2nd goal of the season and it also came in back to back games. It’s nice to see Pouliot start to produce. If he can pot 10-15 goals this season, I consider that a great bang for your buck signing for a little over 1 million dollars on a 1-year deal.

5. Right Back In It

Going into tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the sit 2 points back on the Jackets and Flyers for the 2 wildcard playoff spots. A win in regulation tonight would have the Sabres tied with them for a wildcard spot. Yes, it’s early but it’ll mean a lot for the players and more importantly the fans to see them in a playoff position even if it’s still October. The last time the Sabres were in a playoff position was in the lockout-shortened season which was nearly 5 years ago. According to Elliott Friedman of SportsNet, under 25% of teams, four points out of a playoff spot by November 1st actually make it. So I’d say it’s pretty important for the Sabres to get on the ball and start winning these games.

Thanks for reading! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @SabresFanatics. You can also follow me on Twitter @JoeSFNHL.

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