After a 15 day break from game action, a depleted Sabres lineup fell victim to a stifling Islanders defense Monday night, falling 3-1. Missing Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe, Brandon Montour, Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittelstadt and Curtis Lazar doesn’t excuse the Sabres inability to generate a shot on goal in the third period. To New York’s credit, they played a meticulous, system driven game while the Sabres were unable to find the extra gear in the 2nd and 3rd period, which was to be expected to a degree. Analysis can be taken with a grain of salt with the number of players missing from the Sabres lineup.
The lack of legs were expected and the best opportunity to win the game would come from jumping out to an early lead. Victor Olofsson took a slick feed from Jack Eichel and Islander goaltender Semyon Varlamov made extended leg save, redirecting the puck off the post and onto the stick of Leo Komarov.
Anders Lee opened the scoring for the Islanders with under five minutes to play off a redirect from Josh Bailey. The play could have been a mishandled shot pass rather than a purposefully placed deflection, but considering Lee’s net front abilities, the benefit of the doubt goes to in favor of the the Islander captain.
Less than two minutes later, Jean Gabriel Pageau buried a top shelf snapshot off the rush from outside the faceoff dot. The calls for needing a save were out in full force and they are warranted. While yes, it was an impressive shot, it’s goals like those the Sabres cannot afford to let in. Goals in the last five minutes of a period can be momentum killers. The Sabres gave up two before the 1st period ran out.
The 2nd period started out on a better with Jeff Skinner drawing a tripping penalty about 30 seconds in. Victor Olofsson setup in his office on the powerplay and finished a nice give-and-go play with Dahlin and the Sabres cut the Islanders lead in half.
With just over eight minutes gone in the 2nd, Brandon Davidson, who was making his Sabres debut, was called for a holding penalty. The subsequent powerplay saw Brock Nelson make another shot-like pass to a high danger scoring area for a wide open Brock Nelson to deflect the puck past an outstretched Ullmark. At this point, the Islanders locked it down defensively and limited any mistakes, forcing the Sabres to beat them instead of giving up an easy goal.
The 3rd period was arguably the worst of the season as the Sabres only mustered 9 shot attempts at 5v5 and 5v4, none of which found their way on net. The 3-1 score held and the Islanders collected their 4th win in 5 games.
There’s probably no team that manages leads better than they (NY) do. We just couldn’t find the energy in the 3rd…There’s some 5-on-5 habits that can be strengthened and the shots will come.Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Ralph Krueger
Victor Olofsson: His powerplay goal last night extended his point streak to 7 games, a new career high. Olofsson has 3 goals and 5 assists during that time, but it’s important to note all of these points have come on the powerplay. This epitomizes the Sabres season thus far. Their powerplay is thriving, scoring 10 goals on their last 22 attempts (45.5% success rate), but their 5v5 production is lacking, which mirrors Olofsson’s game. Regardless, Olofsson is producing, so the Sabres need him to keep his streak alive to help them start finding wins.
5v5 Scoring: The Sabres are last in the NHL when it comes to 5v5 goals for per 60 minutes of play. This is a massive concern for a forward group featuring Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall, Sam Reinhart, Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal, Victor Olofsson and at times, Tage Thompson and Casey Mittelstadt.
We can talk about expected goals and high/medium danger scoring chances all we want, but being last in the NHL in 5v5 goals for per 60 minutes when additions were made to bolster the offense? This could potentially tank the Sabres season along with soft goals against like the Pageau goal.
First/Last Five Minutes of Periods: This is the same issue the Sabres had in their last game before the COVID outbreak. The Sabres gave up two goals in the first period within the last five minutes of the period last night, leaving an uphill battle for an inexperienced lineup working on getting their game legs back. Goals in this timeframe will happen, but the frequency of this occurrence compounded with the lack of 5v5 scoring, Head Coach Ralph Krueger needs to find a solution quickly before the snowball can start rolling downhill.
- Jake McCabe and Brandon Montour were on the ice for the morning skate, but ended up doing extra work at the end of practice. Updates on their availability for tonight’s game should come this morning/afternoon.
The Sabres finish up their series with the Islanders tonight at 7 P.M. before heading to Washington for a game Thursday night against the Capitals.