Buffalo Sabres vs New York Islanders Game Recap 2/16/21

The Sabres finished their 2-game series against the Islanders with a 3-0 loss, failing to break the Islanders 1-2-2 trap for the second straight night.

While the team is still missing players, Jake McCabe returned to the lineup replacing Brandon Davidson but on this night the defence didn’t really matter.

New York managed to start strong again, with another 2-0 first period, allowing them to play their strong, disciplined, defensive style. They gave the Sabres virtually nothing, allowing Ilya Sorokin to record the easier 20-save shutout he’ll likely ever have.

Anders Lee opened the scoring, and JG Pageau doubled the lead on a goal that was similar to his goal from the night before.

The Sabres underlying numbers looked relatively well, posting a 5v5 HDCF% of 70.59% and an xGF% of 60.32%, but as the game goes…underlying numbers don’t mean anything when the results aren’t there.

The Sabres appeared to break the Isles shutout on an Olofsson powerplay goal but the Isles challenged for offsides and negated the Sabres lone tally.

An overall better performance than the night before, but the Sabres still don’t have the ability to produce 5v5 goals, and now find themselves struggling to produce any offence…recording only 1-goal in their first 2-games since the restart.

Game Trends

Trending Up – Rasmus Dahlin

After looking lost at some points in the first 10-games of the season, Dahlin seems to be back to his old form. He is no longer fighting the puck, he looks calm and confident when attacking with the puck on his stick and seems to have eliminated the “frequent mental lapses” we saw earlier in the season.

The numbers are backing it up too, in the last 2-games Dahlin has produced ad CF% of 60%, a HDCF% of 72.73% and an xGF% of 68.60% (via natural stat trick). If there’s any bright spot in these games it’s been Dahlin’s return to normalcy and that can give some small glimmer of hope to Sabres fans.

Trending Down – Jokiharju and Irwin

The easy thing here would be the Sabres 5v5 goal scoring, but that’s an obvious concern. The last two games have shown just how bad this Sabres team is in their own zone when they have to rely on their depth.

Borgen has stepped in and looked the part (he should be a regular in the lineup) but the Jokiharju and Irwin pair has been abysmal.

According to natural stat trick, they posted a 40.82% CF%, and a 41.36% xGF% and got outscored 2-0 (all at 5v5) in this two-game set. If the Sabres have to dress these two and pair them together no good will come of it and their play will continue to decline.

Quick Hits

  • Jake McCabe returned to the lineup and played alongside Will Borgen, the two looked very good together and Borgen had a positive impact for the 2nd straight game. If Ristolainen is out any longer Borgen seems like a good replacement for him as he fits the style the Sabres want to play.
  • At some point the Sabres need to step on some veterans toes, certain players get multiple chances with this staff even though they don’t deserve it. If the season continues to trend this way, playing guys like Asplund or Mittelstadt provide more long and short term value to this team.

Looking Ahead

The Sabres have a day off before starting a 2-game in 3-nights stretch against the Capitals with games on Thursday and Saturday.

Games were already important, but now the Sabres need to be in desperation mode if they want any chance of being a competitive team.

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