Riding a seven-game losing streak, the Buffalo Sabres rolled into Toronto tonight to take on the Maple Leafs. Things did not go well for the visiting team, and the losing streak is now eight after the Leafs beat the Sabres 5-2.
This was the first game of the season for Ukka Pekka Luukkonen in the Buffalo net. He’s not to blame on any of the goals; this loss was not on him.
This team is clearly in need of a shakeup of some sort. They’re not clicking offensively, beyond Tage Thompson, and they’re giving up far too many goals. Perhaps worst of all, this was a fun team to watch in the first 10 games of the season because they had some swagger and a can’do attitude. Now they seem to be playing with zero confidence.
Sabres GM Kevyn Adams did make a minor roster move today, picking up former 1st round pick Tyler Jost off waivers. In 12 games in Minnesota this season, Jost has no goals and three assists. To make room for Jost, the Sabres sent Anders Bjork to Rochester. Jost did not play in tonight’s game.
Dahlin – Power
Bryson – Jokiharju
Fitzgerald – Lyubushkin
This is not the period they needed
It was a disastrous first period for the Sabres.
Not much to report in the first half of the first period, as the teams were kind of feeling each other out. UPL did make a nice stop on Bunting when he got behind the Buffalo defense.
The Leafs opened the scoring at 12:58 on the powerplay on a shot from Mitch Marner that deflected off John Tavares’ shinpad. Not much for UPL to do on that one.
They doubled the lead at 17:27 on a missed too-many-men call. Pierre Engvall jumped on the ice early, which allowed him to pick up the puck behind the net on the shoot-in. He fed Calle Jarnkrok, who was all alone in the slot to one-time a shot past UPL.
Less than a minute later, the Leafs made it 3-0 on a shorthanded goal by Mark Giordano. The goal was initially waived off because the Alex Tuch knocked the net off, but video review overturned the call. I don’t know; to me, the net was off for quite a while before that shot crossed the line.
The Sabres looked lost in the first period and deserved to be behind in the game. Shots in the first were 12-8 in favor of Toronto.
Trading PP goals
Nothing, and I really mean nothing, seemed to be going right for the Sabres. No quality scoring chances, no puck possession… nothing. But then Austen Matthews with a high hit on Casey Mittelstadt as he picked up the puck as centre ice.
That put the Sabres on the powerplay, and they finally got a lucky bounce. Dylan Cozens’ shot deflected off Alex Tuch’s stick and between Matt Murray legs at 10:01 for the powerplay goal.
The PP goal seemed to wake the Sabres up a bit. Suddenly they were getting scoring chances, making Murray make some quality saves. They went on the powerplay again, and generated some good opportunities, but couldn’t put it past the Toronto goalie. Suddenly, the Sabres were leading in shots on goal.
But then, they took a penalty and Toronto capitalized, again. The Leafs extended the lead to 4-1 on the powerplay as Alex Nylander found a rebound lying in the crease at 14:54.
Shots in the period favored Buffalo 12-6, but the LEafs led where it mattered, 4-1 after 40 minutes.
For a team looking to end a long losing streak and trailing going into the third period, the Sabres didn’t play like they wanted to win this one. I would have expected them to come out, skate hard, forecheck, drive the net, shoot from anywhere to try and close the score. But they just didn’t do it.
Sure, they hung around, taking shots, but not generating any quality scoring chances.
And then, at 10:37 Henri Jokiharju lost a foot race to William Nylander and just like that it was 5-1. Pretty much game over.
Buffalo finally did score on the powerplay late in the period. Casey Mittelstadt picked up the rebound in the crease on Victor Olofsson’s shot at 15:07. Owen Power picked up the second assist.
Shots in the 3rd period were 14-6 Buffalo and 34-23 for the game.
So, the Sabres outshot the Leafs by a wide margin. But to my eyes, they didn’t out-chance them and the Leafs made them pay at every opportunity. Maybe that’s experience, but maybe it’s confidence. As I said in the opening, the Sabres seem to have no confidence anymore.
In his post-game comments, coach Don Granato pointed out Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens for their compete level. I tend to agree with him. The ting is, why aren’t the rest of the guys elevating their game too?
Jeff Skinner, for one, is not being a pest. He’s best when he gets under the other teams’ skin; he hasn’t been doing that for a while now. I’d take him off the power play; he’s not really adding anything there. The PP is usually a pitch and catch between Dahlin, Thompson and whoever is playing the right point (Cozens tonight).
Even strength scoring continues to be a BIG problem for the Buffalo Sabres. Of the 34 shots on net in the game, 16 came on the power play. I know Don Granato has been juggling his lines, but something’s got to change here.
The folks over on Twitter seem to love them, but to me, Peterka and Quinn don’t look NHL-ready. Krebs as well. I know that’s an unpopular perspective and I know the bigger issue is that the team doesn’t have anyone better to replace them.
Luukkonen looks a lot bigger than the other Sabres goalies. He’s 6’5” at 217 lbs, while Craig Anderson is 6’2”, 187 lbs and Eric Comrie is 6’1”, 183 lbs. Hopefully, he can learn to use that size to his advantage. A goalie that size can play a more positional / take away the angle game than a smaller guy. From what I’ve seen so far, UPL moves like an NHL goalie, but I’d like to see better rebound control and more use of his size to take away angles.
Eight losses in a row now for the Sabres. They’ll try to turn it around on Tuesday in my hometown Montreal against the Canadiens.