Quick Hits: Sabres vs. Sharks

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It was the first of just two meetings between the Buffalo Sabres and the San Jose Sharks on Saturday from the First Niagara Center.

The Sabres looked to continue its dominance against the Sharks, winners of seven straight games and had not lost to the Sharks since January 23, 2010.

It was also a chance for the Sabres to break the .500 mark since being 2-1-0 going into a game with the Carolina Hurricanes on January 24, 2013.

Just 1:48 into the first period, the Sharks got on the board first with a powerplay goal from defenseman, Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sabres went into the first intermission down 1-0, but moved the puck poorly throughout the period. The team was trying to force passes, and many of the passes did not connect. The Sabres even had a 5-on-3 powerplay, and while they got three shots on goal, the Sharks were able to clear the zone a couple of times.

The Sabres responded with a better second period, but neither team were not able to put the puck in the back of the net. In fact, the second period was a complete barn burner, and really was just a snooze until the final few minutes.

In the third, the First Niagara Center woke up when Ryan O’Reilly ripped a bullet past Sharks goalie, Martin Jones to tie the game 1-1. The building was buzzing up until the 14:35 mark when Zemgus Girgensons took a hit from Sharks forward, Tommy Wingels. Girgensons remained down on the ice for some time, and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo was assessed a penalty after the hit for roughing. The Sharks would swing the momentum their way and control the pace of play for the remainder of the third period.

In overtime, the Sharks would out-shoot the Sabres 5-1. After a flurry of action in front of Chad Johnson, 36-year old Patrick Marleau would put in a rebound to give the Sharks a 2-1 win.

Here is what we took away from this loss to the Sharks:

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    • Poor puck movement hurt Sabres early

It would have been nice to finally get back over the .500 mark, and it would have been cool to win a fourth straight game. Guess we cannot get everything we wanted though.

Bummer.

The Sabres really struggled moving the puck around the ice on Saturday. Many tried to force passes, and many passes were not on the tape or they completely missed.

“I don’t think we particularly played to our strengths,” Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We didn’t execute with the puck north, we didn’t play with speed. [It was] a little too slow for where we need, and how to play. I don’t think we really got there until the last couple minutes of the second period.”

The Sabres really struggled on the powerplay, going 0-4 on the man advantage and not making the plays the team needed to make. Even with the 5-on-3 powerplay in the first period, Buffalo got three shots, but needed to produce more.

“Anytime you get a 5-on-3 for that period of time, you feel like you should be 100-percent cashing in,” Bylsma said. “We didn’t get a lot of looks at the net… We tried to run some plays and we didn’t execute. It was a big point in the game… It was a big momentum boost for them and a big downer for our team.”

    • O’Reilly and his O’Bombs

After a surge in offense, Ryan O’Reilly cooled off a bit in terms of scoring. He was riding a four-game pointless streak going in to Saturday’s game, even though he was still playing solid hockey.

After a scoreless first and second period, O’Reilly made a really nice steal in the Sharks end and let a slap shot that beat Jones top-shelf, blocker side.

After this goal, not only did the hime building wake up, but the entire team had an extra step in their game until the last five minutes of the third period.

On the night, O’Reilly finished with his goal, a team-high six shots on goal, and two take aways in 22:46 of total ice-time. O’Reilly had a decent night in the face-off circle, winning 63-percent of draws he took.

It is fair to say: When O’Reilly puts up big goals for the Sabres, the team plays some of its best hockey.

    • Not Eichel’s best game

 In a season where Jack Eichel has played some stellar hockey, Saturday night was maybe his worst game in a Sabres uniform.

On the night, Eichel had just one shot, a blocked shot, and a giveaway in 18:45 of total ice-time. In addition, Eichel was shaky in the face-off circle, only winning 36-percent of his draws, which was a team low.

It also looked as though Eichel was trying to do too much with the puck on his stick, and was one forward who tried to force a play to happen when it was not necessary.

Granted, Eichel is still a treat to watch and Buffalo is extremely fortunate to have him. Also, Eichel is still a pretty good hockey player, and Saturday night will be a learning curve for him.

    • Injury scares were plenty

In a time where the team is already missing Evander Kane and Robin Lehner (not including Mike Weber), the Sabres do not need to have any more injuries.

On Saturday, the team had not one, not two, but three scares that could have been much worse.

First, it was Tyler Ennis. In the second period, Ennis was chasing after a loose puck in the corner along with Sharks forward, Mike Brown. Ennis lost his footing and went hard into the boards. 

Ennis would remain down for a few seconds before getting back up and back to the bench under his own power. Ennis was evaluated at the bench, and returned to the ice for his next shift.

Towards the later part of the second period, it was Cody Franson.

Franson, too, was after a loose puck behind the Buffalo net. Like Ennis, Franson lost his footing and went hard into the boards and remained down on the ice. Franson would go to the dressing room, but would return later on in the game.

Finally it was Zemgus Girgensons’ turn. In the third, when the Sabres were flying, Girgensons was carrying the puck down the ice when he started to lose an edge and collided hard with Sharks forward, Tommy Wingels. Girgensons laid on the ice for some time before getting up and heading down the tunnel to the dressing room.

Later in the third period, Girgensons returned to the game and finished out the game with no apparent injury.

    • Get well soon, Bogo. I mean, real soon.

It is a good sign that Zach Bogosian is practicing with the team, which signals his return could be imminent. Just do not have another set back, Zach. We need you back, and soon.

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Written by Brayton Wilson

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