Quick Hits: Blues vs. Sabres

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The Buffalo Sabres have had a tough time over the last week, with four games against strong Western Conference opponents in Dallas and St. Louis. Monday night was another tough game for the Sabres.

The first period was largely uneventful for both teams. Shots were even with eight a piece. The Sabres had several opportunities, but hit the post a few times, and Eichel had a puck just bounce over his stick with a wide open net.

The most eventful moment in the period was a fight less than two minutes into the game. Tyler Ennis was taken out with a low hit by Robert Bortuzzo, and Marcus Foligno stepped in. Foligno delivered three solid rights and won the fight.

Linus Ullmark made his best save of the night seven minutes into the period on a Steve Ott breakaway. Ott got past Cody Franson, and tried to go high glove on Ullmark. The young Swede flashed the leather and made the save.

Sam Reinhart decided to play a little soccer mid way through the period. The Sabres actually generated a chance off of it.

In the second period the Sabres played well. They out shot the Blues 10-7, and possessed the puck for a fair amount of the period in the Blues’ end.

In the first minute of the period, Linus Ullmark came out to play the puck and turned it over to the Magnus Paajarvi. It led to a shot by the Blues. Ullmark has not done a good job playing the puck this season. It’s definitely an area of improvement for him.

David Legwand finally broke the tie with a wrap around goal, late in the second. It was the Sabres first goal in almost 130 minutes.

The third period started off great for the Sabres. They picked up where they left off at the end of the second. About four minutes into the period, the O’Reilly, Gionta, Moulson line had a great shift. They spent almost the entirety of the shift in the Blues’ zone. Gionta hit the goal post on one shot, and Moulson had a great scoring chance as well that missed the net.

The next shift the Blues scored the equalizer. The Eichel line got caught in their own end, a Kevin Shattenkirk shot was blocked by Zach Bogosian, but Bogo didn’t see the puck lying by his skates. Troy Brouwer backhanded the puck past Ullmark for his fifth goal of the season.

The Blues got the game winner with 6:34 to go. Robby Fabbri got credit for the goal, but it was a wacky goal that went off of Josh Gorges and into the net. Gorges actually tried to clear the puck, it went off Fabbri, than off Gorges, and into the net. The Sabres were outshot 11-7 in the period.

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    • Ullmark is the starter

While we await the return of Robin Lehner from injury, it is clear that Linus Ullmark is the best goaltender on the team.

Ullmark now has a .925 save percentage, compared to Johnson’s .901. There has also been a difference in low and medium danger goals allowed. Johnson has allowed eight, while Ullmark has allowed just four.

Against St. Louis, Ullmark made 24 of 26 saves, and gave his team a chance to win. It will be interesting to see the goalie situation when Lehner is healthy.

  • Are the Sabres snakebitten offensively?

The Sabres are getting a lot of shots on goal, but they’re only scoring on just over 6-percent of them. Averaging just over 30 shots a game is a good thing. It’s good for 13th in the league. Averaging just over two goals a game is not a good thing. Also, 14 of their 42 goals are on the power play.

When it comes to 5-on-5, the Sabres are having a terrible time scoring. Now some say that the low shooting percentage is destined to rebound. Maybe not though. The Sabres are in the bottom half of the league on high danger scoring chances when 5-on-5.

Many of their shots are coming from bad spots. Their offense might improve, but it shouldn’t be expected.

  • The Central Division is incredible

Buffalo has just seen the Blues and Stars so far out of the Central Division, but they have shown why it is the best division in hockey.

In four games against the Stars and Blues, the Sabres managed just one point. The Sabres were also out-shot in three of the four games. St. Louis had the same 21 scoring opportunities that the Sabres did in this one, but they managed to finish when the Sabres couldn’t.

Johan Larsson, Jack Eichel, and Ryan O’Reilly all had glorious opportunities in the first that should have been scored on.

Great teams score those goals. The Sabres will look to do better against Nashville.

  • Evander Kane, stop shooting so much!
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It’s just started frustrating me. Last year I would have had no problem with Evander Kane firing the puck from literally everywhere, but this year there are other players on the team capable of putting the puck in the back of the net.

Currently their names are Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. I’d like to see Kane look to pass a lot more when he has the puck. He skates very well, but it’s always to set up his own shot. Try it the other way around just a few times.

Again, not asking Kane to be Aaron Rodgers out there, but once in a while would be nice.

  • Sabres are going to need a long winning streak

As we sit 21 games into the season, the Sabres are currently 14th in the East, and four points out of the playoffs. They currently are behind even the Toronto Maple Leafs by a point.

If this team wants to be a legit playoff team, they will need to go on a stretch like the Ottawa Senators did last year, at some point.

The Sabres are not consistent, so it’s hard to see them being better than all of those teams week to week for the rest of the season. What the Sabres are capable of, that the Leafs are not, is going on a two or three week stretch winning almost every game. That’s going to have to happen.

Written by Joe DiBiase

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