Buffalo Sabres Player Grades: Game #2 vs. Tampa Bay

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

No one gets an A in the 4-1 loss to the defending Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. 

B+ :  Nicolas Deslauriers, David Legwand, Matt Moulson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Johan Larsson

The 4th line for the Sabres played extremely well against Tampa Bay. While their linemate was often changed, Deslauriers and Legwand played exactly how they should every night. Both players were hard on the forecheck, didn't give up any chances, and provided some scoring opportunities. Deslauriers got the Sabres only goal in the 2nd period on a hard working backhand in front of the net. Whenever this line provides goals, it's a bonus. Both Deslauriers and Legwand played the least for the Sabres, at just over 8 minutes of ice time each.

It's been a tale of two games for Matt Moulson. In game one he was unable to catch passes, and lacked intensity in the offensive zone. That was hardly the case vs. Tampa. Moulson was all over the Tampa defenseman. He made several nice moves to free up space to get opportunities for himself. On one instance he jumped a pass from the Tampa defenseman, stole the puck, and got one of the Sabres better scoring chances of the game. Whats interesting is that Moulson only played 13 minutes, and started the game on the 3rd line. Moulson shouldn't lose his job in the top six after just one bad game for long. 

Rasmus Ristolainen had a nice comeback game himself. Risto once again helped the Sabres offense, carrying the puck, getting shots through, but he also played better in his own end. He had no giveaways, despite playing almost half of the game. Byslma played Ristolainen a whopping 26 minutes. No other Sabre defenseman surpassed 20 minutes. 

I've been impressed by Larsson through two games. He did a good job eluding Tampa defenseman behind the net, and on the wall. Halfway through the first period he made a nice move between the legs to get a 2 on 1. He also won half of his face-offs. Pretty good.

B: Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons

In Jack Eichel's second NHL game, he played good, but not great. Eichel almost dangled through three Tampa defenders in the first period, but got poke checked at the last second. He did a good job carrying the puck in and establishing possession for the Sabres. He was probably the best on the team at doing that today. One bad moment was on the Steven Stamkos goal. Eichel needed to tie up Stamkos in front, and failed to do so. 

Evander Kane was once again aggressive on the forecheck, and hitting everything. Kane led the team with 4 hits, but he didn't have a ton of scoring chances.

Tyler Ennis made a nasty little move to set up his own shot that just went wide.

C+ : Sam Reinhart, Mark Pysyk, Jamie McGinn

Reinhart had an assist on the Deslauriers, but other than that he didn't make much of an impact. Reinhart shows flashes of the super smart, and creative player that we expected when we drafted him. However, he very easily lost battles on the wall, and he isn't fast enough to make up for it. He didn't even challenge the Tampa defenseman when on the forecheck. Only playing 10 minutes shows Bylsma didn't like his play either. 

Pysyk had trouble getting shots through in this game. He didn't do anything great, but made few mistakes. Average night for Pysyk.

C: Josh Gorges

C- : Chad Johnson

Johnson made some nice saves, but his positioning was poor. Several times Johnson was sitting back in his net, not taking up much space. He's not the type of goalie that makes athletic saves, so positioning is everything to him.

D: Mike Weber, Carlo Colaiacovo

Weber had two giveaways on the stat sheet, but I'm sure I could find at least three more on film.

Colaiacovo got beat often by the speedy Tampa forwards. The worst moment was when Nikita Kucherov turned him inside out and nearly scored in the first period. 

F: Cody Franson, Marcus Foligno

Franson finished with a minus 3. Say what you want about plus/minus, in fact I'll be the first to say it's a flawed stat, but in this case it is telling of Franson's play. He has trouble with fast forwards, and Tampa has a whole lot of them. 

Marcus Foligno made a lot of mistakes in this game. He made a bunch of arrant passes to no one, and on one occasion he had an open man in front of the net and didn't see him. Foligno was hardly involved in the offense, and wasn't that much of a force on the physical end. If he doesn't provide offense he needs to make sure that he is throwing his body around. It wouldn't have hurt to try to spark the team with a fight at some point either. 

The Sabres will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, 3pm Monday, at First Niagara Center.

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