The Buffalo Sabres are in the toughest skid they have had all season. Following a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues, Buffalo has now dropped 5 in a row gaining 2 of a possible 10 points. It really seemed like the Sabres were starting to find themselves after the impressive Thursday night victory against the Florida Panthers.
Now after close losses to the western conference's best, Buffalo is searching for answers, specifically on the offensive side. The Sabres have managed just 6 goals in those 5 losses. Statistically this team is only averaging around two goals a game despite dramatically improving this season with scoring talent. The opportunities are there but the forwards just can't seem to finish.
Here are some observations about the Sabres recent struggles.
Opportunities a plenty, yet a loss for finishing- Any fan can see it by just watching the games, Buffalo is clearly better on both ends of the ice. Against the Blues last night, the Sabres nearly had five goals in the first two periods. Ryan O'Reilly rang one off the top cross bar, both Larsson and Evander Kane had wide open nets to bury the puck in but a bad bounce and tip by Jake Allen resulted in no goals for Buffalo.
Josh Gorges spoke about the missed opportunities after the game. “We keep creating those opportunities, they’re going to fall for us. It sucks to lose this game the way we lost it tonight. I thought we deserved a better fate, I thought the guys competed hard, battled hard; we gave ourselves a chance to win the game tonight.” (Sabres.com)
Buffalo isn't playing with a sense of urgency- It just doesn't seem like the Sabres have the urgency and desperation to complete all of these opportunities. In time this young team will learn from their issues to finish opportunities. I expect a big bounce back performance against a struggling Nashville Predators team that hasn't scored in three straight games.
We are seeing proven goal scorers on this team struggle to find the back of the net. Evander Kane, Zemgus Girgensons, and Brian Gionta all have a combined 3 goals.
It seemed like the Sabres had success when they won 3 of 4 in late October by throwing pucks to the net. Consistently you saw Rasmus Ristolainen and Cody Franson create chances from the point. It almost seems like this team tends to shy away after a few mistakes that create turnovers.
Some may argue throwing pucks on net sporadically doesn't create the best opportunities, however Buffalo was taking a lot of quality shots on the power play and on 5 on 5 from the point that led to big rebounds and tips from forwards like Sam Reinhart and Jamie Mcginn who are dangerous in front of the net.
The Sabres are now 8-11-2 with 18 total points which is 4 points out of the third division spot and 5 out of a wild card spot. The talent is there, Dan Bylsma just needs to find a way to max out his players in order to stay in contention for a playoff spot.