Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
A highly touted group of Sabres prospects hit the Traverse City ice yesterday and proceeded to lay an egg. Not that anyone should start manning the lifeboats, but a 6-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes prospects in game one of the tournament raised some questions.
The Sabres iced four first round picks and five second rounders yesterday afternoon while also having five players with NHL experience skate in the game. It all went for naught as the wheels fell off in the third period while Buffalo was trying to play catch-up. "We had to start pressing and we gave up some easy opportunities that in a tight game you don't normally give up," said bench boss, Chadd Cassidy.
Buffalo gave up three powerplay goals in the game on five opportunities. "Obviously, their powerplay hurt us a lot," said Cassidy, post game, "you give them a man advantage, they did it last year, I think it was the same group that torched us for three or four goals."
Special teams aside, five-on-five Cassidy thought they played well, "I'm, really happy with the way [the team] played from a structural standpoint," he said. "Possession time and scoring chances we dominated."
So how does a team that "dominates" possession time and scoring chances, as well as outshooting the opponent 35-20 lose a game 6-1?
What Cassidy said about his top line of Sam Reinhart centering Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Joel Armia, might have been a message for his entire group of forwards, "they were on the attack all night," he said of the top line, "[they] controlled the puck. [But] they've got to get to the blue paint, get to that scoring area a little better, play a little grittier in that area."
Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com/sabres.com concurred, "There were rebounds there. You can get two [shots] for the price of one if you are [in and around the paint]."
Baker offered this assessment of Armia's game, "[He] protected the puck well, but he did it from the outside. He needs to get to the inside and use his shot more. Be more of a net presence. He's 6'3" and he's got a long reach, but he just wasn't [around the net] with regularity."
Hurricanes goalie Alex Nedeljkovic had a relatively easy time in net despite facing 35 shots. “I saw nothing but pucks. The guys did a great job of clearing out for me,” Nedeljkovic continued. “When the puck was loose or I gave up a bad rebound, they had sticks tied up. They made my job a lot easier, so a lot of credit to them.”
Probably the most "troubling" aspect of the loss was the non-factor of Reinhart. This was the follow-up game for him after being a non-factor in the Sabres Development scrimmage. No cause for alarm yet, but it's something to keep an eye on.
The Sabres lone goal was scored by "The 2nd-round" line consisting of three Sabres picked in the second round this year. Brendan Lemieux worked the puck free on the boards and sent a pass to an open Eric Cornel near the paint. Cornel sent a blind backhand pass to a trailing Vaclav Karabacek who buried it from the slot.
The Sabres line up vs. Carolina:
William Carrier/Daniel Catenacci/Justin Bailey
Michael Joly/Justin Kea/Jack Rodewald
Rasmus Ristolainen/Jake McCabe
Nikita Zadorov/Jared Walsh
Brady Austin/Brycen Martin
Ristolainen was named as a captain while Armia and McCabe were alternates.