Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sabres carrying a four-game losing streak to start a four-game home-stand

Published by, 11-18-2017

Although it wasn't on the scale of the back-to-back shellackings this edition of the Buffalo Sabres were handed back in October, last night's 3-1 loss in Detroit at the hands of the Red Wings turned out to be a real dud none-the-less. Buffalo had five shots on goal mid-way through the first period but managed only 15 shots the rest of the way and as Phil Housley pointed out, when they don't shoot, they don't win. The Sabres are now 0-8-0 when they have less than 30 shots on goal.

Regardless of the generally mundane play from the team overall, Buffalo was still very much in it as Ryan O'Reilly scored 5:50 into the third period to tie the score at 1-1. However, lack of true compete hurt them later as three Sabres were outworked in the Buffalo zone and a Detroit shot from the point sailed past a screened Robin Lehner to give the Wings the lead for good. Detroit's Dylan Larkin scored through a listless group of Sabres with just over four minutes to play to seal Buffalo's fate.

It would be hard for anyone to find positives in a game like this, save for the goaltending, and if anyone could find one it would be Housley. But even he couldn't. "We've got to be smarter," he told the gathered media post-game. "We just got outbattled, outworked and outcompeted tonight. At times we even looked slow and I don't know why that is. We played one game in six nights. It's disappointing."

That one game they did play was on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins when they went into the third period with a one-goal lead only to see the Pens win it in overtime.

It's been well over a week since the Sabres managed a win. Since beating the Washington Capitals on November 7, Buffalo is 0-2-2 with 10 goals for and 14 goals against. Both of those numbers are right in line with what this team has done to this point in the season. The Sabres have scored a league-low 2.37 goals/game while allowing a third-worst 3.53 goals-against/game. Numbers like that lead to a 5-10-4 record and a points percentage of .368 ranking them second-last in the league (ARI.)

Buffalo fans at KeyBank Center tonight will see a reeling Sabres squad that hasn't given the hometown crowd much to cheer about this season as they're only 2-4-1 at home. And for those who've either been in attendance or have watched the broadcast, it's like a morgue in there most of the time. In saying that, attendance is starting to dwindle as this is not what the fans bargained for while watching the team spend two years in the tank. Capacity at KeyBank Center is 19,070 and only once did they hit that mark, which was on opening night against the Montreal Canadiens. Their low attendance mark this season is 16,882 for a game vs. Detroit last month.

Regardless of what has transpired, this is the team that we Sabres fans have. It consists of a first line that can skate with pretty much anybody in the league, a second line that's slower than many in the NHL but still has two-way acumen and scoring ability. And the Sabres have a bottom-six consists of a mishmash of misfits that are having trouble keeping pace with the way the game is played.

It's even worse on defense although injuries can be blamed for many of their woes. Housley has a top-three d-man playing in the top pair with a player more suited to a bottom-pairing role as his d-partner. After that, the other four slots are being held down by a rookie and three other players more suited to a bottom-pairing or reserve roles.

Although goaltending has been stout as of late, early woes helped put the team in a hole and despite solid play the past few games, the weight of a season that began rough and is slipping away fast is making things extremely difficult on all involved.

Tonight the Sabres face off against the Carolina Hurricanes who have been playing very well as of late. The 'Canes are 3-0-2 in their last five games and have started to climb their way up the Eastern Conference standings. Buffalo and Carolina have been fairly even in their matchups with the Sabres going 5-4-1 in their last 10 against the 'Canes.

As we head into tonight's game, O'Reilly continues to put his poor start to the season further in the rearview mirror with four goals and three assists in his last eight games. However, he's minus-7 in those games. Buffalo's leading scorer, Evander Kane, continues to see his off-season price tag go up as he has three goals and two assists in his last five games.

After tonight's matchup the Sabres host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday and the Edmonton Oilers on Black Friday to complete the home stand and if they don't do anything in these four games, black will be the color of the armband we'll be wearing in Sabreland as we say goodbye to the season.

Tonight is Buffalo's fifth set of 16 back-to-back games. They're 1-4-0 in the first game and 2-1-1 in the second game.

Puck drop is at 7:00 PM with tonight being Hockey Fights Cancer Night.

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