The Sabres may have hit rock bottom

Getting pasted by a slumping team is just unacceptable

Paul Hamilton
January 15, 2019 - 12:28 am

Photo: Perry Nelson - USA TODAY Sports

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Edmonton, AB (WGR 550) - I think losing to a team 7-2 in a building where they’ve dropped six out of seven means the Sabres have hit rock bottom. The team had a shot mentality, but the defense was horrendous in front of both Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark.

The Sabres had all sorts of pressure to start the game, but they left the first period down 3-2. Rasmus Dahlin had his best period in over a month and Buffalo fired 15 shots at Mikko Koskinen.

With just one minute gone in the first period, Conor Sheary shot from the left wing wall and it eluded Koskinen thanks to a tip by Casey Mittelstadt, who was going to the net.

If you’re going to talk about the first 20 minutes, you have to talk about Dahlin. On the Sheary goal, he started the play at his own blue line by finding Casey Mittelstadt with a backhand though his legs pass right on his stick. Dahlin was mobile the whole period. He hit a post, he gave Tage Thompson as pass for a tap-in that he couldn’t handle. He came down the slot fast and was robbed by the glove hand of Koskinen.

Carter Hutton had three pucks tipped by him by his own defensemen in the Carolina game, and had another by Zach Bogosian in this one.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tipped in the next goal. The two teams combined for four goals in 3:28. That play came about because Sam Reinhart couldn’t handle a pass up the right wing wall to get the puck out.

On the third goal, Nate Beaulieu appeared to get caught in between and then lost coverage on two players, that led to a wide open tap in.

The defense got worse in the second period.

Rasmus Ristolainen fanned on a shot from the point and Connor McDavid stole the puck and had all night to walk in. He actually stumbled twice on the way in and still scored.

Later, Marco Scandella was not being pressured, but he turned and passed the puck right to Milan Lucic all alone in front. Sure, you’d like Hutton to make a big save, but they hung him out big time in this game. The first breakaway was also by the best player in the game.

For me, this team has hit rock bottom. All they talked about Monday morning was how they needed to start this trip of well, but yet, they got that kind of effort defensively. I don’t care if the Sabres out-shot the Oilers or out-chanced them. It was out-numbered chances after out-numbered chances all night coming at their goaltender.

You can’t have players who aren’t under duress just handing the puck to the opponent in front of the net. To me, the defensive effort was a lack of concentration and if Phil Housley doesn’t get to the bottom of that in a big hurry, it’s going to be too late.

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