The Sabres need more urgency to win

Buffalo lost its fourth straight game to Tampa Bay

Paul Hamilton
November 08, 2019 - 6:14 pm

Photo: Anders Wiklund - TT via Associated Press

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(WGR 550) - I think the thing that bothered me the most about the Sabres' fourth straight loss was there was very little urgency or intensity in their game.

For the first five minutes of the game and the last 10 minutes, they worked hard, possessed the puck and played in the offensive zone. Other than that, they hung close with Tampa Bay, but lost 3-2.

Hanging close isn't good enough, and the Lightning held the puck for most of the game.

One player that did come to play was Sam Reinhart. He was in the dirty area to tip in a Rasmus Ristolainen shot, he hit the crossbar after he saw an open corner over Andrei Vasilevskiy’s shoulder and then scored Buffalo's second goal by using good work and a screen from Victor Olofsson.

The Sabres came out fast. They were moving their feet and had good offensive zone possession, and then the Lightning do what they do best. They struck fast. Still in the defensive zone, Kevin Shattenkirk backhanded a puck all the way up the wall to Brayden Point. He had taken off as he had Nikita Kucherov leaving Jake McCabe totally unaware at the blue line. Point saucered a perfect pass to the wide-open Kucherov and the league MVP swatted home his fifth of the season.

From that point on until the final 10 minutes of the game, the Sabres looked uninspired. I would’ve thought the Swedish players would’ve been flying, but the only evidence I saw of that was from Johan Larsson and a little from Olofsson.

Linus Ullmark wasn’t too bad in goal, making 31 saves. He had no chance on any of the three goals.

At the other end, Vasilevskiy was made to look like a world-beater. The Sabres did that for the slumping Braden Holtby in Washington, and they helped the Lightning goaltender get his confidence too. Vasilevskiy came in with a .904 save percentage and hadn’t been himself. Tampa Bay had given up 15 goals in three games, but the Sabres couldn’t take advantage.

With Reinhart’s two goals, the Sabres have just nine goals in their last six games. It’s not surprising they’ve lost five of them.

I’m starting to see too many gaps in their play, and 60-minute efforts are something we haven’t seen much of in the last few weeks.

Olofsson hasn’t scored in nine games, Marcus Johansson and Casey Mittelstadt haven’t scored in seven. Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner have one goal in six games.

Vladimir Sobotka left the game after he received a extremely dirty, low hit from Kucherov. It was a scummy play as Sobotka had put the puck into the zone and wasn’t looking. Kucherov low-bridged him and Sobotka won’t play on Saturday.

I only have one question, where was the response on that play? Not one person even looked at Kucherov. That’s part of what I’m talking about with the uninspired play.

Evan Rodrigues will have to play on Saturday, but he doesn’t appear to be an answer either. They could always insert Tage Thompson for Thursday’s game, but is that an answer?

Jason Botterill is well aware that he needs a top-six forward, but the time is well past due to get that done.

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