(WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres are probably the most consistent team in the NHL. The thing you can count on with the Sabres is they will always be soft, they will always be fragile when things go wrong, and they will always be one of the teams with the best odds to win the draft lottery.
Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders was just another example of that.
Buffalo came out flying and played a very good seven minutes. They were quick on pucks, they were on the forecheck, they were in front of the net and they made good outlet passes to get out of the zone.
It paid off for one goal, and you guessed it, it was off the post.
Dylan Cozens played on a line with Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall and made an immediate impact. Cozens out-battled two Islanders in the corner, as the puck was rotated over to the left wall to Jacob Bryson. Cozens went straight to the net, and Semyon Varlamov never saw Bryson shoot from the boards. The puck hit the post and actually went in for his Bryson’s NHL goal.
The goal was just 33 seconds into the game and the Sabres continued to press for the two-goal lead. Bryson made a great stretch pass from his own zone to the Islanders blue line and sent Jeff Skinner in on a breakaway. The former 40-goal scorer made a deke to the backhand and had the puck bounce, causing him to shoot wide.
Tobi Rieder used his speed to split the New York defensemen and come down the middle, but was stopped by Varlamov.
Eric Staal made a nice pass in-tight to Sam Reinhart, but he too was stopped.
Brandon Montour stole the puck to walk in all alone down the slot, but he gave the breakaway back when he pulled up to take a slap shot.
After that, Buffalo got just two shots in the final 12 minutes of the first period as the Islanders took over. Carter Hutton was forced into some good saves, especially in the slot on Brock Nelson.
The second period started and the Sabres stopped competing, they stopped battling, the passing and decisions were horrendous. In just 4:54, a 1-0 lead became a 3-1 deficit.
Mathew Barzal scored, what will be without question, the goal of the year in the NHL. He came down the ice with speed and just swatted away Rasmus Ristolainen, who has been weakened by his bout with COVID-19. If you look at the photo for this article, you will see where he put the blade of his stick between his legs and scored.
Just 1:25 later, Jack Eichel over-skated the puck just outside the blue line and it was picked up by Anthony Beauvillier. He found a wide-open Nelson in front and he easily netted his seventh of the season.
The Islanders had to wait a little longer for their next goal, as that was 2:29 later. Buffalo got running around in its own zone and Colin Miller left Rasmus Dahlin to fend for himself. The puck squirted free to Cal Clutterbuck, who also had an open net to score in.
Scott Mayfield scored his first goal of the season on Thursday when the Sabres were oblivious to him sneaking in from the right point for an easy one. With 1:15 left in the period, he did the same exact thing. Not one Sabres player learned from Thursday, and Mayfield took a wide-open ally to the net for his second goal of the season.
Buffalo did get a Sam Reinhart tip-in goal seven seconds after their only power play opportunity ended. If you want some positive news, that was Reinhart’s ninth goal of the year and puts him on a 37-goal pace over 82 games.
The Sabres got such a huge boost from Reinhart’s goal, this time they waited 1:23 to get scored on again. This time, Brandon Montour’s turnover allowed the Islanders to keep the puck in the zone and the pressure on. Anders Lee completely out-battled Kyle Okposo in front of the net for his fifth goal in five games against the Sabres.
Buffalo has now lost six-straight games, and the team hasn’t even played a decent full 20 minutes of hockey in any of its last five games.
Kevyn Adams had a lot to say when he spoke on Friday, but as he well knows, actions speaks louder than words.
You’ll hear Adams’ Zoom conference call during Sunday’s pregame coverage with me and Brian Koziol beginning at 11 a.m. EST.
I’ll be doing double-duty on Sunday, as after spending the first half hour with Brian, I’ll be moving over to WGRZ-TV with Adam Benigni and Julianne Pelusi for their pregame show.
Sunday’s game will be broadcasted on NBC, so the only place to hear Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray on the call of the action is WGR.