(WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres got a good effort Monday in Long Island, but what does it matter? In the end, they lost 3-2, and are now 0-3-0 against the New York Islanders this season.
Buffalo did just what the team had to in the beginning. They took the play to the Islanders and got the lead before the first period was over.
The problem was their usual problem - They had great chances and only converted one, keeping the opponent in the game.
Ralph Krueger followed through and made Jeff Skinner a healthy scratch, inserting Casey Mittelstadt into the lineup. Mittelstadt took advantage of the opportunity, playing very well with an assist and two shots on goal in 12:38 of ice-time.
On the Curtis Lazar goal in the first period, Mittelstadt’s shot was stopped and steered to the corner by Semyon Varlamov. The kid jumped right into the corner, winning the battle for the loose puck. He got it back to the point, and while Henri Jokiharju was winding up to shoot, Lazar went to the net and got the tip.
Don’t let the fact that Jokiharju got an assist fool you. The defenseman struggled mightily, once again. Just like Tage Thompson a few years ago, it’s so evident that Jokiharju needs to go to Rochester to get his confidence and work on his game, but Krueger said that is not happening.
The Sabres held a 12-3 first period shots advantage, as New York went 15 minutes without a shot, but Varlamov frustrated the Sabres at every turn.
In the second, the Sabres got a quick power play and Jack Eichel beat Varlamov clean with an electric wrister, but he hit the post. A few minutes later, Taylor Hall also hit the post.
Eichel, Hall and Victor Olofsson had 14 shots between them. That should be more than enough for each one to score.
Krueger called this their most painful loss, because he felt they should’ve had at least five goals.
The Sabres scoring first got the Isles out of that defensive clampdown that they employ. It was mental errors that killed them.
On Anders Lee’s goal, Lazar was just about to exit the zone when the speedy Mathew Barzal lifted his stick and kept the puck in and the pressure on. Jokiharju got caught running all over the zone, and was picked by his own man to keep him away from Lee.
Not only did Riley Sheahan take a tripping penalty with the game tied at 2-2 with 6:35 left, he’s one of their key penalty killers, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau netted the game-winner with just 4:52 left.
If you would’ve told me that the Sabres would solve the Islanders defensively and get 36 shots on Varlamov, I would’ve said Buffalo wins easily. However, I forgot what team I’m talking about.
No matter who has been on this team in the past eight or so years, I have never seen hockey players as fragile as the ones that have played on this team during that time.
In addition to Mittelstadt’s strong game, Kyle Okposo played very well, having his second-straight good game. On the pregame show, Okposo talked about doing a deep-dive into his game during the two-week break. He said he even had outside people looking at his games, and he felt he saw many things he could change in his play.
Skinner will likely return to the lineup on Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils, because Tobi Rieder got hurt in the first period and never returned. They showed the trainer working on his left shoulder.
It’s also possible that Will Borgen’s hand will feel good enough to play on Tuesday in New Jersey.
Faceoff on Tuesday is set for 7 p.m. EST with pregame coverage with Schopp and the Bulldog starting at 6 p.m. EST.