OPINION: Sabres end season with strong effort, but still lose

Buffalo is last in the NHL for the fourth time in eight years
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(WGR 550) – It was very nice to see that the Buffalo Sabres didn’t run for the bus in their final game. Yes, they lost 1-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they had a really nice game and played right up until the final horn.

Don Granato was very happy they treated the finale like it was any game.

“That’s something to be proud of," the interim head coach said following the season finale. "You hand it off to your team and they’re going to respond or not, and yesterday’s practice was a real good indication that they were going to be engaged. You could see it in the preparation today. So I give them a tremendous amount of credit for dialing in today, and we still generated chances that we just didn’t convert on.”

Casey Mittelstadt mentioned after the game that they were very motivated to play better for Michael Houser in his hometown of Pittsburgh.

“We left Houser out to dry in the first game in his hometown," Mittelstadt said of Thursday's 8-4 loss in Pittsburgh. "We wanted to be better for him tonight, and I thought we were better for him. It’s too bad that we couldn’t get something for him and get him the win.”

Granato finished the season 9-15-3 after taking over for Ralph Krueger back on March 17. That doesn’t include the loss when Kevyn Adams was the coach for one game. Many players played much better for Granato, and he said after the loss that he was fortunate to have an opportunity such as this.

“I’m proud to be part of the organization, and honored of having the position of being in charge, and then you’re surrounded by good people and good players,” Granato said.

In his four NHL games, Houser was 2-2-0 with a 3.46 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. It was really nice to see the team rally around him to make sure he had a good game in front of his family.

“That was satisfying, the effort I thought we showed for the full 60 minutes," Houser said following the loss. "We were getting out of our zone extremely well the entire game, and that made it pretty easy on me. We had single-digit shots through two again (9), so my job was just to make sure that when they did come on net, I was controlling them, seeing it the best I could and give us a chance to win.”

I think Houser has really given teams across the league something to think about. His four games should give him an opportunity to get a net in the American Hockey League.

The only goal Houser gave up in this game came when Jeff Carter went to the net. The puck popped up, hit Carter’s chest and his momentum put the puck in. That was Carter’s 20th goal against the Sabres in 39 career games.

Buffalo really clamped down on the turnovers and did have some great scoring chances on journeyman goalie Maxime Lagace. It just wasn’t meant to be.

Lagace stopped Drake Caggiula on a breakaway and was very fortunate late when Houser was pulled for the extra attacker. Victor Olofsson had Sam Reinhart wide-open off the post and put the pass in his skates. Reinhart did everything possible and got his skate on it for a deflection that went over the net. If the pass is anywhere’s near his stick, it’s 1-1.

So it’s on to the offseason, with it being a NHL record-tying 10 years in-between playoff births for the Sabres.

Jack Eichel will be speaking with us Monday at 11:10 a.m. ET. Don Granato and Kevyn Adams will talk to us Wednesday starting at 11 a.m. ET. You’ll be able to hear all those interviews on WGR Sports Radio 550 with "The Instigators".

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