OPINION: Sabres lost competitive edge in loss to Sharks

Don Granato said after the game not enough players were competitive enough

(WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres lost to a San Jose Sharks team on Tuesday night that was missing seven guys and their head coach due to COVID-19 protocols. San Jose was missing the NHL’s eighth-best scorer in Timo Meier, as well as defensemen Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Buffalo was without its leading scorer in Victor Olofsson with a soft-tissue injury.

The Sharks kept the game uncomplicated and simple, and pretty much had it in cruise control by the third period.

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Buffalo had its moments like the way it responded in the first period after falling behind 1-0. The first goal was an easy, open tap-in by Jonathan Dahlen. The thing I liked was just 1:23 later, the Sabres were up 6-on-5 thanks to a delayed penalty. Buffalo had the puck in the offensive zone for over a minute. Robert Hagg was at the point, passed the puck and rotated straight to the net to screen James Reimer. Jeff Skinner used the screen and had his second goal of the season.

San Jose was solid in this game, but it also had some luck. Before the first period ended, Ryan Merkley scored his first NHL goal in his second game, but it went off of Arttu Ruotsalainen’s stick and Anders Bjork's leg.

After the game Don Granato said that they had too many players that weren't competitive enough, especially on the first two goals. The team isn't driving play like it was before it went out west.

In the second period the Sharks got a two-goal lead thanks to a giveaway by Dylan Cozens. The kid had just finished two very good shifts in the offensive zone that saw both him and Vinnie Hinostroza earn good chances, only to pass up the shot. Tomas Hertl easily walked around Hagg in front and San Jose never looked back.

Buffalo didn’t pack it in as they never do anymore. Don Granato has talked about Drake Caggiula’s shot and he put it on display ripping the puck off the far post and in. Reimer helped him out by staying deep in his crease.

The shots in the second were 10-10 and the Sabres had to be in their room thinking it’s just one goal. Win a period and you at least leave San Jose with points. Just 6:02 in, Mario Ferraro got the two-goal lead back as his shot seemed to have eyes through traffic.

The killer was when Hertl came down 1-on-2 against Rasmus Dahlin and Will Butcher. Hertl absolutely undressed Dahlin as he committed an error no NHL player should ever make, he got caught looking at the puck.

Jeff Skinner banked one in off the back of Reimer’s head for his second of the game at 18:13, but it was too little too late.

Even though the Sabres gave up five goals, they did have chances to have more than three. Tage Thompson hit the crossbar, Rasmus Asplund didn’t even get a shot off on a breakaway as Reimer poked the puck off his stick. Reimer left Arttu Ruotsalainen’s shot right next to him, but John Hayden couldn’t get his stick on the puck.

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So the Sabres head to Seattle 1-2-0 on this trip. None of the three teams they played, the Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks or the Los Angeles Kings were playing good hockey.

Buffalo wasn’t awful in this game, but they seemed to get frustrated with the Sharks who were playing easy, uncomplicated hockey. If Buffalo was in the zone, San Jose kept everything to the outside. I think the biggest thing is they need to use their speed to start pushing play again.

The Sabres get the chance to salvage a .500 road trip with their first game ever in Seattle on Thursday night.

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