(WGR 550) – Nothing much changes in the world of the Buffalo Sabres, so let me start with something else.
The biggest change that came from the Sabres' seventh-straight loss was Jeff Skinner scored a goal. It was a goal that we’ve seen the left winger score many times before, coming out from behind the net and roofing a backhander. It was Skinner’s first goal since Feb. 29, 2020, covering 24 games.
Skinner’s line with Curtis Lazar and Casey Mittelstadt was easily Buffalo’s best on Sunday afternoon. It’s hard to say this after the team’s third consecutive 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Long Island, but I thought Mittelstadt was Buffalo’s best player.
In Sunday’s game, they tried the former center at right wing and he was flying. The line was in the Islanders' offensive zone on a consistent basis, and a lot of that came from Mittelstadt carrying the puck in with some solid entries.
The former first round pick in 2017 also got an assist on Skinner’s goal, giving him four points in the eight games he’s played. By contrast Skinner has two points in 20 games.
Buffalo still lost by three goals on Sunday and is now 0-6-0 this season against the Islanders, but they showed some life in the third period after falling behind 3-0. It didn’t last long, but for 3:22, goals by Skinner and Colin Miller got them back into the game, 3-2.
Miller had a tough afternoon, but read the play very well on his goal. He joined the rush late, leaving himself wide-open for Jack Eichel to find him. I wish the Sabres' defense would do more of that. We would see so much more offensive zone time if they did.
As poorly as Eichel has played this season, the assist gave him points in four-consecutive games and five out of six.
Miller gets the goal that Ilya Sorokin should’ve stopped. It was very obvious they had Sorokin on the ropes. Dylan Cozens took an ordinary shot from the right circle that the Islanders goaltender got a piece of, but it got behind him. It took one of the New York defenders to dig it out before it crossed the line.
Jonas Johansson made two huge save to keep the deficit at one, and the Sabres turned and went on a 4-on-2. Sorokin did make a big save of his own on that play, thwarting a chance from Lazar.
That was all the pushback the Sabres could muster, as Brandon Davidson lost the puck to Cal Clutterbuck and then slipped. Clutterbuck kept going in alone on Johansson and put the game away.
The Islanders' energy winger has two of his three goals against the Sabres this season. The guy on the other wing, Matt Martin, has three of his four goals against Buffalo.
Anders Lee is one of the best net-front men in the NHL, yet, Rasmus Ristolainen gets on the wrong side of him, and the Islanders captain scored his 12th of the season, six of which have come against Buffalo.
Brock Nelson has four of his nine goals this season against the Sabres.
Scott Mayfield, Anthony Beauvillier and Noah Dobson all have two goals, with one coming against Buffalo.
The Sabres will be a big part of who wins the East Division. The Islanders and Washington Capitals are 10-0-1 against Buffalo, while the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins still have eight games each against the Sabres. The Philadelphia Flyers are 3-1-0 this season versus the Sabres.
If you’re the Islanders, you know you have 34 points to lead the East, but you only have four more points coming against Buffalo. Washington has 32 points with six more points coming compliments of the Sabres. The Flyers have 27 points, with eight more points coming from Buffalo, but it’s Boston at 29 points with 14 to 16 more points coming from the Sabres. That puts them way ahead of the Isles and Caps. Pittsburgh has 29 points and also has 14 to 16 points likely coming from the Sabres, and that vaults them by the Islanders too.
Buffalo wraps up its disastrous road trip on Tuesday in Philadelphia.