Buffalo N.Y. (WGR 550) - After an abysmal 4-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, the Buffalo Sabres looked to bounce back against the St. Louis Blues on Friday night at Enterprise Center.
Friday's game marked the first time these two teams have squared off since January of 2020.
The Blues find themselves in second place in the Central Division, chasing down the red-hot Colorado Avalanche, while also attempting to hold onto their own playoff spot closely followed by the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators.
Both teams got the goal-scoring going early with three combined goals in the first period. Dylan Cozens netted his 12th of the year just over a minute into the game for the Sabres, while Jordan Kyrou scored two more for the Blues before the period was over.
Kyle Okposo tied the game for the Sabres in the second, but the Blues responded late with a Jake Wallman goal to end the period. In the third, the Sabres tied things up one more time off of a Tage Thompson goal. However, St. Louis came right back with two of their own to seal the deal.
This game looked to be much more complete from the Buffalo Sabres, outshooting the St. Louis Blue,s 38-23.
Here's this game's three observations:
1.) Passing improvements
There were huge differences between the game in Montreal and the game in St. Louis.
The most noticeable difference was the improvement of the team’s passing quality. Players looked like they knew what they were going to do with the puck as soon as they got it, made mostly competent passes, and created many high-danger chances because of this.
The fact that there were only six giveaways by the Sabres the entire game compared to 31 two nights earlier shows the game in Montreal may have been a fluke.
One of the biggest problems still is the constant attempts to make the play too perfect.
On the Blues' game-winning goal, Casey Mittelstadt entered the St. Louis zone and attempted a drop pass to a teammate. This resulted in a turnover and an eventual goal by Colton Parayko. That's a type of pass Mittelstadt and other Sabres players have tried all season, but it has led to too many of these instances.
Maybe it’s time to shelf this idea for a while.
2.) Need for consistency on the power play
The Sabres rank in the lower half of the league in power play percentage at 20th. While that's not terrible, when given five opportunities in a game, it’s hoped the team can convert more than just once.
That was the case again for Buffalo this game, going 1-for-5 on the night where one or two more power play goals would have made a world of difference for them.
They need to find a more consistent way to convert on the power play.
At times, they look great. They entered the zone with speed, controlled the play while they were in the zone, and generated shots on the net. Other times, however, the two units look flat and can barely enter the offensive zone. In fact, the Blues almost capitalized on a play like this on a few separate occasions.
Having the power play find more consistent ways to enter the zone and simply control play and cause havoc for a few minutes would do wonders for this team.
3.) Playing a full 60 minutes
The showing in Montreal was the polar opposite of what you want to see coming from any NHL franchise. At the time of the game, the Sabres appeared extremely flat, sloppy, and just all around tired.
In his pregame press conference on Friday, Sabres head coach Don Granato stated that some of the players played sick against the Canadiens, which led to them attempting to cut corners and force some different things that they may not have if they were fully healthy.
However, this game against St. Louis was almost exactly the kind of response the team needed to have coming off that 4-0 loss. The Sabres could not pull off the win, but they did play a pretty complete game.
There weren’t any specific points in this game where the Sabres looked terrible. There were moments here and there, but they didn’t have an entire period riddled with mistakes. This was a welcome sight to see, especially against one of the better teams in the league.
The Sabres will look to find a win in the two games remaining on their current road trip. Next on the schedule comes a matchup with the Dallas Stars. This will be the second of their two meetings this season; Dallas beat the Sabres in Buffalo 5-4 earlier in the season.
Puck drop is set for 2 p.m. EST with pregame coverage, hosted by Brian Koziol and Paul Hamilton, starting at 1 p.m. EST on the radio home of the Sabres - WGR Sports Radio 550.