The Western Canada road trip for the Buffalo Sabres (1-2-1) is now complete, coming back to Buffalo with three of a possible six points after going (1-1-1) in their three games. Buffalo ended the road trip in Vancouver (4-0-0), but weren't able to get on the board until the end of the game, ultimately costing them in 2-1 regulation loss.
Five observations from Thursday's game:
Sabres struggle to finish
Buffalo finished the night with 28 shots -- but only found the back of the net once. To say Buffalo's goal came on a shot might be a stretch, but as the Sabres twitter account joked "we'll take it". Nick Baptiste, who was playing in his second career game, was credited with the Sabres only goal, coming late in the third period, to bring the Sabres within one. Don't get me wrong -- Jacob Markstrom had a fantastic game for the Canucks, but the Sabres missed some golden opportunities, especially in the second and third periods.
It was certainly a sloppy start for the Sabres, especially in their own end. The Okposo-O'Reilly-Reinhart line, that turned out to be the Sabres best on Thursday, had a rough first period, turning the puck over at least three times from my count. Those turnovers lead to Vancouver's only real scoring chances in the first period. The sloppy play didn't hurt Buffalo on the scoreboard but it certainly could have.
Kyle Okposo's best game
Okposo finished the night with a fourth of the Sabres shots on goal (six shots) Thursday night and generated some quality chances. The Sabres big free agent forward had a stellar second period, basically taking over the game, he just couldn't beat Markstrom. Okposo and his line mates (O'Reilly and Reinhart) really turned things on as a unit after a slow start, but it was too little too late for the Sabres. They've been the Sabres best line this year, so they get a pass after Thursday's loss.
Lehner gets B+
The 25-year-old goaltender only faced 20 shots, but bailed the Sabres out with some nice saves. Rebound control continues to be an area where Lehner has struggled, and he did again Thursday. In the second period Lehner made the initial save on a Vancouver 2-on-1, but left the puck in the perfect spot for a wide open Janik Hansen, who did the rest. This has been a problem for Lehner in the Sabres first four games, but with a goalie who played in only 21 games last season, Lehner should get more comfortable over time.
Not so powerful power play
Entering Thursday's game Buffalo was 4-16 on the power play and things were looking good. Against the Canucks, Buffalo generated some chances, but the power play looked flat. In the first four games Buffalo also hadn't allowed a short handed goal. That changed in the third period against Vancouver when the Canucks scored their second of the night -- that goal turned out to be the game winner.
The Sabres next game is Tuesday in Philadelphia against the Flyers at 7 p.m.
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