5 Observations: Bruins knock off Sabres 3-1

5 Observations: Bruins knock off Sabres 3-1
Posted at 4:03 PM, Dec 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-31 16:03:06-05

After an uninspiring start to the season, the Buffalo Sabres had a golden opportunity to make up serious ground in the playoff picture heading into the new year. With just three days left in 2016, the Sabres had two matchups with the Boston Bruins— who currently occupy the last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

Buffalo dropped their first matchup after a late game collapse on Thursday. On Saturday, things didn’t get much better, falling to the Bruins 3-1.

This was the fourth and final matchup of the season between the division rivalries; Boston won all four games and outscored Buffalo 13-4 in the process, completing the first Bruins sweep of the Sabres in team history.

Five observations from Saturday’s loss:

Role reversal

On Thursday the Sabres came storming out of the gate and took a 2-0 lead into the second period. Saturday, the Bruins were the team that started strong, jumping out to a 3-0 lead less than halfway through the game. Buffalo really elevated their play in the second half of the game, but their efforts weren’t enough to overcome a three goal deficit.

It seems like we’ve said this about the Sabres so many times this season — they either start fast of finish fast, but rarely play a complete 60-minute game. If Buffalo is going to start climbing their way up the standings, they’ll need to play a much more consistent game at both ends of the ice from start to finish.

Painful loss

-Ryan O’Reilly
-Tyler Ennis
-Dmitry Kulikov

Those are the players already injured for the Sabres, but wouldn’t you know it, the injury bug has returned yet again. In the first period the Sabres lost both forward Johan Larsson and defenseman Josh Gorges to injuries, playing the majority of the game with a short bench. If either injury turns out to be a long-term issue, the Sabres will likely have to make another recall from Rochester.

Yes, I know Gorges and Larsson have been popular players to criticize this season, but they're better than the players that will have to replace them from the AHL if their injuries require more than a few days to recover.

Power play problems

The Sabres had four opportunities to cut into the Bruins lead on the power play and failed to score a goal on ANY of their attempts. Early in the game the Sabres had a 5-on-3 power play for more than a minute, but failed to even register a shot.

It seemed like the Sabres were having a very hard time entering the offensive zone, and once they got there, couldn’t get shots to the net. The Bruins deserve some credit — they have a very good penalty kill — but if the Sabres scored just once with the man advantage this could’ve been a different game.

Bailey looks good

I’m not a fan of calling up a player like Justin Bailey and then sticking him on the fourth line. Yes, I understand that he needs to prove himself and doesn’t deserve top line minutes, but for a ‘skill’ player like Bailey, getting thrown onto the fourth line doesn’t seem like the best fit. Bailey did get some shifts with some of Buffalo’s top three lines, and when he was called upon I didn’t think he looked out of place at all.

Overall, I liked Bailey’s game and thought he generated some nice pressure and looked strong against the boards. If he stays in Buffalo for at least the next few games, which I think he will, he deserves some more ice time.

Can the Derek Grant experiment be over?

Derek Grant is ‘good' at killing penalties and winning face-offs, but I think it’s time the Sabres call upon somebody else for some help. Here’s the problem: during the preseason Grant was a scoring machine, but in 32 regular season games Grant has yet to score a goal— he had a glorious chance thanks to a nice pass from Justin Falk against the B’s, but was once again denied. I think the Sabres would get more production, at least offensively, from someone like Nick Baptiste or Cal O’Reilly.