5 Observations: Capitals top Sabres 4-1

5 Observations: Capitals top Sabres 4-1
Posted at 10:43 PM, Dec 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-09 22:43:46-05

When Jack Eichel misses from point blank range it’s probably not your night. The Buffalo Sabres couldn’t get anything going offensively, falling to the Washington Capitals 4-1 Friday night.

Five observations from Friday’s loss:

Not so 'special' special teams

On Friday the Washington Capitals scored two of their four goals on the power play (2/3 PP). The Sabres on the other hand went 1-5 on the power play, failing to take advantage of some sloppy penalties by the Capitals.

This has become a reoccurring issue for the Sabres -- just look at their last five games:

The Sabres power play has gone 4/17 in their last five games (23.5%) while their penalty kill has allowed goals on seven of their last 14 penalties (50%).

"We have made some adjustments and done some practicing," Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma said after the game about the penalty kill struggles. "We have become a little shell-shocked."

The Sabres have to be better when killing penalties -- that in my opinion has been their biggest problem as of late. 

Kulikov struggles

Dmitry Kulikov hasn’t played in a month and on Friday it looked like it. Kulikov looked a step behind and made some sloppy plays at both ends of the ice. While I didn’t expect him to come back and look outstanding, I thought he would be a little more solid than what we saw Friday. That being said — Kulikov’s return should pay dividends for the Sabres over time, he’s a good player and better than guys like Erik Burgdoerfer and Justin Falk.

Franson not much better

Early on Kulikov was paired with Cody Franson, who I think has improved the last few weeks — but it didn’t look like it against the Capitals. Kulikov and Franson were a step behind the quick Washington forwards and seemed like they spent the majority of the game in the Sabres end.

On Washington's second goal Franson laid out in front of the net to try and stop a pass from getting to Jakub Vrana, but over compensated allowing a tap in goal.

"I thought I made a good slide but he's a skilled kid (Kuznetsov)," Franson told reporters after the game. "It's a well executed play by him."

It was a beautiful pass -- so that shouldn't be pinned on Franson -- but he needs to take a better angle on that play.

So close, yet so far

Missed opportunities were the name of the game for the Sabres on Friday night. They started early in the second period with Kyle Okpso, who missed an open net from inside the circle. It was tough to tell, but the shot may have been deflected by Capitals forward Justin Williams. Later in the period Eichel had an equally glorious chance from the doorstep, but fired the shot right into Philipp Grubauer’s right pad.

"Those are the two guys who you want to have the puck on their stick," Bylsma said about Eichel and Okposo.

In the third period things didn’t get any better when Rasmus Ristolainen beat Grubauer on a slap-shot from the point, only did clank off the post.  But wait, there's more! Later in the third period Zemgus Girgensons smacked a shot from in front of the net off the post.

Doesn't it seem like the Sabres hit the post all the time? If these go in then this is a different game -- but at the end of the day they didn't and close only counts in hand-grenades and horseshoes.

Containing Ovechkin wasn't enough 

Friday's matchup was the third time the Sabres and Capitals have played in the last two weeks -- and in those three games the Sabres were able to keep Alex Ovechkin out of the goal column. However, it didn't matter for the Capitals, because they still managed to win all three games. Good news Sabres fans, no more games against the Capitals this year. 

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