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5 Observations: Islanders take down Sabres 4-2

5 Observations: Islanders take down Sabres 4-2
Posted at 6:29 PM, Apr 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-02 18:29:39-04

On Sunday Buffalo Sabres forward C.J. Smith became only the second Iowa native to play in the National Hockey League [per Elias sports]. His debut, however, was spoiled by two third period goals from the Islanders, who kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 4-2 win against the Sabres.

Five observations from Sunday's loss: 

Turnovers, anyone?

When it looked like the Sabres had clawed their way back into the game the turnover bug bit hard. It started when Sabres defenseman Dmitry Kulikov turned a puck over behind the net. A weird bounce sent the puck in front of Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner, who batted it out of the air. Unfortunately for the Sabres, the clearing attempt went right onto Anders Lee's stick, who beat Lehner on a wrist shot from just inside the blue line.

A few minutes later the Islanders were given another gift thanks to a Jake McCabe mishap. The Sabres defenseman tried sending a puck up the ice, but it rolled off of his blade and right to Anders Lee [yet again] who tapped in his second of the evening.

The new guy

It's only one game so let's not get carried away, but Smith had a solid game and seemed to get better as the afternoon went on.  Surely the highlight was his assist on the Evander Kane goal in the second period, but he made some other nice plays too.

A few minutes after his first N.H.L point he slid a perfect pass to linemate Evan Rodrigues. The Islanders had to hook Rodrigues or it would've likely been a goal.

While there was a lot to like, he did look timid at times, but can you blame him? The size difference between the pros and the N.C.A.A where he was playing last week are night and day.

The 22-year-old can fly down the ice, now he needs to try and mix in some physicality. The first Islanders goal was scored on Smith's side of the ice -- but it was a shot that should've been saved by Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner.

By the end of the night, Smith was getting time with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. The trio gave up some scoring chances in the opposite direction but also made some nice offensive plays. Overall it was a nice debut for someone who was playing in the N.C.A.A tournament a week ago.

Anything but powerful

The Sabres power play has been a bright spot this season. On Sunday that wasn't the case.

Despite having four chances, the Sabres failed to find the back of the net. It seemed like Buffalo was having a hard time getting the puck into the zone and keeping any consistent cycle going. On their fourth and final man advantage, the Sabres finally generated some quality chances, but couldn't solve Islanders netminder Jaroslav Halak.

81

That's how many points the Sabres had last season. After Sunday's loss, the Sabres have 76 points with four games remaining. If they split their last four games they'll finish a point behind their total from last year.

Yes, there have been plenty of injuries and setbacks this season, but a worse year is simply unacceptable. The future still looks bright, but the Sabres need a big leap next season -- almost like the leap many of us thought we'd see this year.

Sibling rivalry

This is an observation from Albany, New York. Why are we talking about Albany you may ask? Well, because Alex Nylander, the Sabres first round pick from 2016 did not play for the Rochester Americans in their game against the Albany Devils on Sunday afternoon.

According to John Vogl of the Buffalo News Nylander is on his way to Buffalo where he'll make his N.H.L. debut on Monday night. Coincidentally, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Alex's brother Willie Nylander happen to be in town.

When asked about the speculation of Nylander's first game Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma said "We'll see" with a smirk on his face. Read the body language my friends. 

It's looking like we'll get our first ever Nylander vs. Nylander regular season game. Buckle up, this adds yet another storyline to the already entertaining Sabres and Maple Leafs rivalry.

For what it's worth, which is really not much, if Nylander plays it'll be the second game in as many days featuring brothers. On Sunday Brian Gionta [Sabres] and Stephen Gionta [Islanders] shared the ice as competitors.