BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - With more than four minutes left in the third period, Robin Lehner was pulled in a last-stitch effort for the Buffalo Sabres. It didn't work as the Sabres were blanked for the second straight game, this time falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0. With the loss, the Sabres fall to 6-15-4, the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
Five observations from Tuesday's loss:
For the second straight game, the Sabres were held without a goal. Finding the back of the net has been a problem all season but lately, it has been especially bad. In the Sabres last five games, they have scored nine goals, dropping all but one game of those games.
How's this for perspective? This season the Lightning have 88 goals in 24 games while the Sabres have 55 goals in 25 games. At the end of the day, the Sabres have a lot of problems but lack of scoring is certainly one of their most pressing issues.
And what leads to scoring chances? Crisp passes and efficient breakouts. WGR 550's Paul Hamilton hit the nail on the head with this tweet as the game was coming to an end.
For me the biggest difference in this game is one team is very good at passing and receiving passes and the other isn't.— Paul Hamilton (@pham1717) November 29, 2017
After an abysmal October, the Sabres followed things up with an even worse November, finishing the month with a 3-8-2 record. As previously mentioned, the Sabres will start December with a 6-15-4 record, the worst mark in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo will play 13 games before the new year, meaning even if they won every single game in December they would start 2018 with 19 wins and 19 losses (including OT/SO losses). That's insane.
What could've been
In the first period, Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev opened the scoring, burying his sixth goal of the season. If the name sounds familiar it's because many believed the Sabres would select the talented blueliner with their eighth pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Instead, former General Manager Tim Murray opted for Alex Nylander, who is still developing in Rochester.
Nylander could very well become an important piece in the Sabres' lineup for years to come but Sergachev can flat out play. You have to think the Sabres would rather have the 19-year-old defenseman who has tallied 15 points in 27 career games. Maybe I'm wrong, but man is it fun to watch Sergachev play.
On Tuesday both of Tampa Bay's goals were scored by defensemen [Sergachev and Girardi]. In 25 games this season the Sabres still don't have a goal from a defenseman.
Eventually, a Sabres defenseman will score a goal but the lack of production from the blue line is beyond concerning.
Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Jason Pominville, Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Evander Kane & Matt Moulson all make more than Nikita Kucherov #Sabres— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) November 29, 2017
Dodged a bullet
With less than two minutes remaining in the second period Lightning defenseman Brayden Coburn slammed Rasmus Ristolainen into the side of the Tampa Bay net. Ristolainen immediately grabbed his arm/wrist and skated right off the ice and into the locker room.
Luckily for the Sabres, Ristolainen returned to the ice to start the third period. Another injury to Ristolainen would've been devastating, especially for a team that has very little room for error from here on out. With Bogosian's return looming, the defensive unit should start to look like the top-six we saw during training camp.