For the first time this season the Buffalo Sabres failed to score, falling to the Minnesota Wild 4-0 Thursday night. Buffalo started flat and couldn’t find the back of the net, despite having 38 shots. Five observations from Buffalo’s loss:
Sabres start slow. Really slow.
It took Minnesota less than five minutes to get on the scoreboard after an absolute laser from Joel Eriksson. Buffalo couldn’t get anything going and ten minutes later found themselves down two after a neutral zone breakdown. Jason Zucker split Jake McCabe and Cody Franson like a tight pair of pants, beating Nilsson on a partial breakaway on a nice forehand-backhand deke. When the period was done, Minnesota had out-shot Buffalo 13-8, but anyone who watched the period knew that those numbers make the play seem more balanced than it actually was.
Buffalo bounces back, but can’t capitalize
Six minutes into the second period, the Sabres were outshooting the wild 15-1. Yes, you read that correctly, 15-1. On paper the numbers are fantastic, but even with that many shots, the Sabres couldn’t find the back of the net. Seven of those shots came on an early power play that generated several chances. After the first six minutes, the Sabres cooled down significantly, but still played tight in their own end. They allowed Minnesota to take only four second period shots.
Nilsson struggles in second start
On Tuesday night against the Flyers, Nilsson kept the Sabres in the game early. Thursday, he let in some goals he would surely want back. Minnesota’s first goal came on an absolute laser from Joel Eriksson, but if Nilsson was more squared up and played a better angle, it was a shot he could have and should have saved. The blame on Minnesota’s second goal shouldn’t be directed to Nilsson, he was left out to dry. However, on the Wild’s third goal, Nilsson let in a Ryan Suter shot from the point that he should have saved. The Sabres aren’t a good enough team to have mediocre goaltending. Aside from a good Nilsson performance Tuesday, they haven’t had anything better than average so far this year.
Time to give Casey Nelson a chance?
Going into this year, I expected big things out of Jake McCabe. Cody Franson, who is partnered with McCabe, said during camp that last season was his worst as a pro. Well, this year, things don’t look much different. To be clear, Franson and McCabe aren’t the only pair struggling — but maybe it’s time to give 24-year-old Casey Nelson a shot. Franson is in the final year of a two-year deal with the Sabres. Moving forward, barring a crazy rebound later this season, I can't imagine Franson will be a key piece of the Sabres' puzzle. Nelson, however, might be. We don't know exactly what Casey Nelson can bring to the table because his sample size is so small. That being said, there's a reason he isn't playing -- but is there a reason the Sabres insist on playing Franson?
Ennis making progress
Obviously, Ennis wasn't able to get on the score sheet, but overall I liked his game tonight. It seemed like Ennis was buzzing around the puck and making moves like the Tyler Ennis we expected to see this year. There are times when you scratch your head and think what he was thinking, but at other times he makes something out of nothing. That's a trait not many players have. He needs to continue to show progress because he's had a slow start to the year, but Thursday was a step in the right direction.
Buffalo is back on the ice Saturday October 29 at 1 p.m. when they take on the Florida Panthers at KeyBank Center.