The west coast has been anything but the best coast for the Buffalo Sabres this week but on Friday they ended their trip to California with a win, knocking off the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in a ten round shootout.
Julie the Cat vs. Goldberg
On Friday both the Ducks and Sabres were the beneficiaries of excellent goaltending. Sabres netminder Anders Nilsson finished the night with 38 saves, allowing just one goal in the first period to Ducks forward Rickard Rakell. Jonathan Bernier played just as well at the other end of the ice stopping 30 of the 31 shots faced.
The duo was equally as impressive in the shootout, with Nilsson stopping eight of ten shots and Bernier stopping seven of ten shots. Nilsson is now 8-2 in shootouts.
Last week Nilsson was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Friday was a nice bounceback for the Sabres goalie. All week the Sabres have gotten solid performances from the blue paint but failed to capitalize, losing all three games.
A fun shootout ?!?!
I've said multiple times that I don't like the shootout -- but Friday's was pretty fun. It would've been even better if more players scored, but Nilsson and Bernier stole the show. That being said, I think the N.H.L needs to get rid of the shootouts and either keep playing three-on-three or end in a tie.
It's hard to win when you can't score. The Sabres kicked off their west coast road trip off with a goal from Jack Eichel just one minute into their game against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. They remained scoreless until four minutes remaining in the second period on a Friday thanks to a flukey goal from Ryan O'Reilly. That's essentially seven straight periods between goals.
Maybe their struggles are a result of a lack of shots or perhaps sloppy zone entires. Whatever the case, the Sabres are starting to look like they did in November when they couldn't buy a goal.
Back to reality
While I don't think they were bad, the Marcus Foligno - Evan Rodrigues - Hudson Fasching line wasn't nearly as effective as they were on Thursday against the Kings. Against the Ducks they generated some chances and made a few nice plays but didn't physically dominate like they did less than 24 hours prior. No need to worry, it's only their second line together as a unit. I'd like to see them stick together for a few more games to see if they can return to Thursday's form.
Luck of the Irish
You knew a guy with the last name O'Reilly was going to find his way onto the score sheet on St. Patrick's Day. As a matter of fact, O'Reilly, Eichel and Tyler Ennis proved to be very effective on Friday, generating the majority of the Sabres shots and scoring chances.
In the first period both O'Reilly and Eichel missed golden opportunities, but eventually found the pot of gold they were looking for at the end of the second period when O'Reilly redirected a puck into the Ducks net with his skate. At the time of the goal Sam Reinhart was on the ice instead of Ennis. Maybe it was an accident, maybe it wasn't, but it was fitting that O'Reilly and Eichel combined for the Sabres first goal.
And now we wait
11 losses in 13 games is unacceptable, especially when less than three weeks ago this team had a very real shot at the playoffs. With every loss things become more uncertain for Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma.
Whether that's fair or not is for you to decide, but the Sabres last ten games are incredibly important. The playoffs are out of reach, but the outcome of the final few weeks could change the course of the Sabres moving forward.