BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Tallies in the final minute of a frame were the name of the game on Sunday afternoon. The Devils got them. The Sabres didn't. That made the difference in Buffalo's 5-3 loss. The Sabres still haven't pulled out two wins in a series all season. They hit the road to face the New York Islanders for the first time this year on Tuesday.
Five Observations from Sunday's game:
Free Henri Jokiharju
Matt Irwin's play this week while Jokiharju was absent had earned him another look. But not at the expense of the former Chicago Blackhawk. All seven active defensemen warmed up before Sunday's game, and Jokiharju wound up as the odd one out.
I know it's just one scratch, but Brandon Montour has been abysmal lately. Yes, he adds an offensive threat on the rush, but in his own end he seems to hesitate every time the puck is in the corner, and he's mishandled the puck in front time and again. I know a lot's invested in him. $3.85 million, to be exact. But he hasn't been playing like it.
Risto on the rise
The play of Jake McCabe and Rasmus Ristolainen together has been a welcome surprise. One of the most talked about pieces to move last season is getting first-pair minutes and is playing like it in his own end. The two of them look to be on the same page and win a lot of the physical battles.
But since Sam Reinhart was ruled day-to-day on Friday, Ristolainen has brought even more value in the offensive end, specifically on the power play. His net presence didn't show up on the score sheet yesterday, but today it led him to a goal when he was whacking Eric Comrie in front. He also added an assist at even strength. The stock is rising, but if he wants to stay, I'm not sure I'd sell if he keeps playing like this.
Olofsson's streak continues
The consistent shuffling of the Sabres' top six, and Olofsson's production throughout those shuffles, should eliminate any concern about his production solely being a benefit of playing with Jack Eichel. So far in his second season, no matter who he's played with, he's shown that he's the real deal.
On one hand, the season still feels young, sure. But on the other hand, it's nearly a fifth of the way over. And Olofsson is playing at a point-per-game pace with a six-game point streak and a tie for the league lead in power play points.
Wind out of their sails
I was ready to write about this after the first period. Andreas Johnsson's tally with 16 seconds to go in the period felt like it was going to take the wind out of Buffalo's sails going into the locker room. And then it happened again in the second intermission. After the Sabres had already clawed out of their first hole.
The end of the second period was just ugly. The rebound on Miles Wood's initial shot went right back to him and suddenly, the Sabres were going into the locker room trailing. Again. Those six tenths of a second wound up being the difference maker on Sunday.
Streak comes to an end
Buffalo's five game point streak ended against a team the Sabres could beat. And frankly, they could've beaten them again. Head coach Ralph Krueger says that his squad still has to figure out the advantages, and disadvantages, of playing the same opponent twice all season.
At this rate, if they can't figure it out, the Sabres are going to be .500 at best. That's not going to cut it in this year's format and with this year's opponents. And it doesn't get any easier: Don't look now, but the Sabres still haven't had to play the Bruins or the Penguins all year.