BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Sabres preserved a record above .500 with a win in the sunshine state. They beat the Florida Panthers 5-2 on Sunday night; Zemgus Girgensons led the way with two goals. The Sabres play the Lightning for the third time this year tomorrow night.
3 observations from Sunday's game:
11 + 7 = 18
The return of Zach Bogosian makes the Sabres' blue line even more muddled, with all eight defensemen being capable of regular minutes. Head coach Ralph Krueger went with eleven forwards and seven defensemen on Sunday night; he chose to do so in order to get a better look at the power play and the penalty kill and put out more options for those units. As a result, Curtis Lazar and Colin Miller were the odd men out of the lineup.
Brandon Montour was the odd defenseman out for most of the night; the Sabres paired Jake McCabe & Rasmus Ristolainen, Rasmus Dahlin & Bogosian, and Marco Scandella & Henri Jokiharju. After tonight's result, going with eleven and seven might be something we see more often from Ralph Krueger, but the individual personnel should continue to shift-- Colin Miller was left off the ice entirely on Sunday.
Quality over quantity
We hear language all the time-- "We need to get more pucks to the net." "You can't score if you don't shoot." The Sabres were outshot 45-25 in tonight's game. But the scoreboard didn't reflect that. Even though the Sabres didn't pepper Sam Montembeault, they got to the right areas of the ice, took advantage of chances when they had them, and held onto the puck instead of pressing the matter.
Of the Sabres' five goals tonight, one came right in front and the other three were fired from the slot. Of those four, three of them came on the rush. When the opportunities presented themselves, the Sabres took them and that's how they got the job done. By getting pucks to the right area and by getting bodies in front of the net, too.
It's the weakness of this team. It's been beaten into the ground. Three of the goals tonight were scored by Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Victor Olofsson. The three of them and Sam Reinhart need more help. You can't bank on a two-goal night from a fourth liner on a game-by-game basis.
The loss of Marcus Johansson due to injury hurts severely-- that's what Johansson was brought in to do. But the other offseason addition at forward, Jimmy Vesey, still hasn't scored a goal this season. Casey Mittelstadt hasn't grown into what he was expected to be either. Unless going with eleven forwards and seven defensemen is the long-term answer, that depth at defense has to be sacrificed to bring in more scoring help.