In 12 of the Buffalo Sabres' last 13 games, they have scored two goals or less. It happened again on Friday, dropping 3-1 to the Washington Capitals. Five observations from Friday's loss:
Nilsson solid again
Another game, another nice performance by Sabres goaltender Anders Nilsson. Once again, Nilsson proved to be a very capable goaltender in Friday's 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. Nilsson wasn't able to get another shutout like he did in his last start -- but he did basically everything he could to keep the Sabres in a lopsided game early on.
I think it's time Nilsson starts getting some more starts. While I'm not ready to anoint him the starter like so many fans on Twitter, I do think it's hard to argue that he's been fantastic.
The Sabres have a lot invested in Robin Lehner, and he too has played very well, but Nilsson's number are outstanding. I'm a fan of riding the hot hand and right now that seems to be Nilsson.
Running through D.C. with scoring woes
When the Capitals backup goalie allows only one goal, you know things are going great. A 2-1 win in a shootout and a four goal performance in Calgary have taken a little bit of the focus off the Sabres and their goal scoring woes, but they're still abysmal at finding the back of the net. In 21 games the Sabres now have 38 goals. For those of you who don't like mental math, that's less than two goals a game (1.9 GPG). The bad news: you aren't going to win many games scoring less than two goals a game. The good news: Jack Eichel is close to returning, and while that won't solve their problems, it will help.
Guys who are supposed to score aren't
Sam Reinhart: 4
Evander Kane: 0
Rasmus Ristolainen: 0
Zemgus Girgensons: 1
When a team is missing their most prolific player other players need to step up. For the Buffalo Sabres early in the season that really hasn't been the case.
Reinhart has started to play better and has been pretty reliable in his own end. On Friday, Reinhart got a nice little boost with a goal in the third, but he still only has four goals on the season. He's had several chances, hitting posts and just missing several times, so at least he's getting chances. He has been moved all over the place, which makes things tough, but Reinhart needs to start scoring some goals.
Evander Kane was one of the flew players who I thought had a pretty good game against the Capitals, but still no goals. Like Reinhart, Kane has been getting chances and made some very nice plays, but can't score. Kane loves to shoot the puck and eventually the shots will start going in, but the Sabres need him to step up offensively.
Ristolainen was back with the Sabres first power play unit on Friday and looked good quarterbacking everything from the point. While he hasn't found the back of the net, Ristolainen does have a very respectable nine points (9 assists) in 21 games. When asked about Ristolainen's scoring woes, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said he couldn't explain it -- but think the young defender will find the back of the net soon, if his stick doesn't break every time he shoots the puck, that is.
Girgensons has only one goal in 21 games and has been maybe the Sabres biggest disappointment offensively. Unlike Kane and Reinhart, Girgensons isn't really generating opportunities to find the back of the net. There's a lot of season left, but if Girgensons doesn't find his way like the puppy in Billy Madison he may be gone after this season.
Can't capitalize on the Capitals
The Sabres had several odd man rushes on Friday but couldn't turn them into anything. This was especially obvious in the second period, when the Sabres had multiple 3-on-2's but barely even got a shot off. It happened again in the third, when the Sabres were trying to tie things up. With eight minutes left the Sabres had numbers and Evander Kane slid the puck into a Capitals defender, killing the 3-on-2 before the Sabres even entered the zone.
For a team that has struggled as much as the Sabres have scoring, they need to be better when they do get an odd man opportunity.
Not so powerful power play
Buffalo's best opportunity to tie things up came on a power play late in the third period, but the Sabres just couldn't get the job done. The Sabres went 0-4 on Friday and their lack of success with the extra man was a big reason why they lost their second in a row. I actually thought the Sabres had some nice chances, especially on their first and fourth power play, but no goals.
Too many too many men penalties
With less than five minutes the Sabres took a too many men penalty, giving the Capitals a golden chance to lock up the win. They did, regaining their two goal lead with four minutes left in the third. Buffalo now has five too many men penalties on the season. For a team that's struggling, these mental mistakes can't happen. I do think the call on Friday was kind of lousy, but the Sabres did have too many men.