BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Sabres will go into their Christmas break on a bad note after a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday night. Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored Ottawa's first two goals, the latter of which was the game winner. Buffalo's lone goal was scored by Zemgus Girgensons. Linus Ullmark made 29 saves in the loss, whereas the Senators' Craig Anderson made 43. The Sabres' next game will be at home against the Boston Bruins on Friday, December 27th.
5 observations from Monday's loss:
Out of options
Kyle Okposo was a last-second scratch with an illness tonight. I'm not saying that with him healthy, the Sabres would've gone with 12 forwards and six defensemen. But without Okposo, they had no option. There are eleven healthy forwards and eight healthy defensemen.
As of late, Zach Bogosian has been the odd man out. Tonight, it was Colin Miller. That extra defenseman in the lineup has worked for stretches, but tonight it became the only option. Rolling without four full lines of forwards could also subdue secondary scoring since it leaves two forwards in no man's land.
New line, new opportunity
When Jeff Skinner was one of the forwards in no man's land, I noticed this combination a few weeks ago. He was sent out with Jimmy Vesey and Marcus Johansson. Two of the three are new to Buffalo this season. All of them had established stretches of their careers elsewhere. Talent wise, they're all on a similar level.
The three of them complemented each other well, especially when entering the offensive zone. Their creativity created scoring chances on the rush without having a numbers advantage. That line couldn't cash in on Monday night, but they created more than their fair share of opportunities.
Protect the circles
The Sabres' defense was porous throughout the game, especially in the areas where it mattered most. Late in the first period, when the puck was jammed in the corner, Brady Tkachuk moved it to a wide open Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He put the Senators on the board with less than a minute to go until intermission.
Early on in the second period, another chance of the same caliber presented itself to Ottawa. Linus Ullmark made it across the crease in time to make a great save, but he shouldn't have even had to do so.
Ugly goals can be pretty
Zemgus Girgensons had to go without both of his regular linemates tonight. He was a key factor in the rotation of five forwards below the Olofsson-Eichel-Reinhart line and the Vesey-Johansson-Skinner line. He was also a key presence on the stat sheet with the Sabres' only goal of the game.
He did it by doing what the LOG line usually does: getting to the front of the net. A pass in front from Evan Rodrigues led to a perfect opportunity for a deflection for Girgensons. The goal itself was pretty because Girgensons was willing to get to the area where ugly goals are scored. His sixth of the year puts him behind four other Sabres: Eichel, Olofsson, Reinhart, and Skinner.
Getting pucks to the net
The Sabres peppered Craig Anderson with 44 shots on goal tonight. They just didn't get enough out of it to get the win. Evan Rodrigues led the way with six shots on goal. Jeff Skinner had five, and Jack Eichel, Jimmy Vesey, and Victor Olofsson each had four. In that much volume, they'll get to twine. They just couldn't tonight.