BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Sabres' winless streak continued on Saturday night. The Penguins picked up two empty netters on the way to a 3-0 win. The lone goal scored against Carter Hutton was credited to Jake Guentzel on a Pittsburgh power play. The Sabres' next game is on Monday against the Washington Capitals.
Three Observations from Saturday's game:
When the Sabres got out to a slow start following their COVID-19 pause, I don't think anyone expected them to reach a skid of nearly unprecedented proportions. It's been 10 games since Buffalo won. They've gone 0-8-2 in that span. No amount of bite, fight, or grit has been able to turn things around for the blue & gold.
The injury bug only makes things worse; Jack Eichel's extended absence, along with no Dylan Cozens, forces the Sabres to run incredibly shallow up the middle. The injury report at center is nearly as extensive as their blue line. It's hard to imagine a circumstance in which things could actually get worse after a 10-game skid. But that's the territory they're entering.
Make a decision on Mittelstadt
The 2021 campaign has been a surprisingly solid one for Casey Mittelstadt. Any chance he's gotten, he's seized it. The former first round pick should continue to see time with Jack Eichel out, and quite frankly, should've become a mainstay a while ago. The issue now is where he plays at even strength as opposed to the power play.
Head coach Ralph Krueger has reiterated that Mittelstadt's trajectory is on the wing instead of at center. The strength and sound defensive play were both traits that he lacked, which led to him ending his 2019-20 season in Rochester. And yet, he's at the dot for special teams situations. It doesn't make any sense.
Special teams slump
Before the wheels completely fell off, Buffalo could at least hang its hat on both its power play and its penalty kill. Pittsburgh packs a lot of firepower on their top two lines, and a lot of grit on their bottom two lines. But both of Buffalo's special teams units appear to have gone cold.
You could attribute a part of that to the aforementioned injuries both on the blue line and up the middle. But earlier in the season when either Taylor Hall or Jack Eichel was briefly absent, the Sabres could still hum with the man advantage. It wasn't enough to get the Sabres many wins before. But this team's lone strength seems to have gone away.