The Sabres played their very best, but get no points in Boston

November 22, 2019 - 12:17 am
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(WGR 550) - If you're into moral victories then Thursday in Boston was for you. I thought the Sabres may have played their best game of the season, but they can't score and they lost 3-2.

There's no question at all that the first period was Buffalo's best of the season. Buffalo came out flying. They were fast, they played as five-man units, they went to the net hard and forced Tuukka Rask to be brilliant making 16 saves.

Buffalo played most of the period in the offensive zone and didn't even give up a shot for the first 12:11 of the game.

Coming in the Sabres hadn't scored in eight games on the power play going 0-for-21. Ralph Krueger and his staff pulled what I thought was a brilliant move taking Jeff Skinner off the top unit and replacing him with Rasmus Ristolainen. Rasmus Dahlin was still the point man, but Ristolainen parked himself in Rask's lap. Rask made a save on Jack Eichel, but because of No. 55, he never saw the shot. The rebound dropped to the ice and Ristolainen tapped home his first goal since January.

It was great to see Rask have to look around the big and strong Ristolainen. Immediately after that goal, Rasmus Asplund along with his linemates Victor Olofsson and Casey Mittelstadt all crashed the net and almost made it 2-0. Conor Sheary was around the net in this game and had numerous Grade-A scoring chances because of it. In the first he was right in the paint, but Rask stopped him.

Despite the Sabres domination, Boston tied the game on its second shot and first scoring chance of the game. Brad Marchand tipped in a Zdeno Chara shot from the point.

Curtis Lazar was pumped up as he got into a fight, Linus Ullmark robbed the NHL's leading goal scorer in David Pastrnak, but the Sabres left the ice tied at one. They went into one of the best teams in the NHL's building, completely dominated them and didn't have the lead. It just made me wonder once again why Jason Botterill is so satisfied with the same players that collapsed last season. For the most part they can't score, even when they play at their very best.

Boston got better in the second period, but the Sabres were still OK. Right off the bat Sam Reinhart sent in Jack Eichel on a 2-on-1, but he was stopped by Rask. On the power play, Eichel returned the favor, but Reinhart walked in and missed half an open net.

Casey Mittelstadt confidence is at zero right now. In one shift he came through the circle open and missed the net. Lazar immediately caused a turnover at the blue line sending Mittelstadt in alone through the right side of the slot. Mittelstadt had all the time in the world to beat Rask, but instead tried to pass backwards to a covered Sabre and they didn't even get a shot.

Rasmus Asplund took a holding penalty in the second period and yes, the league's third best power play took advantage as Marchand slid home his second of the game.

Buffalo was playing well, but went into the third period trailing by a goal. One of your veteran players and alternate captains in Jake McCabe can't take a penalty 32 seconds into the third period. You know what happens when you do that in Boston? Pastrnak scores his 20th and puts the game away.

Buffalo didn't quit at all in the third period. They kept moving forward and pressuring Rask. Evan Rodrigues had a wide open net in front of him, but Rask dropped his stick and dove across making the save with his blocker hand.

Jimmy Vesey was home in Boston and had a chance on a 2-on-1, but he couldn't beat Rask.

In the end Rask stole his team two points making 35 saves. Rask was fantastic, but the problem lies here. Buffalo has lost 9-out-of 10 games where they didn't play like Thursday. They make slumping goalies look like Dominik Hasek on a nightly basis. That's not the case with Rask who has been one of the league's best for years but guys like Minnesota's Alex Stalock have embarrassed them.

Despite scoring a power play goal, the Sabres were minus-one on special teams. Against Minnesota they lost by three and were minus-one, against Chicago they lost by three and were minus-one, against Carolina they lost by one and were minus-two, against Tampa Bay they lost by two and were minus-two, against the Lightning they lost by one and were minus-one, against the Islanders they lost by one and were even, against Washington they lost by five and were even and against Arizona they lost by one and were even.

The team has Friday off in Fort Lauderdale. They'll practice Saturday in Sunrise and will play the Panthers there on Sunday at 5:00. Because of the Bills game being on WGR, the Sabres game will start with the pregame at 4:00 on WBEN.

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