Buffalo learns the hard way that the house always wins when you go to Vegas as they drop the second of their three-game road trip to the Golden Knights. Vegas takes their streak to eight wins in a row and increases their lead to six points in the Pacific division.
The Sabres put pressure on and played a strong game for most of this contest, including an early lead on the first shot of the game from Sabres newcomer Dominik Kahun. A game plan to aggressively take space away in the neutral zone was executed on with 31 hits on the night and defensemen frequently stepping into players as they crossed the blue line. It seemed as though this lead to an increase in coverage loss in the zone and several extended possessions for Vegas.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 29, 2020
Nicolas Roy, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith all scored goals from in tight to the net (or from behind the net) with little to absolutely no coverage on them. Carter Hutton made a number of good saves, despite looking a bit scattered through the game, but only came out 24 of 27 due to the poor coverage in the zone and high quality chances that Vegas was generating.
“For the majority of the game, we played a solid game. We gave them a little space and the find a way to capitalize and we didn’t find a way to capitalize back” – Jeff Skinner
Possession was another concern for Buffalo throughout the game. Despite controlling pace through aggression and matching overall zone time, the Sabres only mustered a win on 32.1% of the faceoffs through the game. Chasing the puck and having 50% less takeaways in the game makes it hard to find any sort of rhythm. That leads to poor shots and shot choices, both of which can help a goaltender gain confidence after giving up an early one.
Former Buffalo Sabre Robin Lehner did just that. He gave up a goal on the very first shot of the game and then stopped the next 32 in a row, only giving up another one to Jeff Skinner on the last shot of the game with 12 seconds remaining. Vegas was also able to block 24 shots on their way to the net that never turned into a real chance. That’s 58 total shots in the direction of the net with just two crossing the goal line. The Sabres need to do a much better job of clearing lanes and creating space to take good shots.
“We had a tough time finding the back of the net. Not enough traffic… We’ve had our good looks, just can’t put it in the back of the net.” – Jake McCabe
With this loss, Buffalo is still sitting at 7th in the Wild Card race and ten points behind both Columbus and Toronto for a playoff spot. With only 18 games to play, the Sabres need a minor miracle to capitalize on an approximately one percent chance of making it. While it may feel like consolation, some silver lining here is that they are already seeing production from their new additions. Kahun’s goal on his first shot as a Sabre and Wayne Simmonds’ constant pressure around the ice is showing that the moves were good ones.
“They both came in and were really close to performing within our framework, which is a real compliment to both of them.” – Ralph Kreuger on Kahun and Simmonds
Buffalo will finish up their West Coast road trip tonight at 8:00 PM in Arizona at the Gila River Arena where they are in a must-win situation against the Coyotes, who are also fighting hard to find their spot in the playoffs.
|1||2:16||Dominik Kahun (11)||Marcus Johansson (19)||Jimmy Vesey (11)|
|1||11:12||Nicolas Roy (4)||Nick Cousins (14)||Nick Holden (7)|
|3||3:06||William Karlsson (14)||Max Pacioretty (33)||Chandler Stephenson (14)|
|3||5:25||Reilly Smith (26)||Paul Stastny (20)||Zach Whitecloud (1)|
|3||18:11||Reilly Smith (27)||Jonathan Marchessault (24)||---|
|3||19:48||Jeff Skinner (13)||Brandon Montour (13)||Jake McCabe (9)|