Sabres' shaky goaltending, 'disappointing' play ends short-lived win streak


Staff member

Rasmus Dahlin turned toward the back of the Buffalo Sabres' net, raised his stick over his his head and smashed it over the top bar.
The blade clanked off the boards as Matty Beniers skated away with a grin on his face. His goal in the second period gave the Seattle Kraken a three-goal lead.

The Sabres looked deflated. Don Granato could see it on the bench and, even as their head coach, was willing to accept that they were frustrated.
They were back at KeyBank Center for a six-game homestand that could determine the direction of their season. Only 15 minutes had passed Tuesday night since Alex Tuch scored Tuesday night to draw the Sabres even with the Kraken.

What Granato could not understand, though, was how the Sabres never regained their confidence after Beniers snapped the puck past Devon Levi. They weren't able to score against Seattle goalie Joey Daccord, and their short-lived two-game win streak ended with a 5-2 loss.

"I think there was frustration, but I’m more concerned with some of the doubt there," said Granato. "And it’s not doubt in your ability, it’s more of a fear of losing, of failure. And that consumed us more than the excitement of, ‘OK, so what? We’re down two. Look up and down this lineup, we can score, we can get after it.’"

This was a challenging game for most of the Sabres.

Half of their defense corps played poorly. Levi allowed three goals on five shots in the second period and made only 25 saves. Only two of Buffalo’s four forward lines were consistently pressuring the Kraken.

Still, the Sabres showed in the first period that they can control play against a team like Seattle, which owns a seven-game winning streak and hasn't lost in regulation in a month.

Jeff Skinner gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead 4:57 into the game when he collected a pass from Casey Mittelstadt, settled the puck and waited a moment before he scored his 17th goal of the season with a shot between Daccord's legs.

The Sabres had 19 shots on net in the first period. And, even though a moment of indecisiveness by Zach Benson and Peyton Krebs led to the tying goal, they would have been ahead again had Tuch scored on a breakaway with Seattle on the power play. Vince Dunn gave Seattle a 2-1 lead moments later.

Tuch drove to the net to redirect a pass from Skinner that beat Daccord and tied it 2-2 only 50 seconds into the second period. Then, it went bad fast.

The Sabres had zero shots on goal for a span of 10:12. Their forwards slammed the door to the bench when they couldn't break through. The Kraken didn't try to score again. They sat back and waited for Buffalo to make mistakes and only needed five shots to score three goals.

“We shouldn’t be able to just dominate like that, then one play doesn’t go our way and boohoo,” said Tuch. “Sit back on our heels and reel it in. We have to keep pushing forward and I thought we did that at times but nowhere near consistent enough as we should. I thought we lost our composure a little bit with how we wanted to play the game and how we wanted to play on our terms.”

Yanni Gourde, Vince Dunn, Alex Wennberg, Jaden Schwartz and Beniers had a goal apiece for the Kraken (17-14-9). Buffalo outshot Seattle 38-25, including 19-10 over the final two periods, and, according to Natural Stat Trick, generated 10 high-danger scoring chances.

The Sabres made the job too easy on Daccord after the first period, though. They didn’t crash the net often enough. He saw the puck too often. Granato has emphasized recently that his players must stay in the moment. It’s counterproductive to dwell on the past or look ahead. But all involved understand that the next two weeks can determine the direction of their season. Buffalo (17-20-4) needs to accumulate points and failed to earn its first three-game win streak since April.

“It was just disappointing tonight,” said Tuch.
Here are other observations from the game:

1. In goal

Goaltending was one of the differences in the game.

Daccord was exceptional, while Levi was below average. Daccord stopped Eric Robinson when the Sabres winger got behind Seattle’s defense, then prevented Tuch from scoring on a short-handed breakaway late in the first period. The Kraken took a 2-1 lead moments later with Dunn’s power-play goal. Levi’s play deteriorated as the game went on and his worst moment of the night occurred on Seattle’s fifth goal when he took a bad angle on Beniers’ shot from the left circle.

“The reflex is going to be it happened to him because he’s young,” Granato said of Levi. “It happens to guys that are older in this league all the time. … It happens to anybody at any age and you have to reset as quick as you can. He’s resilient and he has good daily habits and routine. He’ll reset.”

2. Defense issues

There were too many rough moments for the Sabres’ defensemen Tuesday.

Henri Jokiharju was responsible for an odd man rush because he got turned around near the offensive blue line, then he had a shot blocked and committed a penalty on the Tomas Tatar breakaway that followed. The Kraken scored on the ensuing power play to take a 2-1 lead.

On Seattle’s third goal, Dahlin made an aggressive pinch in the neutral zone to try to prevent Brandon Tanev from receiving a pass. The puck got by Dahlin and reached Schwartz, which caused Owen Power to leave his side of the ice and created room for Wennberg to beat Levi with a backhand shot. Mattias Samuelsson and Connor Clifton were the only Buffalo defensemen who played well.

“There were absolutely times they pressed and other times you just shook your head,” Granato said of his defensemen.

3. Impactful change

Tage Thompson’s first shift of the game was enough to convince Granato that a change was needed.

Mittelstadt was moved to the top line to center Skinner and Tuch, while Thompson took Mittelstadt’s spot between Jordan Greenway and Benson. The adjustment led to immediate results, as Tuch won a battle down low in the offensive zone and passed to Mittelstadt, who set up Skinner for the 1-0 lead.

Mittelstadt, Tuch and Skinner had two points apiece, while Thompson had zero shot attempts in only 14:36 of ice time.

“He had a more challenging night,” Granato said of Thompson. “He couldn’t get himself out of it and get going. He’s been good for us lately and unfortunately tonight he didn’t’ have his game. He didn’t feel the way he wanted to feel. I’m certain of that and that’s what happens. … Obviously you hope Tage feels better through the game.”

4. Next

The Sabres host the Ottawa Senators at 7 p.m. Thursday. Kyle Okposo is expected to return to the lineup after missing three games with a lower body injury.
18 years of picking high in the draft.
A team FUL Lof high, 1st round draft choice.
Real talent, youngest team and can't play better than this?

Is it the player??
HELL no, it's fucking coaching.
Get a REAL coach in here, ASAP