BUFFALO, N.Y. — I’m not really concerned just because the Sabres have lost their last two games. Not many people thought they would be in second place in the Atlantic Division with a 3-1-1 record. That means their points percentage is still .700.
We knew coming into the season that scoring goals was going to be a problem for this team, and it only has two goals in its last two games. Buffalo is 21st in the NHL for with a 2.60 goals-for average.
What makes it worse is in the five games they’ve played, they only played against one starting goaltender.
Montréal rolled out its No. 3 goalie in Sam Montembeault, and the Sabres did score five on him. Arizona gave its backup and now starting goalie Karel Vejmelka his first NHL start, and the Sabres could only manage one goal on him in 65 minutes. The only starting goalie Buffalo faced was Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko, and they put four past him.
When Boston showed up, Linus Ullmark was its backup, and he stoned the Sabres, making numerous great saves and allowing just one goal.
The game in New Jersey saw the Devils roll out fourth-string goaltender Nico Daws, who dominated the Sabres in his first NHL start, allowing one goal in 63 minutes.
The effort is always there, which is why the Sabres are where they are. In most games they have the puck, they limit chances, and they push the pace. They lost to Boston 4-1 because the Bruins have three of the elite offensive players in the game. Buffalo had plenty of chances on Ullmark and pushed the play. They just couldn’t handle Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, or score on their old friend.
Saturday’s game in Newark was a case of Buffalo playing its first back-to-back games and running out of steam. Buffalo pushed the pace hard in the first period but could only score one goal on the rookie.
The problem came in the second, when the blue and gold had to kill two consecutive penalties. They were able to do it thanks to some great saves from Dustin Tokarski, but they just drained their energy and hung on the rest of the way.
Tokarski didn’t get scored on until a fluke goal got by him in the third period, and even with all that, they got the game to overtime and got a point.
All I heard all summer is the Sabres have the worst goaltending in the NHL. In goalies that have played more than one game, Tokarski is second in the NHL with a .950 save percentage, while Craig Anderson is 10th at .933. Buffalo is fourth in league goaltending behind the Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks and Florida Panthers.
By the way, I would not blame Don Granato’s hard practices for the Devils loss. The way they practice is the way they play, which is why they’ve taken seven of 10 points. All through preseason and in the first four games, the team actually got stronger as the game went on.
The problem is going to be the inability to score off of Grade-A chances. They made two rookie goalies making their first NHL starts look like Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is the world’s best goalie.
Tampa Bay comes into Monday’s game in Buffalo with a 2-2-1 record. The Lightning have not played since Saturday, so even though Vasilevskiy has played all of Tampa Bay’s games, I would expect to see him in net. His numbers of a 3.12 goals-against and .893 save percentage aren’t even close to what you would expect out of him.
Unfortunately for Buffalo, he has a pretty good chance of getting well against an offensively challenged team.