Double Minors: Special teams fall flat against Rangers

Horrendous special teams doomed the Sabres last night against the Rangers. A pair of shorthanded goals put the Sabres behind and a late power play goal nailed the coffin shut.

All around the Sabres were average last night. They didn’t get the goaltending they needed, their shot selection was average and they missed the net on nearly every scoring chance they generated. Considering the way they played on Friday, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the Sabres will a little extra gas in their tank. Unfortunately they had none.

Obviously the injury bug has bitten this team hard. While many will say that is no excuse, at some point there starts to be a significant drop off. With Mike Weber and Tyler Myers on the shelf, Marc-Andre Gragnani is forced into big minutes. Without a chunk of their forwards, nearly a third of the Rochester Americans are skating with the big club. Sure, Zack Kassian, Brayden McNabb and Corey Tropp have shown some ability to play on a regular basis at the NHL level. Yet, when Paul Szczechura is centering Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville, obviously something is off.

Perhaps the most disappointing portion of the loss – aside from the soft goals – was Buffalo’s inability to finish. This is a team that has struggled to put pucks in the net as of late and they showed exactly why. Twice Vanek put a chance high and wide, Tyler Ennis did a fine job marking up the crest of Marty Biron’s jersey and numerous other chances weren’t cashed. You can’t win games when you don’t score goals, it is a simple concept.

Buffalo has two games left on a homestand that is looking uglier by the day.

  • Jhonas Enroth needed to be better than he was last night, he said as much. Enroth’s numbers have regressed in a hurry since he took over when Ryan Miller was injured. He needs to reassert his confidence as it is fairly clear he is falling victim to the home woes too.
  • The Sabres special teams are horrendous. The numbers will tell a different story, but watching both units it is obvious. The penalty kill unit is missing a handful or regulars, so it makes sense that the unit has struggled recently. However, the power play couldn’t be more impotent. If a team applies any sort of pressure the passes become errant and sloppy, usually resulting in shorthanded chances against.
  • The only intact line at this point is the trio of Ennis-Roy-Stafford. Three players who appear disjointed on the ice. All three have struggled this season – save for Roy’s point streak in November – and haven’t produced the necessary secondary punch the team needs.
  • It is amazing that Marty Biron can continue to own the Sabres. Aside from his first trip with the Islanders, Biron has been stellar against his old team. Buffalo didn’t give him too much work last night, but Biron made the saves he needed to make. That is all you can really ask for from your goalie.
  • This team certainly looks tentative at times, almost as if they’re waiting for someone else to step in to make a play. It is safe to assume if they ever get healthy, the Sabres will easily right the ship. However, they need to take a few more points in the interim.

Three Stars

1. Carl Hagelin

2. Martin Biron

3. Ryan Callahan

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