Buffalo’s most recent attempt to string together back-to-back wins fell short with a road home loss to Toronto on Wednesday night. The Sabres allowed three-straight to the Leafs after taking a first period lead and the first two goals were both messy in their own regard.
John Tavares’ tap-in was the product of an effective cycle driven by William Nylander and Buffalo’s continued struggles picking up coverage in the defensive zone. Far too often this season, the Sabres have gotten loose in their coverage, leading to uncontested shots and tap-ins for their opponents. Their coverage has been so poor at times that opponents managed to not only find a free lane to the net but have teammates sitting open on the back door as well. It’s a problem that’s plagued the Sabres all season and I’m not quite sure if they’ll ever solve the problem unless the coaching staff makes some fundamental changes to their system.
Like with most plays, everything is harmless enough as Nylander picks up the puck behind the net. Sam Reinhart is low in the zone filling the typical center duties, Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner are higher, covering the points, and Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella each have a man.
Things started pretty well for the Sabres in Toronto on Monday night. They carried play throughout the first period and were eventually rewarded with the game’s first goal.
Quick note for this edition. For portions of the play that aren’t ass backwards or super goofy I will keep using comic sans for max comedy. For general highlights or more serious aspects I won’t act like the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and use a normal font.
They didn’t carry that positive momentum into the second period, however. The Leafs scored three goals in just over two minutes and four total in the period to take a lead they wouldn’t surrender. A couple of the goals were fairly straightforward. John Tavares got a good tip on Jake Muzzin’s point shot – Matt Hunwick could’ve done a better job tying up Tavares on that one – and Auston Matthews cashed in an unfortunate bounce off Evan Rodrigues. The other two goals were tougher to watch.
The first was Freddie Gauthier’s backhand that chased Carter Hutton. This goal wasn’t so much a lapse by any one player on the ice. At the core, it was simply a bigger player utilizing good body position against a smaller one, but it highlights some of the oddities about Buffalo’s defensive zone coverage. Continue reading →
For the first time in a while the Sabres are in a position to buy ahead of the trade deadline. Or, at the very least, use their picks and prospects to add rather than selling bodies to build assets.
Their post-November slide is complicating matters, as they’re doing impressive work to fall out of playoff contention. That slide will likely temper Jason Botterill’s urge to get too aggressive prior to the deadline as a struggling team with picks to spare isn’t won’t get much charity from around the league. Of course, they probably weren’t getting too many cheap offers at the peak of their winning streak either.
We aren’t privy to any conversations Botteril is having during the season, so we’ll never know how active he is during the year. But Botterill hasn’t taken much of a shine to in-season trades in his short term as general manager. And it’s the general manager’s job to assess the market as it fluctuates to determine when to pull the trigger. He’s made five in-season (counting the Deslauriers deal made on the eve of last year’s opener) trades and only one was of any real significance. That being the deal that sent Evander Kane to San Jose and it was no secret that deal was coming.
Botterill’s done most of his work in the offseason, when prices are typically lower and more players are usually available. Even with the Sabres finally back in the conversation, he may still opt to make his big moves in the offseason for those two reasons. That will frustrate a lot of fans as you’d hope Botterill is at least working to keep his team competitive down the stretch.
The other obstacle facing Botterill is what exactly he will be able to offer that other clubs will value when it comes time. Buffalo’s pipeline isn’t packed with talent – one reason that Botterill is likely reticent to deal his firsts. Nor are the players they have in the pipeline obvious talents another team would covet. There is talent to be offered, just not the overabundance you’d want when it comes to a continued retooling.
I compiled a list of players and picks that are either obvious assets for Botterill to use in trade talks, or names that I’ve seen mentioned by fans in various instances. Not all of these are even likely to be moved, but an attempt to compile a somewhat comprehensive list of assets that could be packaged or players who could be moved in order to create new opportunities for others. Continue reading →
Lawrence Pilut has only played three games at the NHL level but his early returns have been impressive. He’s also the only defenseman Buffalo has on the active roster who is waiver exempt. We talk about the different options the Sabres have to keep Pilut in Buffalo without sacrificing another player to waivers. We also discuss the Sabres four-game slide and the positive signs from the stretch which may just signify they’ll be back in the win column soon.
You can listen to The Instigator Podcast on most podcast streaming services, including large providers such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and TuneIn and most other third-party podcast streaming apps. You can find links to subscribe and rate the show below:
Jason Botterill made a big move on the blueline today, acquiring Marco Scandella from the Minnesota Wild in a package that included old friend Jason Pominville. Chris and Tyler offer up our thoughts on only dealing Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis to get the deal done and what we think it means for the Sabres plans in free agency and how it affects the outlook for the 2017-18 season.