The Buffalo Sabres finished up their 3 game West Coast trip, and took a tough loss to Calgary to close the trip. Buffalo battled all game, or should I say Rasmus Ristolainen, who captured his first career hat trick did. He is having an amazing start to his 2nd full season, with 21 points in 29 games (7 goals, 14 assists) which has him in the top 15 in points. If he maintains this pace, even with a minor slump, the kid will be the anchor for years to come. He is definitely showcasing why Buffalo wanted him so badly on Draft day in 2013, and his potential is trending upwards.
Buffalo’s forwards decided not to show up, with very little fight in the final minutes, when they needed to create opportunities to tie the game. Gionta is definitely getting more ice time than most Sabres fans would like to see, his -2 is becoming a recurrence, he is -3 in the last two games and -6 overall for the season.
Buffalo’s Goalie Chad Johnson looked out of place at times and is proving the Sabres still have a massive hole to fill in order to complete the rebuild. Robin Lehner is getting closer to returning to the ice, but even he isn’t a guarantee to be the answer.
The problem with the Sabres outlook for the rest of the season doesn’t just fall squarely on the goaltending, or lack there of. The teams young core is definitely exciting to watch most nights, and will have stretches of games where fans get hopeful for what might be. But with a young team, comes mental lapses, and inconsistent play. Buffalo will have weeks like this West Coast trip, where they just can’t get enough done offensively, and have more downs than ups. This will change as the youngsters gain valuable NHL experience, and develop as teammates.
One thing is for sure, counting on the Buffalo Sabres to make playoff run for 2015-2016 out of the Sabres is foolish thinking. The young core is talented, there is no questioning that. The team needs a few more defensive pieces, and a starting goalie.
Tanking is frowned upon by the NHL, and the Sabres have too much talent to free fall to a commanding lead. But with the goalie situation and only being a point “behind” Carolina and Columbus, the Reverse Standings will be worth monitoring for the rest of the season.