The Buffalo Sabres once again learned how to win with a gritty performance, so there are a few things they must improve tonight in Pittsburgh.
Buffalo Sabres goaltender Devon Levi put up another one of those astonishing performances he’s been capable of since his debut last March. But there were also several shortcomings in the Sabres game last night that they can’t afford to take over to Pittsburgh.
Last night, Buffalo’s special teams were nothing short of terrible, and they once again failed to consistently create chaos when they were in the offensive zone. The Sabres also need to play better defense and to stop allowing so many odd-man rushes, all of which we will describe below.
3 things the Buffalo Sabres must improve in Pittsburgh
1 – Special teams
Neither one of the Sabres special teams looked good last night, with their only two goals allowed coming on the penalty kill. The Penguins power play unit is weak, so it gives the Blue and Gold’s PK unit a chance to bounce back into the effective group they have been for the most part this season.
Pittsburgh’s PK is also one of the better ones you will see, as they have successfully kept opposing power plays from scoring 82.5 percent of the time, putting them just two notches below the Sabres. If Buffalo wants to convert some power plays into goals, they can’t repeat what they did last night.
2 – Shots on net
The Penguins are just one of two teams to post three shutouts this season, with the New York Islanders being the other. Therefore, don’t let their 0.903 overall save percentage fool you – this team can play defense and make life miserable for opponents in their own zone when they want to.
The Buffalo Sabres can counteract this by getting more shots on net, trying for rebounds, and creating chaos in front of the net. They did this for a short time last night vs. the Wild, but that must be the norm in tonight’s matchup.
3 – Preventing odd-man rushes
In last night’s game, the Sabres allowed one too many odd-man rushes. Devon Levi will give you games where he’s going to block nearly everything, even if the Blue and Gold allowed 100 of them in a game (hyperbole). But as for Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, the jury is still out in that regard.
Sure, Luukkonen has been great this season when you compare him to last year, but if the defense is consistently inconsistent when he’s in the net, he’s not always giving you even an average game. Assuming he’s the starting goaltender tonight, the Sabres need to play better defense.
Source: Sabres showcase ‘maturity,’ find a way to overcome adversity in win over Wild by Lance Lysowski, Buffalo News
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)