The Buffalo Sabres played a much better game than the Winnipeg Jets in 40 of the game’s 60 minutes in Friday night’s loss.
The Buffalo Sabres lost 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets last night, but they played a much better game than their friends north of the border….mostly. Mike Harrington of Buffalo News outlined some interesting numbers via Natural Stat Trick, including 17 high-danger chances to Winnipeg’s four, and a 72.7 percent to 27.3 percent edge in expected goals.
Overall, you couldn’t have asked for (mostly) a better performance on paper, but there was still that one part of the second period, those first eight minutes and 12 seconds, when the Jets outscored the Sabres 3-1. And two of those scores never should have happened, with Mattias Samuelsson making a rare mistake in losing track of an opponent, while Owen Power later found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
During the second period intermission, head coach Don Granato had some choice words for his players, and while we’re not entirely sure of what he said, it’s safe to say it fired his team up. Here is what Granato did reveal, however:
"“Our guys finally decided to wake up and compete harder instead of waiting. I had a message for them that was unlike their normal message you’d get after a period. I liked the way they responded, but it’s not what I say.“There’s guys in that room, they know they need more, they can do more. And it is all about elevating compete. And I think we’ve been waiting and waiting and not realizing that we haven’t elevated to the level we need to.”"
Don Granato’s speech during the intermission should wake up the Buffalo Sabres
After they inched above 0.500 in a big win over the Minnesota Wild, the Sabres have been beyond lethargic, and that’s putting it lightly. In the three games since, they have been shut out once, allowed four or more goals in two of those contests, and now, they’re coming off of an outing in which they allowed three goals in a span of just over eight minutes.
This is a team that has playoff aspirations, and they still do – remember, it’s only the 17th game of the season, so there is A LONG way to go. But right now and through those first 17 games, the Sabres haven’t looked like the playoff team they’re talented enough to be, and yes, that’s a foregone conclusion.
You may say the goaltending isn’t there, or that the team can’t function in whatever area of the game, or that enough wasn’t done in the offseason – it’s all false. They showed last season they were good enough and, when fully healthy, they’re a better, more experienced, and more talented unit than they were in 2022-23.
That said, the Buffalo Sabres are more than good enough to be one of those eight playoff teams. It will come down to whether they want to be there. If they play the way they did in the first and third periods, in which they were clearly the better team, it will happen. But if they keep playing bad hockey for even short stretches in games, they can add lucky Number 13 to their record playoff drought.