The Buffalo Sabres looked abysmal for the game’s first 54 minutes in their loss to the Anaheim Ducks last night. Once again, they tried to do too much in the offensive zone, and it cost them unlike any other, failing to score until it was too late in the third period to realistically mount any real comeback.
But poor offensive play was just one reason the Blue and Gold found themselves struggling against the Ducks. There are three things that stand out following last night’s loss that Buffalo must improve if they plan on beating the Los Angeles Kings and even the San Jose Sharks.
What the Buffalo Sabres must fix following loss to Anaheim
1 - Simplifying their offensive game
It’s a mystery at this point why it’s so tough for the Sabres to play a simpler game, as they have yet to consistently yield positive results when they get selective with their shots. We have seen it way too many times this year, and when even the worst teams figure them out when they overcomplicate things, there’s a major problem.
Buffalo has won quite a few times, including pulling off more than their fair share of major upsets, when they take more shots at the net while simultaneously crowding the crease. Sadly, they have yet to figure this out through nearly three-and-a-half months, so it’s tough to expect them to play a simpler game for the final two contests in this road trip.
2 - Physicality in front of the goaltender
Here’s a fun fact: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has lost three of his last five, yet in those three losses, he’s logged a 0.917 save percentage. And if you watched those six shots that he allowed vs. the Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and against the Ducks, it’s easy to say most weren’t on him.
Last night, two of the goals he allowed came as a product of the Sabres once again refusing to box out players surrounding the crease and the third occurred thanks to Connor Clifton’s turnover. Had the Blue and Gold been more physical in front of Luukkonen, there’s a good chance the Sabres skate away with at least a point.
3 - Keeping pace
Okay, maybe that previous point was rather premature, as the Buffalo Sabres skated a few paces slower than Anaheim, and it’s a huge reason why they had trouble getting anything going consistently on both sides of the ice. If they play that way against a better hockey team like the Los Angeles Kings, the game will be over by the end of the first frame.
Once again, we can look back on several instances when the Sabres pulled off some improbable upsets simply by moving their feet efficiently all game. Improving their pacing alone will be a huge step in the right direction if they want to build any momentum whatsoever heading into the All-Star break.
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)