The Sabres haven’t scored more than two goals in any game since the start of November and Buffalo has a league-worst 30 goals for. It’s starting to weigh heavily on the players, too.
The Sabres dropped their sixth-straight game on Thursday night, this time a 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and to say tensions are running high in Buffalo might be an understatement.
According to The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington, attendance was at a season-worst, fans filed out early with the Sabres trailing, the team was booed as it left the ice and one fan even yelled in the direction of Buffalo GM Tim Murray, urging him to make a move.
The biggest issue, above all, is that the Sabres simply can’t score. The team’s 31 goals for are the worst total in the league, they’re shooting a league-worst 5.2 percent at 5-on-5 and, on the rare occasions the Sabres have won a game this season, it’s mostly been thanks to the outstanding play of Robin Lehner.
And after Thursday’s game, Evander Kane, who had an assist on the Sabres’ lone goal against the Lightning, was awfully blunt in his assessment of the team’s recent play and critical of everyone’s ability to score, including his own, of late.
“We’ve scored 11 goals in the last nine games,” Kane said. “You’re not going to win many games, if any, scoring like that. We’ve got to find a way to…not even create more, just bear down and bury it. Get hungrier. I think that’s the thing. It must be a joke right now: You score two goals against the Buffalo Sabres and you’re going to win the game. We’ve got to end that.”
Kane is dead on, too. In their past nine games, the Sabres have failed to score more than two goals in a single game and their two wins came by a 2-1 final. Altogether, the Sabres have been outscored 23-11 despite being outshot by a mere 31 shots over that same span.
You need not look further than Ben Bishop’s outstanding, how-did-he-do-that stop on Kyle Okposo, the Sabres’ leading scorer, to understand how things are going for Buffalo.
Even coach Dan Bylsma seemed baffled post-game on how chances like that keep eluding the back of the net for the Sabres. It took him a full 12 seconds from the moment he was asked about the team’s scoring confidence to find the words for an answer.
“We certainly felt it in every chance that we had and every opportunity we had in the first two periods, the frustration building with getting looks, getting empty nets, getting golden opportunities and kind of the feeling of you’re snake-bitten and struggling to find a goal,” Bylsma said. “Even though you get great opportunities, you’re not going to find it.”
And of Okposo’s chance?
“That one was on the board. I still don’t know quite how the goaltender comes over to get it,” Bylsma said. “Playing through two periods, you’re playing hard, playing well, getting opportunities. You’re starting to (wonder) if you’re ever going to get one by the goaltender.”
The crazy thing is that it’s not for lack of chances.
In fact, at 5-on-5, Buffalo has been one of the best scoring chance generating teams in the league since the start of November, which coincides with the start of this puzzling nine-game stretch of futility. According to Corsica, the Sabres have generated roughly 56 scoring chances to 40 against. The only teams who have fared better are the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators, and the Sabres are in the same league as the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins when it comes to chance generation.
Eventually the tide is going to turn in Buffalo — it almost certainly has to — but the Sabres are mired in an almost breathtakingly awful scoring slump. When the dam finally breaks, it might break big, but for as long as the scoring woes continue, the cruel joke that is the Sabres’ bad luck won’t get any funnier in Buffalo.
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