Linus Ullmark suffered his first regulation loss of the season yesterday afternoon in Buffalo's 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Even though six goals ended up behind him, no blame should be thrown Ullmark's way as the skaters in front of him suffered an extreme case of hubris. After the Sabres skated to an early 2-0 lead they kicked back and sipped on a Mai Tai while admiring themselves as the Flyers proceeded to score six unanswered goals.
Sabres head coach Phil Housley called it a "stinker" yesterday, the stench of which could be smelled to the top row of the 300's and beyond. It was a "Core-like" performance from his club where they got out to an early lead, found themselves in a game where they needed to battle but ultimately wilted as Philadelphia willed their way to a lopsided win.
Perhaps it was too easy for Buffalo to fall into a that trap yesterday as they were clearly full of themselves heading into the matchup. The 10-game winning streak, a series of one-goal losses during their four-game losing streak where two went to overtime, and a back-to-back against two of the top teams in the league where they just fell short set them up. Add in that Buffalo thrashed the Flyers 5-2 in a recent November meeting and it had all the makings of a trap game.
The Sabres did come to play at first and looked great before becoming way too complacent with that early lead. "We thought it was going to be easy when we got the two-goal lead," said Housley to the gathered media post-game, "we were playing well. And then we got away from that."
They sure did. Housley's Sabres did the roller rink-waltz and allowed Philly to come back with a late first period goal and another in the second. It could have been a lot worse after 40 minutes had it not been for Ullmark. The 25 yr. old native of Sweden used his size, poise, and a lethal glove to hold Philadelphia to only two goals on 29 shots through two periods including this one with the Sabres up by one and on the penalty kill:
Ullmark has been coming up pretty big for his team in pretty much a thankless role. Prior to yesterday's game against the Flyers he was 5-0-3 with a 2.71 goals-against average and a rather strong .921 save-percentage despite being in a duck in a shooting gallery most of the season. The 6'4" 213 lb. native of Sweden has faced less than 35 shots in only four of his 10 games going 2-0-1 with a no-decision in his worst game of the season at Montreal. Yesterday he faced 41 Flyers shots and one would be hard-pressed to fault him on any of the six goals scored against him which included two shots from the slot (one off a faceoff,) a two-on-one shortie, a deflection off of his d-man's skate and two goals from within ten feet of the cage on defensive breakdowns.
It was about as crappy a game as we've seen from this club dating back to the 4-0 season-opening stinker at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
Having said all that, it's time to move on and the first thing they need to do is eradicate any delusions of grandeur filling up their heads. "The streak we were on, I mean...it's over. It means nothing now," said Eichel to the media yesterday. "We've got to realize that we haven't earned anything in this league. Just because we won a couple of games doesn't mean we're just going to put our skates on and go out there and win."
About the only thing Buffalo can do now is put this one in the rear view mirror and that's the approach Ullmark would like to see his team take. The gathered media twice yesterday asked about the play of the team in front of him and whether he was frustrated with the way things unfolded and twice the pensive goalie simply stated that it was a "tough question" and that he just goes out there and tried to put forth his best game. At the end of his rather short post-game interview he simply stated, "I think we just have to keep looking forward instead of looking backward. Whatever happens, happens. You can't cry over spilled milk."
A quick note:
According to the Sabres website the team "huddled for a team meeting" today to revisit the yesterday's stinker. "We've addressed it and feel like we have a pretty good plan in place for how to deal with it and how we're going to come out on Tuesday," said alternate captain Kyle Okposo. "We've got to learn from that, for sure."