Sabres Lose To Rangers, Drop Under .500
Sunday night’s game between the Sabres and Rangers was the quintessential 2021-22 Sabres experience: There was scoring from the young guns, plenty of loose defensive play and some questionable goaltending from the blue and gold.
All-in-all, it was a fun affair, even if the Sabres dropped to 7-8-2 on the season following a 5-4 loss to the Rangers.
It’s important that this season be put in the context of growth for the young players who will be here long term. Fans saw plenty of that growth tonight with two points from Tage Thompson, two from Dahlin, a goal from Rasmus Asplund and an assist from Victor Olofsson. That sort of positive development is paramount to the future of the team while fans wait for the likes of Jack Quinn, JJ Peterka, Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs.
With Olofsson returning to the lineup for the first time since Halloween, head coach Don Granato opted to mix his lines up a little bit by putting Rasmus Asplund with Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons, while the newly healthy Olofsson jumped up on a line with Tage Thompson and Jeff Skinner. The return of Olofsson paid immediate dividends, even if he only tallied one helper on the scoresheet. Not only can Olofsson bring a much-needed shooting dimension to the power play, his ability for controlled zone entries on the power play can go under appreciated. His presence alone also forces the opposition’s penalty kill to cheat to his side of the ice.
Asplund, meanwhile, immediately had chemistry with the two elder statesmen grinders as he fed Girgensons for a nice point-blank chance in front of the net. Later in the period, while on a powerplay, Okposo would feed a shot in front that caromed off Girgensons and found Asplund’s stick in front of the net for a tap-in by Asplund. His game compliments the style of Girgensons and Okposo very nicely.
Chris Kreider would find the back of the net in the waning seconds of the first to draw things even following an interference penalty to Jacob Bryson who stuck his butt out to prevent a Rangers player from pursuing his defensive partner around the net. Allowing goals in the closing seconds of the period is a real crusher, especially for a team with somewhat porous goaltending like the Sabres have. They need to stockpile leads for later use like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter. The Sabres finished the first period tied 8-8 in shots with Rangers, with each team netting a power play goal. It was something of a tame affair as neither team mustered many high-danger chances at even strength.
Completely random side note here: What is the metallic “puck-on-post” sound that is often heard throughout the Sabres broadcasts at weird times during the game? It sounds like someone clanging a dinner bell or something. Any clarification on that would greatly appreciated. Anyway…
Vinnie Hinostroza got things going for the Sabres in the second period with an awesome individual effort as he victimized Jerred Tinordi, whom Hinostroza stipped of the puck before putting on a move and beating Geogiev top shelf. While Hinostroza has demonstrated excellent speed through the first 15 games of the season, he hadn’t shown the ability to make a highlight-reel play like the one Sabres fans saw Sunday night.
The Sabres had a positively mysterious call go against them later in the frame as Cody Eakin deflected a Mark Pysyk point shot that was subsequently ruled to be some sort of goaltender interference. Eakin wasn’t assessed a penalty for goaltender interference, though. They just decided that incidental contact between Eakin and Rangers’ goalie Alexandar Geogiev constituted enough contact to whistle the play dead. That doesn’t make a ton of sense. Either it should be goaltender interference, or it should be a goal. That’s just NHL logic, I guess.
Jacob Trouba then then scored following that exchange which pulled the Rangers ahead by 1.
Following a mini lull in play for a few minutes after Trouba goal, all hell broke loose for a 1:22 segment of the second period that saw a total of four goals scored, with 2 for each team. Kappo Kakko scored on a defensive breakdown as he carried the puck into the high slot and unleashed a wrist shot. Tage Thompson then countered with a goal of his own as he took Tinordi to school on a one-on-one situation following a drop pass from Dahlin. Dahlin fired a clapper home from the point, and then K’Andre Miller did the same for the Rangers.
It would be hard to beat that second period in terms of pure entertainment value. Don Granato is pulling through on his promise to play a high-temp brand of hockey. The downside of that concept is that the Sabres looked utterly gassed by the time the third period rolled around. They were outshot badly, with the counter showing a 12-4 margin of shots for the Rangers in the third period with 3 minutes to play. The Sabres were just barely hanging on, as they’ve tried to do over the last few games.
That strategy almost paid off… until it didn’t.
Tage Thompson managed to pin the puck deep in the defensive zone against the wall before it squirted free, and the Rangers got the puck in front of the net for a shot and goal by Ryan Lindgren with .4 seconds to play. Thompson will learn from that situation and perhaps next time he will wisely get down on one knee and eat the puck in the corner. In any case, it would be hard to argue that the Sabres deserved a better fate as they were massively outshot by a 36-22 margin during the contest. They didn’t truly deserve the win. It certainly would have been nice to get a point by sending it to overtime, though.
Next up for the Sabres will be a game against Columbus tomorrow, followed by Boston on Wednesday and Montreal on Friday. There is definitely an opportunity to get points in two out of three games this week.
Scoring four goals is usually good enough to get at least a point on any given night.