Analyzing Buffalo’s 4-3 overtime loss to Anaheim

February 7, 2018

The Buffalo Sabres put up a good effort against a strong opponent in the Anaheim Ducks, but in the end simply didn’t have enough as they fell in overtime 4-3.

The game started off great for the Sabres as a shorthanded rush by Zemgus Girgensons turned into a weak goal against for Ryan Miller.

The goaltending in this matchup was very much Jekyll and Hyde all night. Miller makes the initial save but just can’t stop the follow up attempt by Girgensons from squeaking in, giving the Sabres an early 1-0 lead.

The Sabres would close out the first period with the lead, something that hasn’t happened very often this year, but just 21 seconds into the second period Rickard Rakell would equalize on the power play.

The point shot from Ryan Getzlaf appears to handcuff Robin Lehner as he loses sight of where the rebound ends up. Rackell scoops up the loose puck and although his shot hits the post, the puck would eventually go off Lehner’s skate and into the net tying the game at 1-1.

The Sabres would then retake the lead with a power play opportunity of their own thanks to some great passing.

The one touch pass from Sam Reinhart to Jack Eichel here is so good that Rob Ray thought it was a rebound. Seriously, you can’t teach hands like that and Reinhart has definitely been feeling the hot hand over the last few weeks.

The 2-1 lead for the Sabres was short-lived as, just before the end of the second, Ondrej Kase takes advantage of a juicy rebound to beat Lehner five hole.

Lehner doesn’t do a great job with the rebound both in terms of control and the untimely positioning adjustment which gave Kase the easy goal. The main issue here would be despite three Sabres being down low against three Ducks forwards, somehow Kase managed to find all kinds of space to knock home that rebound.

The image is tough to make out but the three Sabres down low are Rasmus Ristolainen, Evan Rodrigues and Marco Scandella. Ristolainen has his man pretty well tied up and essentially a non-threat on any rebound attempt. Though he’s not fully in position Rodrigues is on the high guy here, Nick Ritchie. It’s hard to say what Scandella was doing. He knew where Kase was as before the shot came from the point he had glanced over so it’s not as if Kase came out of nowhere.

This is a clearer shot of the end result but even if it’s a bad rebound from Lehner, Scandella should not be allowing Kase to have this much time and space right on the door step.

The Ducks would eventually grab their first lead of the night in the third period on the kind of bad puck luck that gives you nightmares.

Words fail me on this one. Ryan O’Reilly is obviously trying to clear this puck off the back wall but whether he fine-tuned it a little too much or was simply very unlucky, the puck appears to bounce off Lehner’s blocker hand and into the net. An absolutely demoralizing goal, credited to Corey Perry, which gave the Ducks a 3-2 lead with just over eight minutes remaining in the third period.

Fortunately for O’Reilly, he would redeem himself in dramatic fashion as despite the soul crushing own goal, the Sabres did not break. With just fifteen seconds remaining on the clock, O’Reilly takes the feed from Eichel and with a yawning cage blasts home the tying goal.

You just know this one was extra special for O’Reilly. He’s extra tough on himself and I can only imagine what he’d be feeling had his own goal been the game winner.

Once again, though, the excitement was very brief for the Sabres. Just 1:36 into overtime, birthday boy Adam Henrique would net the game winner, making the final score 4-3 Ducks.

There’s not much to say here other than Lehner absolutely has to have this. This has been a growing theme all year: Lehner making big saves throughout the night only to tarnish the performance with a goal he simply can’t give up.

The Sabres lost the possession battle (Corsi For) at five-on-five to the Ducks (45-39) but they have a slightly higher expected goals for at 1.82 to 1.68. This was most likely due to a combination of poor goaltending on the goals given up and O’Reilly’s nightmare clearing attempt.

The Ducks top line of Perry, Getzlaf and Rakell was surprisingly quiet at five-on-five and apparently had a difficult time against Justin Falk (yes, you read that correctly). Less surprising was that the Sabres top pair of Scandella and Ristolainen were dominated all night by their top matchup, the line of Henrique, Kase and Nick Ritchie.

Other Notes:

Just before Henrique’s overtime winner, Ristolainen made a horrible pass attempt to Eichel that must’ve missed him by a solid ten feet. If his regulation play wasn’t bad enough this certainly earned him an earful from Phil Housley. Long term plans aside, it may be time to remove Ristolainen from three-on-three play. I’m not sure he’s got the passing ability nor the foot speed to be effective offensively and I’m less convinced he has it to keep up defensively.

Speaking of brutal defensive play, if it were not for such a scary lack of depth on the blue line I’d recommend moving Scandella at the deadline. It was a good buy low pick up considering what little value was given up in the deal but the fact is Scandella is more of the same as far as the defense is concerned. He’s average offensively, although not a great puck mover and bad in his own end, which basically summarizes most of the blue line already. It’s possible that Scandella would look a lot better if he were, say, the team’s number four defenseman, but the Sabres desperately need one or two defensively sound players in the top four. It will have to wait till the offseason, but Scandella should be moved out and replaced with someone a little more reliable in his own end.

The rough season for Lehner continued, and tonight was a microcosm of it. He made some really good saves but not when it mattered the most. I’m not sure if there will be any takers at this years deadline but it may be worth keeping him just to ensure that Ullmark stays in the American Hockey League and continues to play well for the Rochester Americans. However, it’s probably a safe bet that both he and Chad Johnson are gone after this year.

Michael Ghofrani
About Michael Ghofrani

Michael Ghofrani has been working on finding hockey statistics that can break down and explain certain game events. He's also a Sabres follower from Toronto doing his best to fend off Leafs Nation.

Browse more articles by Michael Ghofrani.

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