Sabres outclassed by Kings, 4-2

February 18, 2018

The Buffalo Sabres’ Saturday matinee against the Los Angeles Kings was yet another display they’ll hope to forget. Though the score line of 4-2 against a playoff hopeful seems close, in reality this game was well out of reach by the midway point of the first period.

The Kings opened the scoring just shy of halfway into the first period when Michael Amadio managed to sneak one by Robin Lehner on a bad angle.

It’s not well defended, but Lehner has to have that. The bad goals are starting to pile up and are becoming a regular thing. Not ideal if you’re in the “trade Lehner now” camp. The Kings would finish the period with 19 shots on goal.

The Kings continued to apply all sorts of pressure through the second until finally doubling their lead at the eight-minute mark on a nifty goal from Anze Kopitar.

Awful puck management from Benoit Pouliot leads to the goal from Kopitar. Once he gets away from the checking forward he’s got to get that puck out. Instead, he gets too cute with it and the Kings take advantage.

Just four minutes later, Kopitar would pick up his second goal of the afternoon on the feed from Alex Iafallo. The goal came as a result of some good puck recovery by Iafallo on the dump in. The Sabres were rumored to be finalists in the chase for the 24-year-old Eden native before he chose the Kings. It was a relatively weak attempt from Kopitar and another goal that Lehner should have stopped.

A minute and a half later the Kings would twist the knife they already put through the Sabres as Amadio would pick up his second of the game, giving the Kings a 4-0 lead at the end of forty.

Justin Falk’s positioning costs him on this goal. He knows where Amadio is but he can’t get himself turned around in time before the pass makes its way across. Amadio winds up turning Falk inside out and rips a hard wrist shot stick side past Lehner.

The Sabres would get a pair of goals back in the third to make the score line more respectable. Thirty seconds into the final frame, Marco Scandella rips a slap shot from the point that beats Jonathan Quick clean, cutting the lead to 4-1.

Another d-man would pick up a goal for the Sabres in the dying minutes of the third period. This time it was Rasmus Ristolainen, who snuck in from the point and cashed in on the rebound from Ryan O’Reilly’s initial shot.

That’s as close as the Sabres would come as the Kings held on against some pretty good attempts by Buffalo with the extra skater.

The Kings out attempted the Sabres 5-on-5 by a total of 54 to 43, not as bad as the eye test suggested it might have been but still a larger gap than you’d like to see. The expected goals for numbers at 5-on-5 were a little closer, 1.88 to 1.49 in favor of the Kings, which can be explained by two of their four goals being shots that a goaltender should normally stop.

Ristolainen did a pretty good job limiting the Kings top line from generating too many shot attempts, but he can only play so many minutes. The superior depth of the Kings was the kicker here as their second and third lines did a lot of damage to the Sabres they were matched up against, notably Falk and Nelson.

Other notes:

Just one note from this afternoon’s game but it’s a big one. It was reported after the game that Jason Botterill had quite the display of emotion mid-game as he yelled and slammed the door in the press box. I’m not sure what to make of it. On the one hand, you can understand why he’d be heated. On the other, Botterill is known for his measured and professional approach, so you would think it’d take a lot for him to reach this boiling point.

I doubt he thought this team was suddenly going to compete for a playoff spot, especially if he lost Eichel to an injury, but I bet he still figured they’d compete. Even with Eichel in the lineup, most nights they have failed to compete and a lot of this falls on the de facto leadership group or core of this team. Perhaps Botterill was just blowing off steam, or perhaps he’s finally seen enough from key members and we’re in for a fun summer of major change.

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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