The Buffalo Sabres’ last postseason game was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal on April 26, 2011- nearly 4,500 days ago, when US President Barack Obama was in his first term in office.
The years since have been a wasteland. The team’s 11-year playoff drought is the longest in NHL history and the second-longest active of the four major North American professional sports. But there is reason to hope this season. Buffalo has continued to improve and now sits closer to a playoff spot than they have since the drought began. The team just isn’t seizing their opportunity.
Sabres’ Four-Game Skid
The Sabres lost four consecutive games last week and fell seven points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot. Though there’s plenty of time to make up for it, the postseason suddenly seems far less likely for a team that appeared to have very good chances.
Last week, the team lost back-to-back 3-2 decisions to the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders, respectively, both games that easily could have been won. But, once again, Buffalo’s paltry two-way play was front and center, and their opponents capitalized. To be fair, the loss to the Islanders was partly due to former Sabre, Hudson Fasching‘s goal that was unmistakably kicked in, but the NHL ruled that it wasn’t.
Still, the Sabres’ issues with positioning, turnovers, and shot differential have been their Achilles heel all season, and it’s hurting them at the worst time. Many of the team’s forwards lack defensive awareness, namely Victor Olofsson, who has been so bad that he was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career on Monday (from “Olofsson a healthy scratch against the Leafs”, The Niagara Gazette, 3/13/23). Head coach Don Granato attempted to remedy the issue by shuffling lines, but it hasn’t helped, and general manager Kevyn Adams’ failure to upgrade at the trade deadline didn’t either.
Buffalo’s goaltending has also been inconsistent at times, but it’s tough to blame the netminders when they get so little help from the players in front of them. This was on full display when Eric Comrie was left out to dry last Thursday against the Dallas Stars and was torched for 10 goals on 49 shots in one of the most embarrassing losses in recent memory. Why Granato left him in that long is another question, but the Sabres’ postseason aspirations took a major blow.
Sabres’ Offense Can’t Do It All
It’s often said that the best defense is a swift…
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