The Sabres have a limited number of chances to take advantage of tired teams. They’ve missed out on both opportunities so far.
Those could be costly points slipping away.
On just six occasions this season, Buffalo will come into a game rested and face a team that played the night before. That’s tied for the fewest in the NHL. The Sabres fell to 0-0-2 with a 2-1 shootout loss to Ottawa on Wednesday night.
A study of the past nine seasons by HockeyViz.com shows rested teams have a .600 points percentage. Buffalo is at .500, including last month’s loss in Philadelphia, so it’ll have to make those points up somewhere.
The Sabres nearly got a needed one during overtime. After a quiet regulation, they exploded with all eight shots during the extra session. The most glorious chance came when Zemgus Girgensons’ deflection hit the crossbar, the skate of Senators goaltender Mike Condon and the post before stopping in front of the goal line.
“It was tough to see that not go in, but that’s our situation,” center Johan Larsson said. “It doesn’t go in easy for us.”
Buffalo was in Ottawa’s zone for 2:17 of the five-minute overtime (the Sens had pressure for just 30 seconds), but once again the scoreboard failed to reach two for the home team. The Sabres have scored just four goals in the past four games while going 1-3.
“One of these days the puck’s going to bounce our way,” defenseman Jake McCabe said, “but we’ve just got to keep doing the right things and make our own luck.”
The Sabres couldn’t make much happen during the opening 60 minutes. Coach Dan Bylsma said his team has been getting around 20 scoring chances per game recently. The video of Wednesday’s meeting in KeyBank Center should reveal quite a few less.
“I don’t think either team gives a lot of room out there, especially in the neutral zone in a tight game,” Bylsma said. “That’s the way we’re trying to play as well, and the game was a result of that. There wasn’t a ton of shots in the game. There wasn’t a ton of room.”
The best way to play when fatigued is simple, and Ottawa filled the role. It didn’t make many mistakes while limiting the Sabres to 24 shots during regulation. The Senators, who played in Nashville on Wednesday night, actually outshot the Sabres, 21-16, during the second and third periods.
“They get five guys below the top of the circles,” McCabe said. “We did our best to go low to high because that’s where the open ice is and to try to get shots through, but they blocked a lot of shots. We did a lot of good things, but we’ve still got to find more offense.”
The Sabres fell to 5-5-3 overall and 1-3-1 at home. There were only 17,884 tickets sold, and at least half of those who used the tickets were gone before overtime. That was when the Sabres finally had their chances, but it turned out they missed another one.
“We don’t want to shoot unless we have a Grade A scoring chance, and that goes to show that we did have a lot of chances to score goals” in overtime, McCabe said.
The locals did get to see Williamsville native Cole Schneider earn his first NHL point. Called up earlier in the day, the Sabres winger picked up an assist in his third NHL game.
“I’ve been pretty hot down in the American League, so I had some confidence,” Schneider said. “Early in the game, we got one. Growing up, that’s probably how I would have pictured it, so it’s nice that it happened here.”