As part of Hockey Day in America, the Sabres were featured in a matinée matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday (Sunday). NBC did a nice job of talking up Canalside and the progress that has been made in rebuilding downtown near the arena.
The Sabres played a strong first period and looked to have Pittsburgh on the ropes, but late penalties at the end of the first killed any momentum that we had generated and the game went to the first intermission tied at 1. Then, once again, a lackluster second period did the Sabres in.
Johan Larsson lost his stick and couldn’t intercept a crossing pass to a Penguin at the side of the net and the guy had an easy look for a goal, giving Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead. Then, a little later in the period, Robin Lehner was in the wrong position and didn’t see a cross ice pass to Phil Kessel on the doorstep before it was too late, and just like that is was 3-1 and the game was basically over. Although we did fight back, with Zach Bogosian playing extremely well after getting boarded face first on Friday night, ultimately we were undone by shaky goaltending and lackluster defensive zone play.
I have said it before – Robin Lehner needs to be more consistent if he thinks he is going to be a #1 goaltender in the NHL.
I have said it before – Robin Lehner needs to be more consistent if he thinks he is going to be a #1 goaltender in the NHL. On Friday night at Columbus, he was great, pitching his first shutout as a Sabre. He was focused and locked in, even attempting to fight Jack Johnson at one point in the third. He looked possessed, and the camera shot of him with his helmet off glaring at Johnson after the scrum is the stuff of legend. I saw an ad on Facebook for a local company featuring his glaring face on a t-shirt minutes after the game was over! That is some quick turnaround time guys, nicely done. That intensity is what we need every night, and on Sunday afternoon it just wasn’t there for Lehner. He looked like Mr. Softee version 2.0 yesterday in the third on the shorthanded goal that ultimately gave Pittsburgh the victory. That is a save that has got to be made to keep your team in the game, but credit our guys for not giving up and making it a one goal game. They showed heart and desire, but we gave up too many goals to have a realistic chance to win.
Let’s root for the local Buffalo kid to get his first goal soon. Bailey, Eichel and Reinhart are good enough reasons for me to watch, and even though we aren’t winning enough, we have been on a decent stretch in the last 5-6 games.
I also want to comment on Justin Bailey and his play. He looks really good. He skates strongly, is good around the net and has good on-ice awareness. I think that they should keep him up for the rest of the year. With the trading deadline approaching, the chances of there being a permanent spot for him for the rest of the season, and beyond, are high. Especially with Ryan O’Reilly out for 3-4 weeks with a lower body injury, we can expect to see more of Bailey, and Bylsma has already said that he has been impressed with the 20-year old’s game. This is a good sign guys and gals, so let’s root for the local Buffalo kid to get his first goal soon. Bailey, Eichel and Reinhart are good enough reasons for me to watch, and even though we aren’t winning enough, we have been on a decent stretch in the last 5-6 games.
This week we have the Ducks, the Sharks and the Kings – three really good clubs. t will be a test for our young team against solid veteran, playoff tested squads. It will be interesting to see how our guys react. Get ready for some late night hockey watching this week. Go Sabres.