The Buffalo Sabres are not a good team. They haven’t been a good team for a while. They have a -54 goal differential, which means two things: they do not score and other teams score on them a lot. They allow 3.27 goals a game on average while scoring 2.25 - that’s a recipe for the basement.
So why is it, then, that the Blues and Sabres battled through a game where a scoreless tie was the norm? The tie didn’t get broken until Carl Gunnarsson scored his fifth goal of the season with 5:41 remaining.
This is a game that saw the line of Jaden Schwarz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko reunited. The Blues are a team of high scoring defensemen, of which Carl Gunnarsson fills only one of those two descriptors. The Sabres goaltender, Robin Lehner, is generally good but receives little defensive support. He is 2-2-0 in his past four starts and has two shutouts, a 0.76 goals-against average and a .976 save percentage. A stats line like that should read more like Carter Hutton’s last four games - 4-0-0 (with a .50 GAA and a .984 save percentage). The Sabres are squandering their talent.
Honestly, you can nitpick the Blues’ offensive failings in a win all that you want to, and it’s warranted here. Sometimes bad teams play well - Buffalo’s capable of that sometimes. The Sabres played well last night. But so did the Blues - just not with their firepower.
The penalty kill has been improving all year (it’s now 12th in the league at 82%) and it was excellent last night, killing off a late penalty by Gunnarsson that could’ve undone his goal. Then you have this madness from Hutton, who prevented that “late game tying goal disaster” that Blues fans dread.
Two back to back games in which the Blues have managed just one goal isn’t ideal. However, these two came after three games straight where they scored three goals, and one of the two one-goal games came against the Bruins, who are one of the hottest teams in the league. The other came against a goaltender who is playing extraordinary hockey on an extraordinarily bad team.
There’s a lot of good to take away from last night’s game. Don’t let the surprise of the 1-0 win over an easy mark fool you into thinking that another offensive drought is around the corner. Two one-goal games is a small sample size to boot.
The team has kinks to work out - they have all season - but with Schwartz back in the lineup the chances for another extended drought aren’t nearly as high.