In what seems to be a familiar trend in Buffalo, the Sabres have seemingly fallen apart since their solid start to the 2019-20 season.
This comes off what can be classified as the “infamous” 10-game winning streak that the Sabres had last season. Throughout the second half of the season, this winning streak was constantly brought up in conversation, ultimately reminding the Sabres fanbase of what could have been.
Sabres’ Inconsistencies Eerily Similar to Last Season
Fast forward to this season, and it almost feels like déjà vu. A torrid start to the season had the Sabres faithful cautiously optimistic for what could be a return to the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. With head coach Ralph Krueger at the helm, Buffalo’s system seemed to have made the necessary changes, with an emphasis put on pushing the play and using their speed.
With that being said, it was hard for myself to fully buy in to such a dramatic change in success. Their goalie tandem is nothing to write home about, the depth pieces upfront would not be known to many outsiders, and Jack Eichel has proven to be the only true offensive threat on the team.
Eichel Carrying the Weight
Eichel’s 4-goal performance in a 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators last week was a brutal reminder of how Buffalo still has a long way to go. For 60 minutes, the Sabres coasted by on the back of Eichel’s remarkable ability to take over a game.
The Sabres were flat, and took the Senators that for granted. As cliché as that may sound, it seemed the case as Buffalo twice blew leads throughout the game before Eichel scored his third goal late in the third.
To make matters worse, Rasmus Dahlin was benched midway through the game. He has been the biggest surprise for the Sabres this season, but for all the wrong reasons. Glaring turnovers and over-handling of the puck have been a microcosm of what has looked like a sophomore slump for the Swedish phenom.
Krueger is put in a position he quite frankly never could have imagined, where he has probably considered scratching Dahlin in hopes of resetting the young defenseman’s mind. One can guess that Kruger has been told by management to not do such, hence why Dahlin continues to play amidst his struggles.
Buffalo Lacking Secondary Scoring
Furthermore, Eichel’s game Saturday night shed light on the glooming reality of what life would be like without their captain. Sam Reinhart has enjoyed life on the top line with Eichel, but would surely lack offensive prowess without his linemate by his side.
Jeff Skinner got his big payday in the offseason, and was rewarded by being demoted to the second line where he has struggled to create offense. Jimmy Vesey has been a ghost since coming over from the New York Rangers, with an injury also holding him back from contributing. The once highly touted Casey Mittlestadt has been stuck on the third line for well over a year now with no signs of drastic improvement to his game.
This grim outlook is nothing new to those that have watched the Sabres spin their wheels for what feels like forever now. The diehards surely knew not to get their hopes up, as they have been burned by this Sabres team too many times in the past. Although Saturday ended a six-game losing streak, it should serve as a reminder for the many issues this Sabres team faces. Eichel is only one man, and until the rest of the team learns how to carry their portion of the load, Buffalo stares another lost season straight in the face.