Sabres News & Rumors: Tuch, Luukkonen, Krebs & Thompson

The Buffalo Sabres had the game against the Washington Capitals won but then lost it. In the end, they got a point but not the two points that came with the win. The final score was 5-4 as the Capitals won the game n overtime. 

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In this edition of Sabres’ News & Rumors, I’ll look at the team’s predicament insofar as a postseason run is concerned. I’ll also look at some of the player news emerging from the game. Finally, I’ll review where the team’s top-five scorers are for this season.

Item One: It Can Be Frustrating Being a Fan of a Good (But Young) Team

It can be frustrating being a Sabres fan when the team repeatedly gives up leads and loses games, especially when they have a number of opportunities to win. What can the team do better? Perhaps it’s just the Sabres’ youthful lineup. But the consistency in all areas of the game just isn’t there yet. 

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Perhaps, the ability to close out games successfully is something that comes with experience. Right now, the team’s high-powered offense offers them chances to win. It would seem that a similar focus on defensive strategies would allow this team to tighten up play in its own end. 

As well, the team’s ability to maintain its intensity and focus throughout the entire game just isn’t there yet. These are mistakes that provide lessons that can lead to the necessary adjustments that will improve the Sabres’ on-ice performance. It might simply be too soon to expect the whole package this season.

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In the end, the Sabres didn’t get the two points that were so necessary for having a chance at a playoff run. The truth is that, with every game like this, the team’s chances of ending its franchise-record 11-season postseason drought are dwindling. 

Item Two: That Postseason Drought Might Last Another Season

Currently, the Sabres have the longest streak without hitting the postseason in the NHL. It’s looking like that streak might last another season. Currently, the Sabres have lost seven of their last nine games. 

True, they remain in the playoff race, but they have to start winning. Despite the disappointment of the loss, after the game, Buffalo’s Tyson Jost highlighted the team’s determination to keep pushing and putting together wins.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen Buffalo Sabres
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Sabres had a lead for most of the game. Ilya Lyubushkin, JJ Peterka, Jost, and Zemgus Girgensons (not the usual suspects) all had goals in regulation. In addition, Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen made 35 saves. However, his luck went south when he lost his stick in the corner just before Tom Wilson tied the game with about a minute remaining in the third period. 

Alex Tuch blamed himself for allowing the tying goal. In his own words, his mistake was “unacceptable.” He felt he let the team down.

Item Three: Luukkonen Is Improving, But Couldn’t Hold the Lead

Goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen started against the Capitals on Wednesday. He was hoping to end a losing streak that had lasted for three games. Although his save percentage was improving, he hasn’t been able to stop the bleeding. He still hasn’t.

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For the season now, Luukkonen has played in 29 games, with a record of 15-10-4, a 3.55 goals-against-average, and a .894 save percentage. In Wednesday’s game against Washington, he saved 35 of 39 shots. In March, his record is 0-2-2.

Item Four: Peyton Krebs Registers Multiple-Point 

Peyton Krebs is in his second season with the Sabres. In November 2021, he came to the team from the Vegas Golden Knights with Tuch in the Jack Eichel trade. While the 22-year-old forward has shown both skill and potential, he hasn’t gained the consistency he needs to be a force every game. 

Peyton Krebs Buffalo Sabres
Peyton Krebs, Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Krebs registered two assists in Wednesday’s game. However, the last time he scored a goal was on Feb. 15th. He’s shown glimpses of the kind of talent that led the Golden Knights to draft him 17th overall; however, he’s struggled recently. Despite those struggles, it’s way too early to give up on the youngster. 

Item Five: A Rundown of the Top-Five Sabres Scores This Season

In looking at the statistics of the top five point-producers on the Sabres, center Tage Thompson has scored 42 goals with 45 assists (for 87 points) in 67 games. Thompson also has scored 18 power-play goals and has totaled six game-winning goals.

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Second in line is left-winger Jeff Skinner, who’s played in 64 games and scored 29 goals with 38 assists (for 67 points). The third biggest point producer for the Sabres is right-winger Tuch. In 59 games, he’s scored 30 goals and added 34 assists (for 64 points). 

Fourth in Sabres’ scoring is defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. He’s exactly at a point-a-game pace. In 63 games, he’s scored 14 goals with 49 assists (for 63 points). He has scored five power-play goals and added 23 power-play assists. 

Rasmus Dahlin Buffalo Sabres
Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Fifth, and finally, center Dylan Cozens has scored 26 goals and added 31 assists (for 57 points) in 66 games. 

Offensive production is not the team’s problem. The team simply needs stronger defensive play.

What’s Next for the Sabres?

It’s hard not to appreciate Tuch. After the game, he was clear about how he felt. 

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Tuch noted that “we had the lead for the whole game and then a couple of bad mistakes – mine in particular. It’s unacceptable. I’m not a rookie. I’ve been in this league for a couple of years now and I know time management. I felt like I let the team down.”

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