In one of their worst games on the season, the Buffalo Sabres looked slow, lethargic and disheveled on Thursday night, and as a result made on the worst teams in the NHL look like world beaters.
The St. Louis Blues, 14-15-4 entering the contest, skated circles around Buffalo all night at Enterprise Center and walked away with a 4-1 victory that was far easier than it should have been.
In the buildup to the game I was thinking of the implications. This was the first meeting of the two teams since their Summer 2018 blockbuster that sent Ryan O’Reilly back out west in exchange for a huge return package. Though for the majority of the season thus far it has looked as is Buffalo has benefited more from the trade, tonight it looked the exact opposite. O’Reilly was buzzing around the Sabres net like an angry bee all night, while the former Blues on Buffalo all looked paltry. If I don’t mention Vladimir Sobotka here his name will never come up. And where’s that Berglund guy been?
Carter Hutton got the start in his first game against his former team. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray talked before the game about St. Louis missing Hutton because of Jake Allen’s struggles this season, but the team’s former backup didn’t give St. Louis’ front office any reason to miss him in this one. Allen’s former contemporary knocked the first goal of the game in on himself in ludicrous fashion and then was beaten on a wrister from living fossil Jay Bouwmeester in the slot to make it 2-0.
To be fair, it wasn’t all Hutton’s fault. Buffalo’s defense was a step behind the Blues’ offensive all game and was of little assistance. Patrick Maroon scored the third Blues goal of the night on a backhand from beside the net after being left wide open. Buffalo’s only tally of the game came from Jack Eichel’s power play tally in the second, an impressive goal. That was the only breath of life the Sabres would have, however.
The aforementioned O’Reilly was traded after a season full of rampant rumors that the star centerman had turned into a cancer in the Sabres’ locker room. And, to my amazement, many people believed it. Speculation of bad blood with Eichel that was never proven quickly soured a good number of fans on the guy that just a season earlier people were saying would help Buffalo get back to respectability. I shouldn’t be so surprised, though, that’s pretty much Buffalo fans in a nutshell.
If you’re like me and didn’t believe these rumors and thought that trading O’Reilly was a mistake, then I bet watching him score an impressive goal was satisfying for you too. ROR gave St. Louis its three goal lead back with a pretty score on a semi-breakaway after he stripped Zemgus Girgensons of the puck and then turned on the jets to beat Hutton. Who said this guy is slow? That had to feel good for O’Reilly, and I was happy for him. I’ll do a piece in the near future analyzing if trading him was a good idea in hindsight.
Marty Biron called the game bad from start to finish, and he was not wrong. The Sabres were embarrassed by a team that’s struggled pretty mightily this season and looked pitiful in the process. With the Bruins coming to town from a crucial Atlantic Division showdown on Saturday night, Buffalo needs to wake up, and fast.