2016-2017 Season Breakdown: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Buffalo Sabres
The Lightning, like most teams, beat up on the Sabres this season.
Two teams are battling it out for the Stanley Cup on catfish-laden ice. Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Lightning are not one of those two teams. In order to fill the void for Lightning fans, Raw Charge is breaking down the past season team by team to see who helped and who hurt the season.
Opponent: Buffalo Sabres
November 17, 2016 at Buffalo - Tampa 4, Buffalo 1
January 12, 2017 at Tampa - Tampa 4, Buffalo 2
March 4, 2016 at Buffalo - Tampa 2, Buffalo 1
April 9, 2017 at Tampa - Tampa 4, Buffalo 2
Goals: Brayden Point (3), Nikita Kucherov (2), Ondrej Palat (2), Braydon Coburn, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Nikita Nesterov, Anton Stralman, Victor Hedman
Assists: Valtteri Filppula (3), Nikita Kucherov (3), Victor Hedman (3), Jonathan Drouin (2), Vladislav Namestnikov (2), Brayden Point (2), Tyler Johnson (2), Brian Boyle, Jake Dotchin Alex Killorn, Nikita Nesterov, Ondrej Palat, Anton Stralman,
Ben Bishop .949 SV% (allowed 3 goals on 59 shots)
Andrei Vasilevskiy .948 SV% (allowed 3 goals on 58 shots)
Notes from the Previews:
November 17th - @BrianMcguire, Lightning vs. Sabres: Road Trip continues
“On Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres. These two teams are trending in opposite directions, but have something in common. Namely, they are entering this game tremendously short staffed.”
January 12th - @waffleboardsave, Sabres at Lightning preview: Will the real Tampa Bay Lightning please stand up?
“We are officially beginning the second half of the season with Game 43. The Lightning have made it. Sure, they’re beaten, bruised — and losing — but the gang’s (mostly) all here. The Lightning are 19-19-4 and four points from the final spot in the Atlantic. Which, frankly, sounds about right with what we’ve seen in the first half of the season. A .500 team that’s within reach but not quite there in the playoff circle? Yup.”
March 4th - @bethelhub, Tampa Bay Lightning at Buffalo Sabres preview: Vasy starts
“The Bolts, at 66 points, have three teams between them and the Islanders, in the wild card slot at 70. Regardless of the Bolts’ actually placement in the standings, whether two points or ten points out, the team has had a hugely lackluster year, and the reason my faith in their playoff hopes is dwindling is not because the point race itself but just because of the quality of play all season.”
April 9th - @justing, Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning: This is the end, my only friend, the end
“A win tonight would also give the Lightning a true winning record for the fourth year in a row. It’s small consolation for missing the playoffs, but it’s better than nothing. Another dim silver lining is that they will finally get a summer off. Between two deep playoff runs and sending a load of players to the World Hockey Classic, they have played a lot of hockey. A little rest will only help them next year when they should be back among the Eastern Conference’s best teams.”
Notes from the Recap:
November 17th - @clarkbrooks, Lightning win third straight, topple Sabres 4-1
“The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres, 4-1, at KeyBank Center in Buffalo Thursday night.
“This year’s edition of ‘Life Without Steven Stamkos’ began for the Lightning in Detroit on Tuesday with a win over the Red Wings. The saga continued tonight in Buffalo with Valtteri Filppula reaching career milestones and Ben Bishop coming up big yet again in net.”
January 12th: @loserpoints, Tampa Bay Lightning end a losing streak and beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-2
“The Lightning’s play tonight was encouraging. It wasn’t perfect but it was a step in the right direction. It looked much more like the effort against Nashville than the weekend games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The defense was solid after the big mistake in the first period. The new top line of Palat-Namstnikov-Kucherov looked great. Palat in particular seemed to have one of his best games of the year.
“If Tampa can continue to play like this, they should have a chance to earn some better results than we’ve seen over the last couple of months.”
March 4th: @justing, Lightning at Sabres recap: Bolts bounce back for shootout win
“After a rough loss in Pittsburgh on Friday night, the Lightning traveled to Buffalo to take on a Sabres team that was only a point behind them in the race for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. In a hard-fought game the Lightning emerged with the extra point as they beat Buffalo 2-1 in a shootout.”
April 9th: @clarkbrooks, Lightning close out season with 4-2 win over Sabres
“The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 in the season finale at Amalie Arena in Tampa Sunday evening.
“It’s been a while since the Lightning had to “play out a string,” even a string as short as one game, but it hasn’t been that long. Having been eliminated from playoff consideration the night before, thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs rallying in the third period to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3, tonight’s game had an air of uncomfortable familiarity.”
Did Buffalo hurt or help the Lightning?
To answer the question above, Buffalo mostly helped the Lightning this year by being a not very good team that gave the Lightning eight much-needed points in the standings. But if we’re going to talk about the Lightning playing the Sabres this year, we really only need to talk about one thing. That time Nikita Kucherov ended Robin Lehner’s life during a shootout. In case you forgot, let’s quickly revisit that moment:
Nikita Kucherov just pulled off one of the filthiest shootout moves I've ever seen pic.twitter.com/tT6YzYYbaw— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) March 5, 2017
Amidst a disappointing season, this was one of the purest moments of joy. This goal will be remembered forever as one of the best ever in a shootout. Nikita Kucherov has already done lots of great things in his NHL career and will likely do many more. But when the end of his career comes some day far in the future and we’re debating his Hall of Fame credentials, I don’t know if we’ll be able to point to a moment that was more fun than this.
The Bolts experienced lots of success against the Sabres this year. Buffalo was weak on the blue line, which offered lots of opportunities for the Lightning forwards and they took advantage scoring thirteen goals in four games. While the Sabres do have some skill in their top six, it wasn’t enough to stay with the Lightning who got excellent goaltending from both Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Ultimately, the eight points against Buffalo ended up not meaning much as the Lightning missed the playoffs. But it always feels good to sweep a division opponent. So even in a lost season, we can at least take solace in not losing a single game to the lowly Sabres.
We did not trade with the Sabres because they only have like four good players and no one wants any of the rest of their terrible roster.
Statistical Head to Head:
The shot metrics are not quite as one sided as the goal results but the Lightning did lead in shot and expected goal share while also generating the more dangerous shots. Vlad Namestnikov, Braydon Coburn, Nikita Kucherov, and Nikita Nesterov led all skaters in on-ice shot differential. Rasmus Ristolained, Jack Eichel, Jake McCabe, and Josh Gorges fell at the other end of the spectrum.
Overall, the Lightning controlled play agains the Sabres and deserved to win, which they did.