Game 33: Meltdown City
There's nothing remotely good for the Buffalo Sabres to take away from a 9-4 loss in which mistakes of all kinds repeated themselves and wound up in the back of the net.
BUFFALO — It’s not supposed to go like this. At least that was the idea.
The bad old days of spinning wheels in the mud with a team of young stars with very little support were supposed to be in the rear-view mirror and the shine of what was nearly a playoff season a year ago was meant to be the first flickers of light from a new, young core of future stars ready to storm the NHL and become a perennial postseason participant.
Whether the team got too high on its own supply or thought it would only get easier as their youthful players gained experience and grew into their NHL careers, the 2023-2024 season has served a harsh reminder that the professional ranks will break you down and humble you at any time, especially when it’s not treated with the proper respect it demands.
Numerous times the Buffalo Sabres have been served a reminder of what happens when they think the job will be easy or if the opponent will roll over. Time and time again the counterpunch is delivered straight to the nose. On Tuesday, the Sabres were served another example of what happens when the easy route is taken but met with heavy resistance in a 9-4 drubbing by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Too often the Sabres have gone into a game and from the outside the take is, “Well, they can’t lose to these guys…” and seen the game get turned on its head the moment a mistake is made, or a counterpunch is delivered.
The Sabres got the start they were looking for when Rasmus Dahlin scored 30 seconds into the game but gave up the next seven goals over the following 30 minutes which included a natural hat trick by Columbus Blue Jackets winger Kirill Marchenko. They chased Devon Levi after the first four goals and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was treated just as rudely in relief having to suffer numerous odd-man rushes against and getting screened by his own teammates.
It was bad. It was ugly. It was the worst effort of the season that’s careening rapidly towards irrelevance.
“I feel like when the mistakes are coming at you like that, you just go deeper and deeper,” Sabres captain Kyle Okposo said. “We played that game like a young team. We just played where we were trying to make things happen when they weren’t there, and we were trying to find our game happen. When you’re having a game like that when mistakes are costing you, it’s hard to try and dig yourselves out of that by making pretty plays and not just keeping it as simple as possible and we did not do that tonight.”