Game 50: Hit the Beach Running
Buffalo heads into the All-Star break and bye week after a full-on 5-1 butt-whooping by Carolina
BUFFALO — They all can’t be winners and they all can’t be outright stinkers, but sometimes the better team just takes you out behind the woodshed. That’s what the Carolina Hurricanes did to the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-1 pasting that sent both teams into the All-Star break.
For Carolina, it was a flex of their strength and why they’re one of the best teams in the NHL. After coming back from down 4-1 the night before to beat Los Angeles 5-4 in overtime, the Hurricanes blitzed the Sabres right off the hop using their speed and skill to suffocate Buffalo with their forecheck. The Sabres were flummoxed from the get-go and Carolina’s presence caused them to turn the puck over wantonly.
Whether it was bad passes, mishandled pucks, or getting caught stunned and flat-footed, Carolina made Buffalo do all of it. If ever there was a time when the Sabres looked absolutely outclassed this season, tonight was it.
“They kept it simple, they were flipping pucks out, keeping us on our heels,” Alex Tuch said. “We weren’t able to sustain their pressure and we collapsed early on. When you go down 3-0 against a team like that, it’s going to be impossible to come back, honestly. We dug ourselves a hole, didn’t get out of it.”
Carolina is an elite, Stanley Cup favorite and spotting them a 3-0 advantage in the first 12:47 of the game is how you lose handily. Buffalo snapped out of it occasionally, but never for any amount of sustained time. During TV timeout after Carolina made it 3-0, you could see Don Granato bring the team together at the bench and do his part to snap them out of it, and it worked right away because Tuch scored with a laser beam shot past Antti Raanta that made it 3-1, but they weren’t able to sustain the momentum and the Hurricanes were able to re-establish their full-ice pressure.
This was a game you wanted to be able to take a lot of observations away from it. It’s a not-so regular game against an elite team that very well could be one they face in the opening round of the postseason should they get there. Instead, it’s the final game before the All-Star break after both teams had brutal schedules. On top of that, Buffalo has a few guys that took maintenance days (cheap pop) in which one of them, Tage Thompson, had an upper-body injury occur late in the second period that kept him out of the third. Fortunately, he’ll have more than a week to recover, but it would seem unlikely as of right now at 11:33 p.m. after the game that he’ll wind up going to the All-Star Game.
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