Buffalo Sabres Win Against Tampa Bay Lightning Despite Struggles

Kim Klement – US PRESSWIRE

The Buffalo Sabres started their road trip on the right foot last night, beating the sluggish Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum last night.

But don’t let the win fool you – the Sabres did not look good.

The first period was one of the worst periods of hockey the team has played this year, and that’s saying something. Neutral zone turnovers. Blown defensive zone coverages. Offensive zone penalties. All of these dogged the Sabres in the first 20 minutes, and did not improve much in the following period.

The Sabres looked like an NHL team for the better part of the third period, pushing the tempo and playing solid defense, but no one should be breathing a sigh of relief. If this team plays the way it did last night in the first 40 minutes, they will struggle to win against any team that is even somewhat interested in being there.

The bright spot of last night was the penalty kill, especially the minute-plus 5-on-3 the Sabres had to kill off in the second period. The team played their lanes extremely well, and did not allow the Lightning very many shots, with the Bolt only registering nine shots on their five extra-man opportunities.

What it comes down to is this: The Sabres did not win by fixing any of their issues that have dropped them to last in the Eastern Conference – they won despite of them on Tuesday.

So this is where the debate starts. Should Darcy Regier be active and try to bring in pieces that will push this team in the right direction – another top-six scorer and a puck-moving defenseman, to name a couple – or should he be more of a seller and load up on draft picks and young talent to push this team forward for the future?

Howevr, if the current trend continues, it may not be Regier’s future to mold, and that may play into Terry Pegula and Ted Black‘s willingness for him to build or dismantle their team as the trade deadline nears.

Regardless of that decision, the hard truth remains: The Sabres need help.

We’ll see tomorrow night whether or not this win, despite it being objectively ugly, can be a springboard for the team. It has been pointed out a few times, but as of today the Sabres are only four points behind the Lightning for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East (but nine behind the seventh place Toronto Maple Leafs).

It stands to reason the Sabres can make up four points against a team like the Lightning, but the New York Rangers are also on the outside looking in right now, as are the Philadelphia Flyers, two teams that you cannot count out right now given their talent.

Needless to say, the Sabres need to shore up their faults, and fast. The halfway point of the season is already upon us and there is not as much time to go on a run as there was last year.

Where will the Sabres end up? If they keep playing two-thirds of their games like they did last night, it won’t be in the playoffs.

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season: @SwordPlay18.

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