All season long, the Buffalo Sabres have shown flashes of greatness while being held back by inconsistency. Almost every game it seems like they've done some things well, but just haven't quite been able to put it all together into a strong 60-minute performance.
Last night at the First Niagara Center, Sabres fans were treated to what might have been the team's best, most consistent performance of the year. Their stars showed up, role players pitched in, the defense was solid, and Linus Ullmark earned his first NHL win making 27 saves in a 3-1 Sabres victory.
The Sabres were undoubtedly helped by their special teams units, especially their struggling PK unit shutting the Flyers down on each of their four chances. Philly took six penalties and the Sabres capitalized in the second period on Ryan O'Reilly's fourth goal of the season, a perfectly placed snap shot over the goalie's shoulder. O'Reilly also had the primary assist on the other two Sabres goals, and now has 13 points in 11 games. Oh, and he led all Sabres players (including defensemen) with a whopping 26:03 of ice time last night. And won 56% of his faceoffs, while leading Sabres forwards in both power play and penalty kill minutes. Dude has been a monster over the past few games, and he was the engine that drove the Sabres dominance tonight.
O'Reilly wasn't the only Sabre to put in a strong performance however. Jack Eichel seems to be making highlight reel goals look routine, as he dispy-doodled through the Philly defense and snapped a quick wrister past Michal Neuvirth to open the scoring at the end of the first period, his fourth of the year. Even O'Reilly was impressed, saying, "He dangled me there too. It was a great play."
Nicolas Deslauriers would add the final goal, his third of the season, and the Sabres would go on to claim as commanding a 3-1 win as we've seen 'round these parts in years.
1. Can the Sabres continue their Corsi dominance?
Yes, in fact, they can. The Sabres outshot the Flyers 36-28 and out-Corsi'd them 59-58. While the numbers weren't as impressive as in Pittsburgh, the Sabres controlled the game throughout.
2. How will Linus Ullmark look in his second start?
Ullmark looked solid tonight. He made a few very nice saves while looking a bit more relaxed in net. He still needs to work on rebound control as so many young goalies do, but congrats to him on his first NHL win.
Comment of the Game
After the last two years
Watching O’Reilly and Eichel on my team is like …
Having chocolate and peanut butter at the same time after living on gruel.