The Buffalo Sabres got three things last night that they desperately needed - Jack Eichel returned to the ice, they exploded for five goals, and most importantly, they got a much-needed win over the Ottawa Senators.
Eichel’s debut was everything Sabres fans wanted and more. Six minutes into the game, the Sabres went on the power play, and it only took seven seconds for Eichel to remind everyone what a special player he is. A sharp, cross-ice pass gave Kyle Okposo a free path to the net, and he would bank it off of a skate to put the Sabres up 1-0.
As if that sweet assist wasn’t good enough, the Sabres would get another power play about three minutes later, and Eichel would blast a Ryan O’Reilly pass from the off-wing past Craig Anderson, who gave a fantastic “Huh?” reaction after Eichel’s laser found its way under his arm and into the net.
Unfortunately, the first period wasn’t all good, as Robin Lehner would leave late thanks to tightness in his hip. Lehner would return to the bench later in the game and coach Dan Bylsma said that he would be day-to-day.
The Senators would mount a strong comeback on the shoulders of Mike Hoffman, who scored his first NHL hat trick, but the Sabres would hold strong thanks to a goal from Sam Reinhart and two from Ryan O’Reilly.
Many key Sabres had multi-point nights tonight, including O’Reilly, Reinhart, Eichel, Ristolainen, and Okposo. Five goals will do that, and the scoring combined with Eichel’s return made this the most enjoyable Sabres game to watch all year.
1. How does Eichel look in his return?
In the first ten minutes, Eichel had a beautiful cross-ice assist and a gorgeous one-timer for his first two points of the season. As awesome as that was, it was equally exciting to remember how good he is at the little things - shielding the puck down low, stick handling in tight spaces, making hard passes look easy, and pressuring defenders with his gigantic stick.
This team desperately missed Eichel, and he reminded everyone why he’s so special in his debut tonight.
2. How will Eichel’s return affect the other reshuffled lines?
Eichel’s return certainly gave the Sabres a top power play unit that I’d put up against any team in the league - Eichel, O’Reilly, Okposo, Reinhart, and Ristolainen. That unit generated two goals in its first two chances, and scored a third later in the game.
3. Will either team take a two-goal lead?
The Sabres did, going up 3-1 in the first, and two of the lowest-scoring teams in hockey played a barn burner after that.
Comment of the Game
The bad news: Eichel down to a 122 point pace.
The good news: Sabres on pace for 141 points if Jack stays in lineup the rest of the season.
Posted by PopeInTheWoods