Without Jack Eichel, the Buffalo Sabres were 7-9-5. With Eichel, Buffalo is 2-0.
Without Jack Eichel, the Sabres averaged 0.7 goals per game (exaggeration). With Eichel, Buffalo is averaging 4.5 goals a game.
Without Jack Eichel, Buffalo would not have won their home game against the New York Rangers tonight.
Funny enough, one player IS making the difference for the team. His presence and talents are pushing the other players on the roster to be better. His return is electrifying a Buffalo fan base that has had to deal with the typical Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres sports mediocrity thus far this season.
18 seconds into the game, Rangers future Hall of Fame goalie Henrik Lundqvist made a rare play (for him) for the blooper reels when he allowed a Jake McCabe dump-in attempt, which glanced off the foot/stick of Johan Larsson near the blue line, to somehow flub past him for a quick 1-0 Sabres lead.
Ryan McDonagh knotted the score with a power-play goal for New York later in the period. Shots, puck possession, and face-offs were nearly equal for the teams entering the second period.
In the second stanza, Buffalo came at the Rangers from the opening face-off with a fantastically furious flurry for the initial 45 seconds. Somehow, they didn't score. The trend continued for a few more series, until Rick Nash netted the second power-play goal of the game, for a 2-1 New York lead. It was the 11th goal of the season for Nash. Former Sabres property Jimmy Vesey earned an assist on the goal. Sabres fans booed Vesey anytime he touched the puck.
Just 90 seconds later, another Sabres bum-rush on the Rangers was rewarded, when a high-flying Marcus Foligno wheeled behind the net and found Brian Gionta with a quick pass to tie the game. It was the 100th assist in Foligno's career. The see-saw continued just two minutes later when Mark Staal beat Anders Nilsson to regain the Rangers lead.
The third period brought the Jack Eichel entertainment hub with it. 12 minutes into the frame, Adam Clendening was hitting, hugging, clutching and mugging Eichel until he was finally called for holding. Sweet redemption swiftly followed merely seconds later, when Eichel electrified the Buffalo crowd with a highlight-reel shot to beat Lundqvist. 103 seconds later, Eichel was again attacking in the Rangers zone, when an intended pass bounced off the skate of Mats Zuccarello for a 4-3 Buffalo lead, and ensuing victory. He narrowly missed a hat-trick late in the game, shooting at a New York empty net.
The Eich-hype is real, folks. He is a game-changer, and a difference-maker. Finally, area fans have something to be excited about. Buffalo is now 4-1-1 in their last six games, and 3-0-1 in their last four on home ice. Jack's return comes at a perfect time, when the Sabres look like they might be changing the direction of their season. They next face the Boston Bruins on Saturday in a home matinee game.