The young and surprising Buffalo Sabres have taken their fair share of lumps in the month of December. After an incredible run in November, the team has battled injuries, mediocre special teams, and a woeful representation of depth scoring to struggle to stay afloat in the Atlantic Division. Of these, it is perhaps depth scoring that has bitten the team the hardest; Buffalo’s first line has accounted for 44 percent of the Sabres’ total goals and 41 percent of overall points. It’s great to see the line burning white-hot, the team has lost a lot of close games in which a goal from the bottom six could have certainly changed the outcome.
The team took the ice at the hallowed KeyBank Center less than 24 hours after a tough loss to the Washington Capitals in which goaltender Braden Holtby was unquestionably the difference. The team finally got a depth tally, but outshooting the Caps wasn’t enough to escape with a win. The Anaheim Ducks had beaten Buffalo to its own city by 48 hours, and had the benefit of two skates in the Queen City leading up to the game.
It was Buffalo that came out looking rested, though - the Sabres really took it to the Ducks early on. Anaheim struggled to keep up with Buffalo’s pace, and it led to two power plays for Buffalo. Both were lazy plays on defenders playing the puck and the Sabres were able to capitalize on the second. An extended series of passes, highlighted by great patience from the puck carriers led to the first Sabres goal of the evening. Rasmus Dahlin scored his fourth of the year, beating John Gibson on the short side, who was peering beyond a Sam Reinhart screen. It was a picture-perfect power play - something that Buffalo has been sorely lacking.
That power play puck movement pic.twitter.com/tppwAOkdZm— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) December 23, 2018
Anaheim insisted on playing a physical game against the Sabres, but the strategy never really paid off. The youthful squad would not be intimidated by the Ducks’ poor attempts at brutality; the only difference it made in the game was a series of penalties for the team.
The Sabres again outplayed Anaheim throughout the second, ending the period up 30-25 in shots, though failing to connect on another pair of power plays. Buffalo did not take its first penalty until the horn sounded to end the second period. More futile shouting from the Ducks gave Anaheim a short bench for the third period as Jake Dotchin took a 10-minute misconduct, followed by a match penalty. The punishment did not include a matching minor, but it mattered little as Buffalo whittled away at the Ducks.
By the six-minute mark of the third, Buffalo had killed two penalties and failed to put a shot on Gibson until the 9:55 mark. It seemed that the schedule began to catch up on the Sabres, but the team was not done scoring, and Jeff Skinner potted goal 26 of the year on the team’s second shot of the period with 8:48 remaining.
Buffalo gave up another power play to the Ducks, but the penalty kill ran red hot, shutting down the Anaheim power play as they began to pour it on in desperation with the clock running down. As the final Sabres penalty expired, the Ducks pulled Gibson for the extra attacker. With less than two minutes left on the clock, Conor Sheary buried his seventh of the season into the empty net, securing the win for the Sabres.
Sure, Skinner scored, but getting a goal from the defense and one from someone not named Eichel, Skinner, or Reinhart definitely made a difference. The Sabres scored on the power play - another weakness that December identified for the team. Ultimately, Buffalo took an important win, the team scored three goals, and Linus Ullmark scored his first shutout of the year. It is certainly good to see the team head to the holiday break on a high note.
Die by the Blade would like to extend our sincerest hopes for the best to Rick Jeanneret and his family.
Final: Sabres 3, Ducks 0
Shots on goal Ducks 40 | Sabres 33
Sabres Goals: Rasmus Dahlin (1), Jeff Skinner (1), Conor Sheary (1)
Capitals Goals: None
Three stars of the game
- Linus Ullmark (40 saves, shutout)
- Rasmus Dahlin (GWG)
- Jack Eichel (2 assists, 4 shots on goal)