Final Score: Arizona: 3, Buffalo: 2
Shots: ARI-44, BUF-26
Buffalo Goalscorers: Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner
San Jose Goalscorers: Conor Garland, Carl Soderberg
Minus-1: Losing the magic?
Buffalo has hung its golden cap on scoring first. With a record of 8-1-0 coming into the matchup, that 2-0 lead looked pretty good from a probability perspective. Unfortunately, the team allowed two unanswered goals on an almost 2-to-1 shot advantage throughout the game and were never able to recapture the dominance of the first 11 minutes. Sure, the two goals were flukey, but when a team unleashes 44 shots in a night, some of them are bound to go in.
The Sabres have fallen to just outside of the bottom third of the league on the penalty kill with 79.5 percent. Part of their success in the earlygoing was their ability to handle these shorthanded situations and use the kill to turn momentum. Unfortunately, the team let one in on the kill tonight, which turned out to be the difference in the game.
Plus-1: Jack Eichel
I’m just going to keep putting Jack on the recap as a positive until he gives me a reason not to. The birthday boy himself opened up the scoring in usual Eichel fashion, three seconds into the first power play and 3:30 into the game. It was a heck of a snipe inside the near post, and put the team in a position where they win literally eight times out of ten this year.
Plus-1: Starter Hutton
How he doesn’t make it into the three stars of the night is beyond me. A .955 save percentage? Come on, give the man his due! He’s top ten in both save percentage and goals against, and we’ve seen how he has the ability to outperform himself and carry the team through less-than-stellar play. He did it again tonight, keeping his club in it through 65 minutes. The Sabres need to take advantage of these nights because at some point, Hutton will regress to the mean.
Even: Besmirching the golden record
This is the Sabres’ first loss at home in their golden season, tarnishing an admirable streak for the club. It was a tough one to lose, for all of the reasons listed above - a two goal lead, Eichel staying hot, Hutton playing out of his mind - but it wasn’t meant to be. In the end, the team couldn’t reproduce the start that had the building at a near riotous level in the first half of the first frame.
Arizona is a fun team, for the same reason that the Sabres are a fun team. For several seasons, it was difficult to see the forest through the trees...er...the..cacti through the desert? in Arizona, but the Coyotes have finally assembled a squad that is succeeding after several tank years. Sound familiar? Sure it does. Oddly enough, the Oilers have caught flame in the early moments of the 2019-20 season. The three clubs that were most serious in the hunt for McDavid, finally finding their footing...interesting how that has worked out so far...