In a game where they just couldn’t get enough distance between themselves and their opponent on the score sheet, the Buffalo Sabres emerged victorious, defeating the Montreal Canadiens in overtime, 5-4. Thanks in significant part to their highly-effective power-play unit, the team was able to overcome some lackluster play in front of Carter Hutton, particularly in the third period.
Plus-1: The Man-Advantage
Entering tonight’s contest, the Sabres held the highest power-play conversion percentage in the NHL. Their success with the man-advantage continued tonight as they went 2-for-5 with goals by Victor Olofsson and Jack Eichel.
In the OT period, they nearly registered a third PPG, but the penalty to Phillip Danault expired just as Marcus Johansson tallied the game-winning goal.
Plus-2: Eichel’s Big Night
When they needed him most, the young captain certainly came through for the Sabres tonight, registering four points (two goals, two assists). In the second period he scored both of the Sabres’ goals roughly 10-minutes apart.
On his second tally of the night, he went coast-to-coast, shooting the puck past three Canadiens defenders with a beautiful wrister that beat Keith Kinkaid (who had a really rough performance). Eichel’s big statistical outing brought his overall numbers to seven points in the Sabres’ first four games.
Plus-3: Skinner-Johansson Synergy
Despite lugging a virtual offensive void on the right side of their line, Johansson and Jeff Skinner have developed a really nice semblance of chemistry in the early-going. On the Sabres’ fourth goal of the evening, Johansson sent a perfect pass through two Montreal defensemen, finding Skinner who capitalized on short breakaway change out front.
Prior to the start of the season, there were questions as to whether or not Johansson could handle the responsibility of being the team’s second-line center. He hadn’t served consistently in that role since the 2012-13 season, but early on in the 2019-20 campaign, he seems to be an excellent fit help set-up the team’s top goal-scorer from last season in Skinner.
Minus-1: Play in the defensive zone
While the Sabres did ultimately secure two points in this one, they nearly let a stellar effort through the first 40-minutes slip through their fingers. In the third period specifically, the team collapsed in their own end, allowing the Canadiens several opportunities at in high-danger areas.
Moving forward, they’ll need to clean things up in that regard. Hutton did a decent job of mitigating damage given the circumstances, but Montreal could have easily sealed this one without OT had he not been on his game.
Aside from the defensive zone gaffes, the only thing that really needs to be addressed (as alluded to above) is Vladimir Sobotka’s presence on the second line. Skinner and Johansson have been effective so far despite Sobotka’s consistently lackluster performance.
He had a prime opportunity to seal the game late in the third when Johansson sent him a gorgeous pass out front, which he proceeded to listlessly swipe into Kinkaid’s pads for an easy save. If Ralph Krueger wants to get the most out of his second line, he should seriously consider replacing Sobotka immediately.
Besides those minor tweaks, it’s tough to be anything but thrilled with the Sabres’ effort, improving their record to 3-0-1 on the young season.
The Sabres next game is this Friday against the Florida Panthers at Key Bank Center. Puck drop is at 7:00PM.