Score: Buffalo: 3, Florida: 2
Shots: FLA-34, BUF-18
Buffalo Goalscorers: Henri Jokiharju, Conor Sheary, Sam Reinhart
Tampa Goalscorers: Mike Matheson, Evgenii Dadonov
Depth forwards continue to heed the call of their coach with goals in four consecutive games. It seems like a paltry offering, but we all know how difficult it’s been to get any sort of a streak going for anyone not named Jack Eichel, so we will take the positive and run. Marcus Johonsson now has points in each of those last four games.
Minus-1: Playing with the lead
Legendary broadcaster Jim Lorentz pointed out how difficult it has been for the Sabres to play with the lead. The team demonstrated this again this afternoon, building a 3-0 lead, and allowing Florida to get back into it in the third. The final shot tally was 34-18, to Florida’s advantage. It really is important for Buffalo to keep the foot on the pedal because teams that are better than the Panthers will take advantage of a team that is laying back and make them pay, exactly as Tampa did, and as Florida nearly did.
Plus-1: Special teams
FINALLY! Buffalo manages to kill each penalty committed, and adds one on the power play - literally the difference in the game. The first goal came after a good kill, in which the Sabres garnered possession as the penalty expired, gained the zone, and kept possession until the goal. It was a great start to the game, and though it seemed the Sabres would penalize themselves into a hole, they got control, finished clean, and didn’t let their special teams hurt them.
Plus-1: Defensive offense
With an all-strengths points per 60 near 2.0, Rasmus Dahlin has been a consistent contributor through the season, even if he had a bumpy start to the year. Since returning from injury, Dahlin has been better in his zone, as well. Jokiharju has also been a steady contributor, and Chicago staff member Derek Plante confessed that he wished the young defender was back in the Blackhawks organization and playing as well as he is now. This supplemental scoring from the back end is something that Buffalo will benefit from greatly if it can continue.
Linus Ullmark has placed himself in a position to be the starting goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres for the foreseeable future. There is little question that he’s outplayed Carter Hutton so far this season, but that’s not to say he hasn’t had his issues. His even strength save percentage is below .900. His save percentage on the penalty kill is slightly better than .830. These stats need to improve if he’s going to be seriously considered the Sabres’ goalie of the future. He played well this afternoon, though; he was the busier netminder of the three, facing nearly double the shots of both Panthers’ goalies combined, and dropped a .941 save percentage on the evening. The final Florida goal was not necessarily his fault, but sometimes it feels like you want the goalie to make that save and keep the team confident through the waning moments instead of making these games a nailbiter.
A win is a win, and two points are two points - especially against a division opponent. It was a big win against a Florida team that held a four point lead in the standings coming into the night, with two games in hand. Now that margin is just two points, though Buffalo will have to get through the reigning champion St. Louis Blues in order to try to keep climbing, while Florida will next play the Pittsburgh Penguins.