Score: Buffalo: 4, Columbus: 3
Shots: CBJ-31, BUF-27
Buffalo Goalscorers: Jack Eichel, Victor Olofsson(2), Evan Rodrigues
Columbus Goalscorers: Nathan Gerbe, Boone Jenner, Markus Nutivaara
Plus-1: Special teams
How much had the Sabres’ power play missed Victor Olofsson? They’ve been just terrible for the last few weeks, and in just one game back, they went one-for-one, with Eichel hitting Olofsson right in his sweet spot. On the other side, the penalty kill has been...well...killing it lately. It was a game in which the officials didn’t make many calls, but Buffalo killed off the only call against them, successfully eliminating 12 of the last 14 penalties. The team almost had to be better - even with this streak, they are in the bottom three on the PK, despite allowing the sixth-fewest shorthanded minutes per game.
Minus-1: Falling behind
For the third game in a row, Buffalo gave up the first goal. For a team that ultimately struggles to score, it’s a bold strategy. Six times in the last 10 games, Buffalo has allowed the opponent to open the scoring. Prior to tonight, they’d won four games in that time. Those four aren’t necessarily the games they scored first, but...the point is made. Playing from behind is something this team can rarely afford to do.
Plus-1: Jack Eichel
Put the man in the plaza. Three points for Jack. He’s seventh in the league for goals - everyone above him is on a playoff team. He’s tied for seventh in points. Only Artemi Panarin’s Rangers are sitting on the outside looking in. Every time his team is getting run out of the building, he steps up and changes the game completely. How many more comebacks does this kid have in him? When will the Sabres ice a squad that can keep up with him?
Plus-1: Young guns
Eichel, Olofsson, Rasmus Dahlin - all under 25. There is a lot of hockey left in these players, and if this season is any indication, there is a lot of GOOD hockey left in these players. In 25 years, they’ll be on the ice for Buffalo’s 75th anniversary celebration, and we’ll look back at this era with a little less vitriol than we’re carrying with us now. Even when the team was utterly frustrating and barely worth watching, these young stars did their damndest to make it at least sort of interesting.
Even: Carter Hutton
Since the 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, which saw Hutton allow five goals on 13 shots, the stalwart backup has been playing fairly well. Still, how many times can he give up a goal in the final minutes of a period? Or of a game? It’s difficult; you want to be able to trust your goaltender, but with a minute and a half left and a lead, the game is far from guaranteed. A win is a win, but giving a conference opponent a point like that is frustrating.
Victor Olofsson is good at hockey. Jack Eichel is good at hockey. Rasmus Dahlin? Good at hockey. As you close your eyes tonight and drift off into dreamland, send a little prayer to whatever deity you believe in and ask that they don’t demand a trade while the rest of the organization gets on their level.