Score: Sabres 3 | Capitals 4
Shots: BUF 33 | WAS 33
Sabres Goals: Henri Jokiharju (3), Casey Mittelstadt (5), Tage Thompson (4)
Capitals Goals: Brendan Dillon (2), Alex Ovechkin (21), Justin Schultz (3), Jakub Vrana (11)
Observation 1 | The Kids are Alright
Though it was ultimately a losing effort, the Buffalo Sabres’ youngsters but on quite a show. Up front, the line of Casey Mittelstadt, Rasmus Asplund, and Tage Thompson were outstanding. They led all forward lines with an expected-goal rate of over 72-percent at five-on-five. The Washington Capitals defensive corps had very few answers for their aggressive forechecking approach.
Defensively, the pairing of Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju continued to shine as well. They too led their blue-and-gold defensive contemporaries is xG rate in this one. Since Ralph Krueger’s ousting, these two previously struggling players have looked markedly better in Don Granato’s system which allows for them to be creative with the puck.
Observation 2 | Tokarski’s Struggles Continue
After another regulation loss, Dustin Tokarski’s NHL record has dropped to 0-4-0 on the year. After stopping 29 of the 33 shots he faced tonight, his save percentage dropped down to an even .900 since his call up to the big club.
None of this is surprising. Before the Sabres lost Carter Hutton, Tokarski’s last NHL game came in 2016. Still, with slightly better play in net, the Sabres probably would have walked away with this one.
Observation 3 | Power-Play Struggles Continue
Ever since Jack Eichel has been out of the lineup, the Sabres power-play has torpedoed. Tonight, they went 0-for-3 with the man-advantage.
It’s worth mentioning that Taylor Hall was held out of the lineup again tonight (with a trade deadline deal seemingly imminent). Without him, the Sabres were really working with a patchwork power-play group, but they struggled before that.
For a team that has posted excellent penalty differentials all season, this level of continued special teams futility is really disappointing.
The Sabres’ will begin a three-game road trip this Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers. Puck drop is set for 2:00PM.