Season Finale in Columbus Tonight: Feeling Optimistic About the Future
Buffalo Sabres (41-33-7) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (25-47-9)
Puck Drop: 7:30 PM EST | Nationwide Arena | Columbus, OH
Radio: WGR 550
Know Your Opponent
Columbus Blue Jackets
Record: (25-47-9) | 59 PTS
Last Game: 3-2 OT Win vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Division Ranking: 8th in the Metropolitan Division
PP: 25th (18.4%)
PK: 25th (75%)
What to Watch
There is absolutely no denying that the Sabres are leaving the 2022-2023 season heading in the right direction as a franchise. We have some solid stars on the team who really showed up offensively this year as well as a promising goaltender in Devon Levi. The future finally looks the brightest it has in over a decade and fans should feel a mixture of optimism and encouragement. While the ending was not what everyone wanted, the focus after tonight will be on the offseason as Kevyn Adams will have to work some magic - perhaps mostly with defense - once again. What does sting, though, is how close the Sabres were to a playoff berth. If they win tonight, they will be just one point behind the Panthers, who clinched a post-season spot earlier this week after Buffalo fell to New Jersey, 6-2. There are many "what ifs" attached to this realization. What if the team did not totally choke in March? What if they won just one more game in regulation this season? What if the goaltending concern was addressed sooner? What if they cleaned up their home record? This list goes on and on, but hopefully, that list will be minimal next year and we can 'party in the plaza' once again.
2. Honorable Mentions
The obvious stars this season have undoubtedly been Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson, Alex Tuch, Jeff Skinner, and Dylan Cozens. And they will likely continue to shine tonight. Are there other players who have contributed and put in a ton of effort? Of course. Even Casey Mittelstadt, who has, historically, not been a fan favorite, really stepped it up on the ice during the last two months of the season. He is definitely the honorable mention here as he currently finds himself on a five-game point streak. If he tallies a point against Columbus tonight, he will set a new career-high in points in consecutive games. The momentum is there, especially after his game-winning overtime goal last night, so it will be interesting to see what he brings to the ice tonight.
Other honorable mentions - who have done very well in their rookie seasons - are Owen Power and Jack Quinn. Power is second in the league among all players with even-strength ice time and Quinn has found his stride both on and off the "kid" line this year.
3. Get the Win
It was certainly fun to watch the Sabres win at home one last time in the goathead jerseys last night (Will it be the official alternate jersey next year? Fingers crossed!). Craig Anderson was appropriately honored in his final NHL game - and 319th win - after an impressive career as well as Alex Tuch, who received the Rick Martin Memorial Award for the notable relationship he has fostered with the city of Buffalo this season. These are certainly the right attitudes you want representing your team and it will be exciting to see what Tuch and the rest of his remaining teammates do in the 2023-2024 season.
Get that last win tonight to end on another high note, would ya?
Jeff Skinner – Casey Mittelstadt – Alex Tuch
Jordan Greenway – Tage Thompson* - Dylan Cozens
JJ Peterka – Peyton Krebs – Jack Quinn
Victor Olofsson - Zemgus Girgensons – Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin - Henri Jokiharju
Owen Power – Ilya Lyubushkin
Riley Stillman – Jacob Bryson
Goaltenders: Devon Levi, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Eric Comrie
Injuries: Mattias Samuelsson (undisclosed), Tage Thompson (undisclosed)
*Lines are subject to change as Thompson will be out tonight. Lukas Rousek was called up from Rochester yesterday to fill the roster spot.
Columbus Blue Jackets*
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Kuraly - Kirill Marchenko
Kent Johnson - Jack Roslovic - Emil Bemstrom
Liam Foudy - Joona Luoto - Hunter McKown
Tyler Angle - Mikael Pyythia
Gavin Bayreuther - Andrew Peeke
Tim Berni - Adam Boqvist
Stanislav Svozil - Billy Sweezey
Goaltenders: Michael Hutchinson, Jon Gillies
*Due to many injuries on the team, Columbus has been skating 11 forwards and seven defensemen and this is all subject to change.