Everyone loves a pilot, so let’s consider this the pilot of a new (hopefully) regular post-game column. The Sabres and Golden Knights played yesterday with the Sabres prevailing. Here’s what I liked, what could be improved, and what didn’t look hot at all.
Eichel’s 2-goal day
It was another great showing for the Sabres newly minted Captain. After recording one goal in the first two games of the season, an empty netter versus the Rangers, Eichel flaunted his $80 million set of skills against Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights. The first came on the powerplay in the first period with assists from Kyle Okposo and Rasmus Ristolainen. This was just the kind of goal you want to see Jack score on a regular basis, a nice one-time quick release from his office.
Eichel’s 2nd goal came in the following period, roofing a one-on-one shot against Fleury.
Jack was able to make the Vegas defense’s life miserable all game. He very nearly completed the hat-trick later in the period with a nice move around a Vegas defender.
Jack Eichel has looked elite the past two games. He had a rough go at it against the Bruins but recovered with strong games against New York and Vegas. It is a promising sign when he is able to bury two chances like the ones seen above after having not had many chances at breakaways and being on one of the league’s worst powerplays last season.
Carter Hutton Plays Phenomenal Again
Common sense will tell you that teams cannot win games when they are out shot 2:1. Carter Hutton is not a fan of common sense.
The new Sabres goaltender has shown the fans little to doubt when discussing who the true starting netminder is. Hutton was the best part of the opener, stood on his head against the Rangers, and made 35 saves against the defending Western Conference champions.
Had it not been for an embarrassing opening night from the team in front of him then Hutton would be in the conversation for a Three Stars of the Week nomination. Through three games he has a .943 save percentage and a 2-1 record. I’d imagine he’s likely to sit against Colorado on Thursday, but if Linus Ullmark can have a great game there will still be very little argument for a competition.
The Sabres Get Above .500 For First Time Since 2013
Gone are the days of a 2-1-2 record being considered above .500. The Buffalo Sabres truly passed the average mark with their 4-2 win over Vegas.
The last time the Buffalo Sabres had a true winning record was the 2012-13 season. That season was shortened by a labor stoppage of course, meaning the last full season where the Sabres had more wins than losses at any point was 2011-12. The Buffalo Sabres went 5 “real” seasons without ever having a winning record, until October 8th’s victory over the Golden Knights.
Bonus: The Buffalo Sabres Hold A Playoff Spot For First Time Since 12-13
It isn’t much, but the Buffalo Sabres sit in the 2nd seed in the Atlantic Division at the time of this writing. Its only three games of course, but progress is progress, and even if it ends up being for a short amount of time it sure is nice to see the Sabres amongst the East’s top eight.
As for who the Sabres opponent would be if the playoffs started today? None other than the Toronto Maple Leafs with the Sabres playing host. Its fun imagine.
The Golden Knights Dominate The Stat Sheet
Stats do not tell the entire story of a hockey game. But you cannot look at the shot totals and be impressed with the Sabres’ numbers at all.
Buffalo was out shot 37-17. Though the story can be told that the Sabres buried their chances when they got them, that is not going to realistically happen in every game. Buffalo has over come one dark cloud that has followed them from year-to-year already this season, however the next one to get rid of must be being consistently out shot.
Faceoffs also leaned heavily in Vegas’ favor, with the Golden Knights winning 65% of the draws. The Sabres lost the battle of physicality as well, with Vegas getting 29 hits to Buffalo’s 17. In the end of course, a wins a wins a win.
The Sabres Once More Take Their Foot Off The Gas When In Control
This one is frustrating. Too many times in recent years we’ve seen this, notably the two 3-goal leads on Pittsburgh where the Sabres blew it in the end. The Sabres are already guilty of this twice this season, once against the Rangers and again yesterday against Vegas.
Luckily for Buffalo it didn’t get out of control. And yes, it is lucky, because the Sabres did very little to bury the Golden Knights deeper than they already were. Buffalo gathered a pathetic 2 shots on goal in the 3rd period. Vegas dominated zone time, allowing the Sabres only seven shooting attempts. One of those attempts was a Jack Eichel bomb from his own zone on an empty net with 3 seconds left.
This must change. Nothing is more frustrating than watching a team play so well in the first 40 minutes and then narrowly survive a game of Russian Roulette with their own foot. Somebody needs to wake this team up before they make this same mistake against the Toronto’s and Winnipeg’s of the NHL.
Thank you for reading this first edition of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. I intend to have more up the day after every game this season with time permitting. Until then you can tell me what you think on Twitter @LvkeTCB or tweet @TheChargingBUF with questions, opinions or suggestions.