Hall – Cozens – Reinhart
Olofsson – Staal – Thompson
Skinner – Lazar – Mittelstadt
Asplund – Sheahan – Rieder
Bryson – Ristolainen
Dahlin – Miller
Jokiharju – Montour
New York Rangers
Kreider – Zibanejad – Buchnevich
Panarin – Blackwell – Strome
Lafreniere – Chytil – Kakko
Lemieux – Rooney – Howden
Lindgren – Fox
Miller – Trouba
Hajek – Smith
Tale of the Tape
Record: Buffalo (6-19-4; 8th division/31st league) vs. NY Rangers (13-13-4; 6th division/23rd league)
5v5 Goals For %: Buffalo (33.6%; 31st) vs. NY Rangers (53.0%; 14th)
5v5 xGoals For %: Buffalo (45.6%; 27th) vs. NY Rangers (51.1%; 12th)
PP Goals For/60: Buffalo (8.93; 9th) vs. NY Rangers (5.53; 24th)
PK Goals Against/60: Buffalo (7.04; 13th) vs. NY Rangers (4.70; 3rd)
Point Leaders: Reinhart (19) vs. Buchnevich (28)
Another rebuild laps the Sabres
Remember when the Buffalo Sabres officially began their rebuild back in the 2013/14 season? Well, the Sabres would finish in last place that season while the Rangers made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. The following season, the Sabres would finish last place yet again while the Rangers went on to win the Presidents’ Trophy.
While the Sabres have been fumbling around in the bottom quartile of standings, the Rangers completed a partial teardown of their former Cup-contending squad, bottomed out in the standings and are already contending for a playoff spot. Sure, New York City and Madison Square Garden probably give the Rangers a leg up in attracting free agent talent, but it’s not like the Sabres just signed Taylor Hall or anything.
The Rangers have been a savvy drafting team for a while and the picks they acquired in their partial teardown have helped them increase the quantity of talent in their system. They managed to assemble a solid and youthful team while having a number of talented prospects still developing such as Nils Lundqvist and Vitali Kravstov.
The New York Rangers are what a well-run hockey team should look like. A solid scouting department, an innovative analytics group, a receptive coaching staff, and a front office filled with great hockey minds. So, it’s not surprising that the Rangers are pushing for a playoff spot while the Sabres are on track to finish in last place for the 4th time in 8 seasons.
It’s no secret that the Buffalo Sabres, who are currently riding a 13-game losing streak, have been playing some very bad hockey as of late. However, the goaltending (or lack thereof) has made this team appear to be much, much worse. How bad? The goaltending duo of Carter Hutton and Jonas Johansson managed to allow 39 goals on 28.7 expected goals at 5v5 since Linus Ullmark went down with an injury. That is about 10 more goals allowed than expected, so nearly 1 per game. Not great!
After Jonas Johansson was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche over the weekend, the Sabres will be rocking a goaltending duo of Carter Hutton and Dustin Tokarski. It’s probably worth noting that Tokarski has been solid in the AHL (.932 SV% in 2 GP for Rochester this season and .924 SV% in 18 GP for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season). It’s also worth noting that he has not started in an NHL game since the 2015/16 season. So it will be interesting to say the least.
I think it’s safe to say that the Sabres are mailing it on the goaltending side of things until Ullmark returns. Hutton rocking a horrendous stat line (1-10-1, 3.48 GAA, and .885 SV%); Tokarski has virtually no NHL minutes over the past few seasons; and the new taxi squad goalie, Michael Houser, rocked a .902 SV% in the ECHL last season. It’s looking like a 31st place finish is in sight.
Colin Blackwell, RW, NYR
This name may be a bit familiar to Sabres fans as Colin Blackwell was in the organization for the 2017-18 season. He never got to see any action with the big club outside of a few pre-season games, but was one of Rochester’s best players and posted 45 points in 61 games. He was a member of the Nashville Predators organization in 2018-19 and 2019-20 where he appeared in a total of 33 NHL games. Blackwell then went on to sign with the New York Rangers this past offseason.
Colin Blackwell turned out to be quite the under-the-radar pickup for the Rangers. He began the season as a 13th forward and is now seeing minutes on the opposite wing of Artemi Panari. Blackwell is currently producing at a 20-goal pace over a full 82 game season. Not bad for a player that only carries a $725,000 cap hit.
Chris Drury, Coach, NYR
Well, he may not be a hockey player anymore, but he used to be one. Chris Drury is currently the associate general manager for the Rangers, but was recently called behind the bench as an assistant after the team’s coaching staff entered league COVID-19 protocol. His presence will certainly cause Sabres fans to reminisce of the better days, for better or worse.
NY Rangers 5, Buffalo 2
It’s 66°F in the Western New York area today, enjoy the weather!