After six years of being below-average, the Sabres have now been above .500 twice this season after their 3-0 win in Arizona Saturday evening. Eventually the honeymoon period will wear off and you won’t have to listen to that stat anymore so don’t worry.
Lets of course begin with what was Good about the Buffalo Sabres 3rd victory of the season.
Goal No. 1 For The Generational Swede
Först. That’s what Google translate says is the word for First in Swedish, as in First goal in the National Hockey League.
It probably wasn’t how most of us imagined it happening, but Rasmus Dahlin scored for the first time on Saturday to put the Sabres on top 1-0 in the 1st period. Does that technically count as the Game Winning Goal if the Coyotes didn’t score?
There’s no words to describe how much better Dahlin looks game over game. He and Rasmus Ristolainen were the best defenders on the ice for the Sabres all night. Dahlin demonstrated his elite level instincts and IQ throughout the course of the game. He makes plays like a ten-year veteran, getting physical and taking risks like driving the net.
When was the last time we saw a Sabres D-man really drive to the goal and finish a play other than in a preseason game? The only two instances that come to mind were both from Jake McCabe, one in OT of the Hockeyville game against the Hurricanes last year and again from McCabe in this year’s preseason. Dahlin is changing that, and in time it will reflect on his teammates.
This goal would not have happened without the play made by Jeff Skinner. The Sabres new forward had a great night on offense and left his first mark on the game with this nifty play.
The Skin Man Cometh
It may have taken longer than he wanted but Jeff Skinner finally scored his first goal as a Buffalo Sabre in the 3rd period of Saturday’s game.
At first glance you got to wonder how in the world this play wasn’t offsides. The fact this was a clean goal speaks to how impressive of a pass Ristolainen made for the breakaway. Good eye by the official as well to see when the puck entered the zone in mid-air.
This is the most important goal the Sabres have scored all season. The pressure on Skinner was mounting as he was scoreless through four games. Skinner played his best hockey of the season and is the newest of the recent acquisitions to get on the score sheet.
One goal can go miles for a player’s confidence. Now that Skinner has found his groove the focus must shift to getting Kyle Okposo, Casey Mittelstadt and Sam Reinhart in the goal column. Once these guys get that first thrill of the season there is a real potential for Buffalo’s offense to take off.
Ullmark Shuts It Down
You can pinch yourself but you’ll only be left with a mark on your arm. The Buffalo Sabres have good goaltending. You aren’t dreaming.
Of course its only five games but the Sabres haven’t gotten this level of play from their goalies through a five game stretch since the days of Miller and Biron. Linus Ullmark picked up where Carter Hutton left off Saturday and recorded the first shutout of his NHL career.
Ullmark didn’t have to make many tough saves, and sure, the Coyotes have only scores two goals through five games. But 36 saves is a lot without allowing a goal in the NHL. Ullmark didn’t always have help either. One particular defensive breakdown came in the 2nd period when Richard Panik dragged a prone Ullmark out of the net before missing a centering pass for a sure goal.
Ullmark built off the promise he showed last year against the Blue Jackets. Exciting things are awaiting this Sabres goaltending tandem.
Buffalo Gets Heavily Outshot Once More
Once in a blue moon a game will come around where the Sabres get more shots than that night’s opponent. That moon was not to be seen in the desert.
Arizona recorded 36 shots to Buffalo’s 23. What matters most of course is that the Sabres won the game, but more shots equals more chances and that certainly would not hurt this team.
Buffalo has been efficient with the chances they have gotten in these first five games but as I said in this column after the Vegas game, it just is not sustainable.
One silver lining that can be found here is that Arizona is 5th in the NHL in shots per game with 36.5. It is understandable to allow that many shots to a team that averages that much. How ever on the flip side of the coin, Buffalo sits at 26th in the league with 26.4 shots per game. Where’s the silver lining in that?
Woe Is The 3rd Period
Welp folks, they did it again. The Sabres were in the drivers seat but had the engine off and were missing their gas pedal.
I really hope I don’t have to keep writing about this in these columns much longer. The Buffalo Sabres are one of the most boring and lethargic 3rd period teams around. When this team has the lead you can really tell because they bring practically nothing to the table.
The Sabres have now been outshot 56 to 40 by the opposition in the 3rd period this season. This problem has persisted. When will we see signs that it is changing?
It is hard to be upset with this start to the season. Buffalo had another good showing on Saturday. The wins and goals are clearly coming easier to this team than last season. If the Sabres are able to defeat the Golden Knights on Tuesday there will be a whole lot more to be excited about.