The Buffalo Sabres return home this Wednesday night to face the Montreal Canadiens, after a five-game Western Conference road trip. Montreal is off to an impressive, yet surprising start to the season, having gone 5-1-2 in their first eight games, good enough for twelve points, and tops in the Atlantic Division. Much to the surprise of the entire league, the Habs haven’t been the pushover that many teams and fans thought. Buffalo, coming off back-to-back impressive outings versus the Kings and Ducks, respectively, will be looking to put together a nice little winning streak early on. Let’s take a deeper look:
The Montreal Canadiens come to Western New York looking to put a sixth W in the win column early on, a feat not many predicted to happen so quick. Montreal has coupled some good performances from their newly acquired talent in Tomas Tatar and Max Domi, with some stellar goaltending from Carey Price. It’s not like Montreal has been beating bottom of the barrel teams, they’ve had some eye opening victories against teams such as the Penguins, Flames, and Blues. Perhaps the most surprising stat line coming out of Montreal this season is the production of Jeff Petry on the blueline. The American-born rearguard is fresh off a career year last season, netting 42 points in 82 games, and has carried that momentum into this year, averaging a point a game pace so far. Montreal certainly hopes he can continue at this rate, especially with their top defenceman Shea Weber being injured. The Sabres will most definitely have their hands full once the puck is dropped Wednesday evening.
Buffalo, however, is fresh off of a road trip, which closely resembled a roller coaster. The trip began with a complete team win versus the Coyotes. After leaving Arizona, the Sabres endured a couple of beatings, in which they mirrored many of last year’s performances. Buffalo quickly righted the ship, and earned back-to-back wins in an impressive fashion. Jeff Skinner had a breakout weekend, netting a hat trick against the Kings. He’s seemed to find his footing in Buffalo so far, flanking Jack Eichel.
Most impressive on the road trip was the play of goaltender Linus Ullmark. He looked stellar in this past Saturday’s game versus the Kings, only allowing one goal on 20 shots, for a .950 save percentage. He’s 2-0 on the season, including a shutout. Buffalo has not had a capable backup/fringe starter in quite some time, so it’s refreshing to see.
The Sabres and the Canadiens both enter Thursday’s tilt playing some good hockey. Time will tell if Montreal can continue their impressive start to the season, or if Buffalo can forge a three game winning streak, especially with some “should win” games on the horizon.
- Sabres defenceman Zach Bogosian re-joined the team on the West Coast trip, and looked good. He scored and added an assist, as well as engaging in three fights. Nice to see him healthy again!
- Buffalo has had every defenceman score a goal so far this season, except for Casey Nelson. It took the Sabres until early December last season to have a defenceman score.
- Jeff Skinner had a breakout road trip, scoring a hat trick, and a couple of assists to bring his point total to 7 on the year. Jack Eichel leads the team in points, with 9 in as many games.
- Buffalo has lost the last four games versus Montreal. Their last win came on April 6th, 2017, a 2-1 victory.
- The Sabres are 43-39 all time versus the Canadiens.
- Montreal has announced that Antti Niemi will get the start, while the Sabres will most likely have Carter Hutton between the pipes.
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