Buffalo Sabres Post-Game Recap #4 – Canadiens 10/9/19

Final Score:  5-4 (OT) Sabres

Arrow up:

Jack Eichel The captain put the team on his back in this one after the forgettable overtime he had in Columbus the other night. Eichel used his speed, vision, and incredible skill set to contribute on 4 of the 5 goals scored, ending his night with 2 goals and 2 assists.  The first assist came on a quick and accurate cross ice feed to Olofsson, while his second one was a product of his shot from the point directing to Miller who slid it across to Johansson for the game winner.  His 1st goal was a beautifully placed shot just inside the glove side post of Kinkaid while the 2nd goal (video below) saw him go coast to coast with speed, dodging a defender and coming in against three Montreal defenders before releasing a quick shot on the ice that went 5 hole.
Albeit a small sample size this year, it’s becoming clear that Eichel has continued to mature his game both on and off the ice, notably taking accountability for being a cause on the 4th goal for Montreal.  He will flirt with a 100 point season this year if he continues to play at this level.
The Sabres Powerplay The Powerplay showed up again, going 2 of 5 on the night and were just a few seconds away from being 3 of 5 as the Johansson winner was scored just after the Danault penalty expired.  As noted in the Gameday preview, Montreal needed to stay out of the box to prevent Buffalo’s lethal powerplay from getting chances and they were not able to do that. The way the top unit moves the puck and can score from just about anywhere on the ice has made it clear they should be one of the best units in the entire league this season.  Even if Carey Price was in net, he would have had a difficult time keeping both Olofsson’s and Eichel’s goals with the man advantage, out of the net.
The 4th Line (Girgensons – Larsson – Okposo) This line performed the best out of all lines when it comes to the Corsi stat lines.  They generated 7 scoring chances for vs. 2 against while on the ice and that includes 4 high danger chances vs. 1 allowed.  None of them registered a point last night but they were very effective in controlling possession and preventing Montreal from sustaining any kind of offense.  This line has been very solid through the first 4 games of the season and is doing just about everything you could ask for from a 4th line with the exception of contributing in the goal and assist column.  The goals and assists will come though if they continue this controlling style of play that has them in the offensive zone more often than the defensive zone.

Arrow Down:

The 3rd Line (Vesey – Mittelstadt – Rodrigues) Playing the least out of all the lines (5:40 at even strength) and getting dominated for the majority of that time, landed the 3rd line in the arrow down section.  They were severely dominated by Montreal, having a CF% of 28.6% and looked like they were playing on their heels.  Rodrigues was noticeably rusty and struggled with his linemates to generate offense at 5 on 5.  I also thought that Mittelstadt looked slow at times which is concerning considering he is currently being sheltered with these 3rd line minutes.  I’m not calling for him to go down to Rochester but if he continues to be ineffective then it may not be the worst idea so as to not derail his development which is increasingly showing signs that we all need to be patient with him. Vladimir Sobotka Basically non-existent through 4 games thus far, Sobotka continued to be invisible and avoid to even chip in a secondary assist while Skinner and Johansson play 4 on 5 for all intents and purposes.  He just offers no upside at either end of the ice to justify the amount of playing time he’s getting and the 2nd line would improve by plugging just about anyone else there.  It’s fair to wonder how long they’ll continue to go along with this experiment when someone like Rodrigues or Thompson would have a higher probability of success playing the right side there.
Quick Hits:
  • Olofsson pulled off the 1st line in the 3rd period and not on 1st PP Unit in OT
  • Historicaly speaking, an uncharacteristic strong 2nd period
  • The Jokiharju/Scandella pairing is solid
  • Kreuger gets creative with his 1st PP Unit in Overtime
  • Points in every single game this season
Questions Moving Forward:
  • How long can the Powerplay sustain this extreme efficiency?
  • Will Even Strength scoring become more prevalent?
  • Who will replace Sobotka on the 2nd Line and when?
Overall Recap The Sabres had a huge edge in shots (39-27) by the end of the game but really struggled in the second half of the 3rd to keep the Canadiens at bay, eventually allowing the game tying goal.  The 1st period also left some things to be desired but they found a way to bounce back in the 2nd period to take a lead into the 3rd period thanks mostly in part to Jack Eichel.  Giving up a goal shortly after going up 4-2 was the result of a bit of a lucky bounce behind the net but for the most part the Sabres never backed down and kept pressing as scoring chances were 8 to 8 in the final period.  Overall, the Sabres finished the game with a 51.9% CF which is an indicator that whatever Kreuger has implemented in that room is working for this roster.  The Powerplay is currently 9/15 (53%) which is obviously not sustainable so it’s fair to have some concern that almost 50% of their goals are with the man advantage this year.  Regardless, for a team that has been starving for goals for several years, leading the league with 18 through 4 games (avg. 4.5/GP) is very refreshing and hopefully a sign that this will lead to some sustainable success as the season progresses.

Next Game:  Friday 10/11 @ Home vs. the 1-2-0 Panthers

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