One night removed from a frustrating loss in Washington after they blew two leads, the Sabres traveled to TD Garden to play the Bruins and rebounded with authority on Sunday night.
In a rugged and physical game, Buffalo didn’t back down from ground and pound Boston and came away with a 4-2 victory. Jack Eichel and G Linus Ullmark were the stars of the game, the former being involved on all four Sabres goals and the latter with 35 saves.
The blistering tear that Eichel has been on lately is nothing short of remarkable. His lack of goal scoring was drawing in my opinion ludicrous criticism, but the captain is telling those critics where to shove it. With two goals and two assists tonight, he now has nine tallies in his last six games. After the game he sits at fifth in the NHL in helpers (31, tied with Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon) and total points (45, tied with Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau). Pretty elite company to be in.
Jeff Skinner scored twice as well to continue his quest for the NHL goal lead. With 24 on the season now he sits five behind Alexander Ovechkin’s 29 and one ahead of Patrik Laine’s 23. Again, pretty elite company to be in.
The other story of the game for Buffalo was Ullmark, who rose to the occasion and made a number of unreal saves against a potent Boston offensive. The goaltender struggled pretty mightily during the team’s recent five game slide, but he redeemed himself tonight with what was his best performance of the season by far. Two of his stops in particular will undoubtedly make the highlight reel and could be in Save of the Year discussions.
Buffalo’s penalty kill has been quite strong over the last few games and stopped the Bruins on all of three of their power plays tonight to push its kill streak to 17 in a row. Zemgus Girgensons has been excellent as the team’s lead penalty killer and made a key block in the dying seconds of the game to set up Eichel’s empty netter that sealed the deal. Steven Kampfer and Torey Krug scored for the Bruins.
The win has to be very satisfying for the Sabres. Like last night vs. the Capitals, Buffalo could not hold on to two separate one goal leads. But, this time around, the team stuck with it and fought back, with Skinner’s second of the game proving to be the difference maker. In addition to another impressive goal, Eichel’s assists on both of Skinner’s goals could make the highlight reel as well.
In other team news, defensemen Brendan Guhle and Matt Hunwick both made their season debuts tonight. Matt Tennyson was scratched to make room for the finally healthy Hunwick, and Guhle got the call from Rochester after Lawrence Pilut became the latest Sabres defensemen to be claimed by the injury list.
It’s good to see Guhle back with the team after spending so much time in the AHL, but one has to wonder what Buffalo’s plans for him are now that Pilut has become all the rage. Does the 21-year-old factor in to Buffalo’s long term plans anymore, or will we see him packaged come deadline time? The team will likely be buyers, and a prospect like him along with a first round pick could bring back immense returns.
Another intriguing story for the Sabres that emerged over the weekend is the curious case of Patrik Berglund. It was announced out of the blue yesterday the Buffalo had suspended the 30-year-old Swede indefinitely for failure to report on the team’s road trip. No details other than this are currently credible and the Sabres have released nothing on the situation other than the standard “it is being handled internally” spiel.
The 2006 first round pick missed the past two games prior to Saturday due to a reported illness, but obviously there is something rotten in the state of Buffalo. We’ll have to wait and see what new details become available here.
Buffalo returns home on Tuesday to face the Panthers before heading back to DC for a rematch on Friday.