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5 Observations: Eichel, Sabres top Rangers 4-3

Posted at 12:09 AM, Dec 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-02 00:09:34-05

Don’t look now but Jack Eichel is on pace for 92 goals and the Buffalo Sabres have climbed their way back to .500. Thursday Eichel scored twice in the third period, lifting the Sabres over the New York Rangers 4-3. Five observations from Thursday’s win:

Eichel returns to home ice and dazzles

Man, he’s good.

Good enough to make me wonder if one guy really *can* make that big of a difference for an organization.
In his first two games Jack Eichel has stepped up, and lifted the Sabres to two straight wins. All season long the Sabres have had a hard time scoring goals. Well, in his first two games, Eichel has found the back of the net three times and has four points.

“Hockey is a generous game and we were able to pick up some interesting bounces and get a win and two points against a very good team,” Eichel said after the game.

Early in Thursday’s game Eichel was creating chances and looked good, but couldn’t seem to beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. In the third period that all changed, when the Sabres desperately needed a goal. After drawing a holding penalty, Eichel and the Sabres had a golden opportunity to tie things up – and they did on this play:

But wait, there’s more. Yes, just like a bad infomercial:

You can’t make these things up – What a game by Eichel and what an impressive return. He won’t do this every game, but man, things get way more interesting when #15 is on the ice.

Kane: Good, bad, ugly

The good – his speed created the game-winning goal. Kane blazed by a defender and shot the puck high and wide, and while that wasn’t ideal, the Sabres turned that missed chance into a goal seconds later.

The bad – Can we use the same play? What an unbelievable burst to get a golden chance, yet he couldn’t finish. We’ve seen Kane miss high and wide several times this year, eventually he needs to get the puck into the net.

The ugly – Kane made a nasty turnover on New York’s third goal in the Sabres zone. Aside from this play, I thought Kane had a so-so game.

Showing promise

After falling behind 2-1 the Sabres had their best two-minute stretch of even-strength hockey I’ve seen in a long time. They pressured the Rangers in their own end generating several chances in a matter of seconds. After some ridiculous saves, the Sabres finally beat Lundqvist on a Brian Gionta tap in. Foligno found the Sabres captain from behind the net, recording his 100th NHL point.

Even Zemgus Girgensons had a hell of a shift, something we haven’t seen a lot of this season.
Unfortunately for the Sabres, after they tied up the score, the Rangers retook the lead a minute later, but aside from this play, I thought the Sabres were the better team in the second.

Nilsson plays “okay”

Before Thursday, Sabres backup Anders Nilsson had been rock-solid. While I don’t think he played terribly on Thursday, he didn’t play great either. Good news, that’s okay, goalies are allowed to have off-nights. Sabres starter Robin Lehner said earlier in the day that he was expecting to get back in the net soon after suffering a minor hip injury on Tuesday. Either way, the Sabres have had solid goaltending this season, and maybe now they’ll start getting some run support.

Making Hockey Fun Again

I don’t know about you, but I thought Thursday’s game was the best all-around game the Sabres have played in all season. No, I don’t think it’s the best game they’ve played, but I do think it was the most entertaining game they’ve been a part of.  In their last two games the Sabres scored nine goals. Before Tuesday (and Eichel) it took the Sabres six games to score nine goals. Not a bad improvement, eh?