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5 Observations: Sabres return from break with win, top Blue Jackets 5-4

Posted at 9:55 PM, Jan 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-29 21:55:04-05

It turns out a 10-day break is just what the doctor ordered as the Buffalo Sabres returned from the all-star break with a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Evan Rodrigues, Sam Reinhart, Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner, and Conor Sheary scored for the Sabres, who improve to 25-18-6.

5 Observations from Tuesday's win:

They needed that

In a playoff race, you can’t blow two-goal leads. Well, the Sabres did it twice but still managed to find a way to win. For much of the evening the Sabres outplayed Columbus but in the final minutes of the second period, they watched a 4-2 lead quickly become a tied game. After a long break this was a game the Sabres needed and they found a way to win. If nothing else, starting off the unofficial second half of the season with a win should be a big morale boost for a team that needs to go on a run.

Buzzing right out of the gate

From the minute the puck was dropped the Sabres combination of Conor Sheary, Casey Mittelstadt, and Evan Rodrigues controlled the pace of play. On numerous occasions, the trio led the Sabres down the ice on odd-man rushes and on two different occasions their efforts led to goals.

In the first period, a nice play from Dahlin allowed Sheary and Mittelstadt to streak down the ice and generate a great chance. Bobrovsky turned away Mittelstadt with a nice save, but Rodrigues followed the play to score his sixth goal of the season. For those keep tracking at home, this is the fourth consecutive game where Rodrigues has found the back of the net.

In the third period with the game on the line, it was Sheary stepping up, jamming home a rebound on a shot from Rodrigues. For Sheary It’s his first goal with a goaltender in the net since November 8 [he scored an empty-netter on Dec. 22]. It was arguably his best game as a member of the Sabres and his linemates weren’t too shabby either.

Third time’s a charm

In his third game this season I was impressed with Matt Hunwick’s contributions at both ends of the ice. Playing alongside Marco Scandella, Hunwick joined the rush on multiple occasions and generated some nice scoring chances thanks to his skating ability.

I’m not sure if he’ll stick in the lineup with Lawrence Pilut and Nathan Beaulieu patiently waiting to redeem themselves. However, if Hunwick is back in the lineup against Dallas on Wednesday I can totally understand why.

He’s 18-years-old

When the Sabres play on national television the broadcasters are quick to remind you that Rasmus Dahlin is only 18-years-old basically every time he’s on the ice. Jokes aside, on nights like Tuesday it’s amazing to think about Dahlin’s potential. He’s already one of the most impactful players in every game he plays and that was once again the case against Columbus. With his two assists on Tuesday Dahlin now has eight points [1G, 7A] in the Sabres last seven games.

His partner, Zach Bogosian has also been very impressive during Dahlin’s recent tear. As a pair, Dahlin and Bogosian seem to balance each other quite well, looking comfortable at their own end of the ice while providing the ability to quickly break the puck out of their own end.

So-So night for Hutton

If you just looked at the box score you’d probably think Carter Hutton deserved much of the blame on a night where he allowed four goals. Of those four, it’s fair to assume Hutton would like a few of them back. The Blue Jackets’ third goal from Brandon Dubinsky stands out the most, as Hutton let a redirection sneak behind him and trickle past the goal line. I’d expect Ullmark gets the start on the second half of the back-to-back and if he earns the win, he should be the guy in the blue paint for the Sabres on Friday night against the Blackhawks. That said, Hutton was perfect in the third period and earned the win, which is ultimately what’s most important.