BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Casey Mittelstadt opened the scoring just 48 seconds into the game and the Buffalo Sabres never looked back, knocking off the Arizona Coyotes 3-1. Jeff Skinner and Evan Rodrigues also scored for the Sabres, who improve to 19-9-4 with the win.
5 Observations from Thursday's win:
Home Sweet Home
With their 11th win at KeyBank Center this season the Sabres have matched their win total on home ice from last season [11-3-2 thus far].
It's December 13th.
Before the season the #Sabres said they needed to be better on home ice. Tonight they won their 11th game at KeyBank Center, matching their win total from the 40 games played in this building last season @WKBW pic.twitter.com/BLkyWGvNQ5— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) December 14, 2018
During training camp in September, it was no secret the Sabres needed to be a much better team in their own building. Several players brought up their lack of success at KeyBank Center and said it was one of their biggest focal points heading into the 2018-2019 campaign.
So far, so good.
With their win against the Coyotes, the Sabres earned their first victory in regulation since Nov. 21 when they knocked off the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2. Is it just me, or does that feel like forever ago? If the Sabres are going to take the next step they need to take care of business in the games they should win and on Thursday they did.
Before the puck dropped I tweeted how the Sabres game plan against Arizona was pretty simple -- start fast and test Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper. Less than a minute into the game the Sabres had a lead and despite a back and forth game, that lead was never relinquished.
Arizona cut the Sabres lead in half with a goal from Christian Fischer less than 30 seconds after Skinner scored to make it 2-0. But it never felt like the Sabres were going to squander this game away as they did after a fast against Philadelphia on Saturday. Overall it was a very solid effort for the Sabres in a game where they looked like the better team from the start.
Unlike their performance against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday the Sabres second line featuring Conor Sheary, Casey Mittelstadt and Kyle Okposo was outstanding on Thursday night. It seemed like every time the trio stepped onto the ice they were generating chances in the Coyotes' zone, forcing constant pressure.
That was apparent just 48 seconds into the game when Mittelstadt snapped his eight-game scoreless streak, giving the Sabres a 1-0 lead with a pretty wrist shot from the slot. While Mittelstadt got the goal, Sheary deserves a ton of credit for forcing the turnover in the neutral zone that led to the rush. From the moment when Mittelstadt's goal hit the back of the net, the line made a difference and outplayed their counterparts from Arizona. As far as I'm concerned, it was their most effective game in weeks.
Secondary scoring has and will likely continue to be an issue for the Sabres. On Thursday it wasn't, thanks in large part to the efforts of the aforementioned trio.
Not to be outdone
Jeff Skinner is scoring goals at a scary pace. With his 22nd goal in 32 games, the Sabres forward is now on pace to score 56 goals this season. For those who were wondering, the Sabres can offer him an eight-year contract after the calendar turns from 2018 to 2019. Right now, the longest deal they could offer Skinner would be seven years. Either way, Skinner is going to get PAID.
Jack Eichel is so friggen good, man.— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) December 14, 2018
Nevertheless, while Skinner deserves tons of credit, so do his linemates, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Their chemistry was on display in the first period when they tallied the Sabres second goal of the evening. Reinhart sent a perfect breakout pass to a streaking Eichel, who slid a gorgeous pass to Skinner all alone. The trio nearly converted on a similar play in the second frame, when Eichel found Reinhart and Skinner on a 2-on-1. Basically every time they are on the ice, the Sabres are generating scoring chances.
Check out their insane numbers:
Jack Eichel -- 39 points in 32 games
Jeff Skinner -- 32 points in 32 games
Sam Reinhart -- 27 points in 32 games *eight-game point streak*
The numbers are great and based off the last few weeks, there is no reason to believe the trio is going to slow down anytime soon.