5 Observations: Sabres top Rangers 4-1

5 Observations: Sabres top Rangers 4-1
Posted at 9:51 PM, Jan 03, 2017

2017 seems to be treating the Buffalo Sabres much better than 2016. In their first game of the new year, the Sabres snapped an ugly two game losing streak, knocking off the high powered New York Rangers 4-1.

Five observations from Tuesday's win:

New year, New Sabres

The first 20 minutes against the Rangers was one of Buffalo's best first periods in recent memory. They applied pressure early and often, and were eventually rewarded for it.

Zemgus Girgensons scored the Sabres first goal on a nice forehand-backhand move, beating Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist upstairs. Seven minutes later, the Sabres took advantage of a sloppy Rangers line change, when Sam Reinhart fired a shot on net and Evander Kane swept home the rebound.

Let's be real -- scoring early has been something the Sabres have struggled with this season. Quite frankly, just scoring has been a big enough problem, but when the  Sabres get off to an early start their hard to beat. Buffalo is now 8-1-3 when leading after the first period.

Role Reversal

Talk about a tale of two periods. In the first period the Sabres came out fast, but things certainly changed. They basically sleep-walked through the second, and that may be putting it lightly. Luckily for Buffalo, they still had a two goal lead heading into the final stanza, even after getting out-shot by the Rangers 15-4.

Failing to play a full 60-minute game has been an issue for the Sabres all season long. On Tuesday it didn't cost them the win, but several times this season we've seen the Sabres win two of the three periods, but let a lead slip away.

Latvian Locomotive

-LeBron James
-Billy Joel
-Bruce Springsteen
-Carmello Anthony
-Mark Messier
-Zemgus Girgensons

Quite the group, eh? So what do these men have in common? They all love Madison Square Garden. Girgensons now has four goals in his last three games at MSG. When you consider that he only has 11 goals in his last two seasons that's pretty ice-opening. Girgensons' success shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise, Latvians love the bright lights, just ask New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzi??is.

Bailey's big night

It took the Western New York native 12 games -- but in the second period Justin Bailey beat one of the best goaltenders in the world for his first career NHL goal. Bailey made a nice move and juked out Rangers defender Kevin Klein, beating Lundqvist five hole.

This season Bailey has only played in four games, but has impressed in his limited action. I was very adamantly against Bailey playing on the fourth line, like he did for the majority of the Sabres 3-1 loss to the Bruins on Saturday. Against the Rangers we saw exactly why.

Bailey is a quick, skill player -- he's not a fourth line grinder. I understand that he needs to earn his minutes -- but if he's paired with players like Sam Reinhart and Evander Kane then I think he has a good opportunity to continually produce while getting top-six minutes. 

He almost added a second on this beauty: 

Heating up

When Ryan O'Reilly got hurt the Sabres needed their stars to step up.  There's no denying that the team as a whole has struggled since the O'Reilly injury -- but you can't blame Sam Reinhart or Jack Eichel.

With his goal on Tuesday Eichel now has five points (2G, 3A) in Buffalo's last four games. During that same span fellow second-overall pick Sam Reinhart has four points of his own (1G, 3A), including two assists against the Rangers. 

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