BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Three goals in the second period lifted the Buffalo Sabres to their second win of the season against Detroit, knocking off the Red Wings 3-1. Conor Sheary, Casey Mittelstadt and Kyle Okposo scored for the Sabres, who improve to 27-20-7 on the season [61 points].
5 Observations from Saturday's win:
Fewer mistakes, more success
After allowing 17 goals in their last three games, the Sabres played a much tighter game defensively and committed significantly fewer mistakes. When Red Wings' players were standing in front of the Sabres net, they were covered or knocked to the ice. When the Sabres coughed up a puck, defenders were diving into the passing lane to ensure they didn't squander an odd-man rush. It was by no means a perfect defensive effort but it was a lot cleaner than what we've seen since the Sabres returned home.
Lights Out Linus
Aside from over-committing on a wrap around from Dylan Larkin in the second period, Linus Ullmark played a near perfect game. In the first period, Ullmark came up big, turning away two separate shots on a 2-on-1 from Luke Glendening and Darren Helm. After stopping all 12 shots he faced in the first period, Ullmark was strong to start the second, turning away a great scoring chance on a tip from Justin Abdelkader. His best and most clutch save came in the third period, closing the door on an Andreas Athanasiou breakaway that would've made it a one-goal game with plenty of time left.
Linus Ullmark was awesome today, stopping 28 of 29 shots faced. With the win, he improves to 21-18-6 with a .914 save percentage in his 50 career appearances [thanks @SabresPR]. When you consider where this team has been, those numbers are pretty impressive @WKBW #Sabres pic.twitter.com/ihwNUwYUWS— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) February 9, 2019
With the Sabres back in action tomorrow, Carter Hutton will likely be in goal for the Sabres as they take on the Jets.
Salvaging the Homestand
Before the Sabres returned to KeyBank Center for their seven-game homestand I said they needed at least nine of the 14 points up for grabs. After an ugly loss to the Blackhawks to start the seven-game stretch it didn't look like the Sabres would have much of a shot at my somewhat lofty goal. Well, thanks to their win against Detroit, the Sabres have locked up five of a possible eight points in their last four games. With three-games and six more points available before the Sabres head back on the road, it's not crazy to think they could meet that nine-point goal.
Here are the games to finish their homestand:
Sunday, Feb. 10, vs. Jets
Tuesday, Feb. 12, vs. Islanders
Friday, Feb. 15, vs. Rangers
It by no means is the easiest three-game stretch but with a few days off before the Islanders game and a few more days separating the Rangers game, crazier things have happened.
After an absolutely abysmal 10-game stretch for the Sabres, the power play appears to be turning a corner. In the second period on Saturday, the Sabres scored twice with the man advantage thanks to some pretty passing.
On their first power play goal, Mittelstadt beat Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot from the slot. It appeared Howard reacted late, likely because of the perfect cross-ice pass from Jack Eichel to set up Mittelstadt.
In the dying seconds of the period, the Sabres capitalized with man advantage yet again, as Kyle Okposo ripped a shot over Howard's shoulder. Rasmus Ristolainen and Evan Rodrigues set up the play, as they continued passing the puck back and forth to give Okposo some space. Once the shooting lane was clear, Okposo was fed the puck and he made no mistake.
Casey Mittelstadt is starting to heat up. With his goal against the Red Wings, Mittelstadt now has eight points in his last 12 games. While that might not sound like an offensive explosion, it's important to remember he had only 11 points in the previous 42 games. After a relatively slow start to the season for the 20-year-old rookie, Mittelstadt is starting to look more comfortable at both ends of the ice. His talent is obvious and we're starting to see the numbers reflect his ridiculous potential.