BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - Linus Ullmark stole the show, turning away 44 of 45 shots faced as the Buffalo Sabres won their first game in 2018, knocking off the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1. Benoit Pouliot, Kyle Okposo and Jack Eichel [empty-net] scored for the Sabres, who improve to 11-24-9.
Five observations from Thursday's game:
Finally, something to be excited about
Before we start drawing up plans for the Linus Ullmark statue outside KeyBank Center let's remember this was only one game. Just kidding, get that thing going!
Ullmark was stellar in his first game with the Sabres this season and for my money was the best player on the ice. Ullmark turned away the first 39 shots he faced until he was beaten by Artemi Panarin on a Blue Jackets' power play in the final ten minutes.
Think about this -- the Blue Jackets out shot the Sabres 44-28 (!) and the Sabres won. It is becoming more and more obvious why the Sabres did everything they could during the expansion draft to keep Ullmark. There's a chance he's the Sabres starting goaltender next season.
Shot out of a cannon
Brendan Guhle can really fly, can't he? It seemed like every time Guhle was on the ice he was leading the rush out of the defensive zone. It has been a long time since the Sabres have had a defenseman able to do that.
Sometimes Guhle jumps into plays he shouldn't, which is expected for a kid who has only played in five NHL games. Despite his limited experience, Guhle has absolutely held his own with his two-game stint in Buffalo.
While some fans may be frustrated that he's going back to Rochester, let me assure you, it's for the better. Why throw Guhle onto a basement dwelling team when he could be part of a Calder Cup run in Rochester. Jason Botterill has preached development from the moment he accepted the job last Spring. Sometimes that requires some seasoning in the AHL, even if the player has the talent to play at the next level.
We haven't used that one in a while, have we? Turns out sticking Benoit Pouliot on Jack Eichel's wing is how you end a ten-game scoreless streak [10 games played, two healthy scratches].
Even with his recent struggles, Pouliot has already surpassed his goal total [9G, 42 games] compared to last season [8G, 67 games]. Take this for what it's worth, which isn't much -- when Pouliot scores the Sabres haven't lost in regulation.
Better than OK
The aforementioned statements about putting Pouliot with Eichel also apply to Okposo, who now has five points in two games. Not bad for a guy who only had 19 points in his first 40 games this season.
It may only be a few games but production from Okposo has been something the Sabres have desperately missed this season. With six-years remaining on his contract at a $6 million cap hit, the Sabres need an Okposo to continue to produce. To suggest he needs multi-point games every night would be ludicrous but a goal here and there would be very beneficial.
On three separate occasions, this season the Sabres have maintained five-game losing streaks. With their win on Thursday, their most recent streak has been snapped as they head into the 'bye-week'. If nothing else, this should give the team something to build on when they return to the ice next Thursday at Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Rangers.