Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve – that’s what the Buffalo Sabres have to be saying after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals. The Sabres found themselves up 2-1 with seven minutes left in the third period, but a power play goal by the Capitals tied things up late. It didn’t get any better for the Sabres in overtime, when Marcus Johansson fired home a one-timer from the slot, sealing the win for the Capitals. Buffalo is now 1-6 when they go into overtime or a shootout.
Five observations from Monday’s loss:
Oh no, Jack Eichel
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) December 6, 2016
Yes, this is how I imagined Sabres fans reacting to the scary moment involving Jack Eichel early in the second period. It looked like a routine play, but after getting pinned against the boards Eichel was in obvious pain.
The good news – He was able to finish the game.
Bylsma on Eichel: "I think it's the first time he's had any incident he's felt anything with the ankle, he tweaked it, that's fairly normal"
— Brian Koziol (@BrianWGR) December 6, 2016
The bad news – He very clearly wasn’t himself from that moment on. It looked like Eichel was limping around in his own end and was several steps slower than what we’re accustomed to seeing. What was most apparent was his lack of explosiveness. Eichel is the Sabres most explosive player, maybe more so than anyone they’ve had since the millennium, but in the second half of Monday’s game he was just another guy.
Jack Eichel in pain on the bench pic.twitter.com/uJC6K203lg
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) December 6, 2016
I’m not a doctor, but *if* there’s any chance this could be something that lingers long-term, the Sabres should sit Eichel for some games now -- rather than have him miss several games later. As Buffalo sports fans have seen with Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins, lingering issues can really turn into a headache – don’t let that happen with Eichel.
Get Ristolainen some oxygen
To say the Sabres are dealing with injuries would be a massive understatement. Yes, every player has been asked to step up, but few have been asked as much as Rasmus Ristolainen. Once again, the 21-year-old defender logged huge minutes, finishing with 29:51 of ice time.
Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has said that he doesn’t want to give Ristolainen such a massive work-load, but when it gets late into games it just kind of happens. Although he hasn’t scored a goal – Ristolainen deserves a ton of credit – he’s playing well at both ends and is holding things down without players like Dmitry Kulikov, Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges.
The only thing you can criticize Ristoalinen for is missing a golden chance in overtime
To the judge’s card we go:
1st period – Capitals
2nd period – Sabres
3rd period – Capitals
Late in the game the Sabres were chasing and were quite frankly lucky to get a point. I thought they had a good start to the final period – but were a step behind the Capitals as the clock approached zero.
When at first you don’t succeed, Kyle Okposo
Okposo is hot, hot, hot – in the Sabres last six games Buffalo’s prized free agent signing has three goals and four assists (seven points). Monday Okposo scored his team leading eighth goal and has proven to be an incredibly valuable addition to the team.
What has also been nice to see – how Okposo and Ryan O’Reilly have played with 21-year-old newcomer William Carrier. I like this combination far more than when Matt Moulson has been lined up at the wing. That’s not a knock on Moulson, he’s been much better this year, but Carrier adds some needed speed with two steady two-way guys like Okposo and O’Reilly
Guhle continues to impress
Keep it simple, stupid. I had a teacher that told us that whenever we started to over think something. That’s the way Guhle has played in his first two starts. He doesn’t make any bone-headed mistakes (at least yet), he makes clean and crisp passes and he calculates when to jump into the zone. For a 19-year-old thrown into the NHL by surprise he’s handled himself incredibly well – further proving why so many in the organization have big expectations for the young defender. What says it all? With the game on the line, Guhle was on the ice to end the third period
With the game on the line 19-year-old Brendan Guhle, who is playing in his second NHL game, is on the ice & holding his own #Sabres
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) December 6, 2016
Kudos to Cody Franson who has played a much steadier brand of hockey these last few weeks. With so many injuries the guys who have actually been in Buffalo all season have been asked to step-up their games, and Franson, at least in my opinion, has done just that.
However, he didn’t have a good final shift of regulation – and when I say “he didn’t have a good” I really mean: Wow,that was brutal.