PHILADELPHIA (WKBW) — The Sabres' last game before the trade deadline saw them get back into the win column against another struggling team in the East. A late third-period comeback led Buffalo to a 5-3 win over the Flyers. The Sabres went 3-3-2 against Philadelphia this season. Buffalo's road trip continues in Boston on Tuesday.
Five observations from Sunday's game:
Both of the Flyers' first period goals were complete failures in close quarters. It was nearly reminiscent of Buffalo's inability to get out of their own way under Ralph Krueger. Part of that falls on Linus Ullmark's awareness and rebound control. But another part of it falls on playing bodies and sticks effectively in close quarters.
What's mind-boggling is that even more of those messy opportunities had been rescued by Buffalo defensemen later in the game. The free-wheeling nature of Don Granato's system has helped the offense by allowing the blueliners to get involved. But today, the back end wasn't there.
Deception at the dot
If you blinked, you might've missed Jeff Skinner's pass to Sam Reinhart that opened up the scoring for Buffalo. The Sabres' top line really features three natural wingers, although Reinhart's move to the middle hasn't caused his production to drop off.
The set play off the draw was impeccable. But because it requires Skinner to take the draw, it's something that can only be used sparingly now that teams have tape on it. But it was the jolt of life that Buffalo needed. Reinhart's versatility gave the Sabres that option; his value this season, especially in Jack Eichel's absence, can't be overstated.
Arttu Ruotsalainen's first career goal was a beauty. Dylan Cozens drew the Flyers' attention on his way into the middle, and the Finnish rookie saw it the whole way. After going top shelf to finally break the ice in the best league in the world, it's only fitting that Kyle Okposo grabbed the puck for him.
One could say that Arttu activated elevator 3224.
On the right end of a late push
Given how this season has gone for Buffalo, one goal deficits feel much bigger than they actually are. But for once, the Sabres were on the right side of a late-game push to not just tie the game, but to take the lead and win in regulation.
A slew of rookies were in on the Sabres' game winner, and their empty-net goal as well. Jacob Bryson's shot set up Rasmus Asplund for the game winner, while Casey Mittelstadt sealed the deal from center ice with less than a minute to go. Granato's time with all of the former AHL regulars seems to be paying off, at least in the short term.
Change on the way
Former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall has been out of the lineup for about a week. Brandon Montour was shipped off to South Beach on Saturday. With nearly two thirds of the Sabres' contracts on the roster expiring, general manager Kevyn Adams should be VERY busy over the next 24 hours or so.
Hall is obviously the biggest name of the bunch, but the clock is working against whatever value he has, and whatever Buffalo's return might be. Another unrestricted free agent to keep an eye on is goaltender Linus Ullmark, who had another day at the office of making unreal saves to bail out a mediocre-at-best back end.
For a primer & preview on the trade deadline, you can find my chat with The Athletic's John Vogl here. The trade deadline is at 3:00 p.m. ET on Monday.