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Three Observations: Sabres stay perfect with 5-2 win over Vancouver

Canucks Sabres Hockey Kyle Okposo
Posted at 9:26 PM, Oct 19, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Buffalo stays perfect. The blue & gold topped Vancouver 5-2 on the back of rapid succession goals in the third period to take the lead. The Sabres' next game holds a couple familiar faces: goalie Linus Ullmark, forward Taylor Hall, and the Boston Bruins will come to KeyBank Center on Friday.

Three observations from Tuesday's game:

Alternates leading the way

Kyle Okposo's hits get the crowd going. He's always been loved in the locker room, even under previous regimes. Say what you will about his contract, but with Buffalo barely meeting the floor, they need it this year. And this has been his best season in years.

Tuesday night's goal was scored where his first one was scored: in the off-handed circle. It's an unorthodox place for a right-handed shot like Okposo, but clearly it works for him. And opponents will have to start respecting that more, which could open up his linemates if they crash the net.

Fellow alternate captain, and linemate, Zemgus Girgensons "does everything," Okposo says. This year, as another veteran among a very green group, that includes the power play. And that's where he cashed in to tie the game in the second period (with the helper from Okposo).

Because Girgensons missed all of last year, and because of the turnover on this lineup since, it's easy to forget that in season-long stat tables of old, Girgensons was one of the top guys in the goal column after Buffalo's superstars of old. He's still playing to that pace so far this season.

Unselfish... to a fault?

Don Granato's Sabres are fast. They're aggressive on the forecheck and backcheck. And their heads are always up ice without abandoning their own end. But time and again, this team either stick handles itself into submission, or looks for one too many passes, instead of taking a shot.

That being said, Buffalo still won the possession game, and the shot totals (43-34), and against Vancouver. But on an odd-man rush, or in a power play situation, it seems like everyone's looking for the apple and no one's looking to light the lamp.

As crazy as it may seem, this team should be, and could be, shooting even more. They're so fast and so unselfish, that open looks in the slot on the man advantage are passed up. Or the forwards run out of real estate as they fly up ice with numbers.

A few moments later...

23 seconds. That's all it took to completely change the course of this game. Vancouver went from being tied with the Sabres to being dumbfounded. Jeff Skinner picked up his first goal of the year to pick up Buffalo's first lead of the game.

A few moments later, Tage Thompson doubled the Sabres' lead with a rebound to pick up a quick insurance tally. From there, Buffalo could've packed it in and gone on cruise control. But they didn't.

Has the competition Buffalo faced been great on paper? No. Far from it, to be honest. But they've dominated two games on the score sheet, and they've dominated the possession game in all three. Friday will be a much greater measuring stick, but make no mistake: Change for the better is afoot at KeyBank Center.