BUFFALO, N.Y. [WKBW] — For the first time this season, the Buffalo Sabres beat the Washington Capitals in regulation with a 5-2 win on Thursday. Dustin Tokarski picked up his first NHL win since 2015 and his first as a member of the Sabres.
5 Observations from Thursday's win:
Casey Mittelstadt has taken his game to a new level and it’s one of the most important developments for the Sabres this season. Three months ago, plenty of fans were wondering if Mittelstadt was a bust. Now, he looks like a promising young talent worthy of the hype that surrounded him when he was drafted.
Mittelstadt is not a finished product but it seems like every game he’s getting better at both ends of the ice. On Thursday, he scored his sixth goal in his last nine games [seven goals in 28 games this season]. If nothing else, Mittelstadt is a reminder to not give up on a player when they are slow out of the gate. Especially when they are still just 22-years-old.
Not to be outdone
Dylan Cozens’ strong rookie season continued with two more assists on Thursday. In the first period, Cozens sent a puck to the net that was redirected by Sam Reinhart for the Sabres' first goal of the evening. In the second, Cozens took advantage of a Capitals turnover and found Bjork for his second assist of the night.
While Cozens stats don’t jump off the page [4G, 6A, 28GP], it’s hard not to like what he brings to the table. Offensively he’s smart and seems to always make the right decisions. Defensively, he’s consistently reliable at a position that requires a lot of responsibilities. I’m not sure if Cozens is ready to be the Sabres' second-line center next season but with his strong rookie season, it’s hard not to like the Sabres depth down the middle with Mittelstadt and Eichel.
To call Henri Jokiharju and Rasmus Dahlin dynamic might be an understatement. After slow starts to the season for both young defenders, they have been exceptional since Granato took over behind the bench. Dahlin turned 21 on Tuesday and Jokiharju doesn’t turn 22 for a few more months. Both players are crucial pieces for the Sabres moving forward and have really taken strides in the last month.
You only get one chance to make a first impression and Anders Bjork has knocked his out of the park. In his first two games with the Sabres, Bjork has one goal and two assists. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but it’s promising to see him step in right away and make an impact. For those wondering, Bjork is under contract for two more seasons at $1.6 million per season. Maybe all he needed was a change of scenery.
Good for Tokarski
For the first time as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, Dustin Tokarski earned a win. On Thursday, Tokarski turned away 27 of the 29 shots he faced to get his first NHL win since 2015! Once the game ended, Tokarski pointed up to the sky. He said it was his first NHL win since his father passed away a few years ago.
With injuries to Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton this season, the Sabres net has been a revolving door. Tokarski has done a commendable job considering the circumstances he was thrown into. There is no doubt the Sabres need to address their goaltending woes, but it’s nice to see the 31-year-old goaltender get rewarded after such an up-and-down career.
That's Dustin Tokarski's first win since 2015. Good for that dude.— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) April 16, 2021