Quick Hits: Sabres vs Bruins

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Although the season is almost half over, the Buffalo Sabres had yet to play the Boston Bruins before Saturday’s tilt at the T.D. Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Sabres had only played one game against the Atlantic division this month. For comparison, they have five against the Atlantic in January and six in February.

The first period was mainly uneventful, as both teams were limited in their scoring chances and a lot of time was spent in the neutral zone. The shots in the period were 11-8 in favor of the Bruins. Chad Johnson looked sharp from the get-go making several nice saves. Score after one: 0-0.

In the second period, we finally had some goals.

The teams went back and forth, each having power play opportunities. Evander Kane finally broke the scoring for both teams on a rebound opportunity on a Tyler Ennis shot.

The Bruins would respond quickly with a goal from Matt Beleskey just 36-seconds after Kane got Buffalo on the board. Another 1:14 later, the Bruins would grab the lead on a goal from Patrice Bergeron.

The period would end with the Bruins up 2-1, and also leading in total shots, 24-19.

In the third period, the Sabres got a power play opportunity just two minutes into the period. The Sabres generated a few opportunities, but failed to establish consistent pressure.

The Bruins responded afterwards, but Chad Johnson made a couple great saves. However, David Krejci scored a pretty goal a few minutes later to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead. Bogosian and McCabe have struggled a lot as of late and neither picked up Krejci breaking backdoor.

With just under 10-minutes left to play, the Sabres took over. Mike Weber banked the puck off the boards behind the net, and out to Ryan O’Reilly, who buried the puck on the other side of the net.

Under a minute later, Jack Eichel put the puck into the crease and it went off Bruins defenseman, Kevan Miller and into the net to tie the game, 3-3.

Nearly three-and-a-half minutes later, Jamie McGinn gave Buffalo the 4-3 lead on a backhand in front of the net. McGinn was very quick to the puck, even before Zdeno Chara could get his head around.

The Sabres added two empty-net goals late to put the cherry on top. Eichel scored from his own zone, and then set up O’Reilly for the second empty-netter.

The Sabres ended up being outshot 33-29, but played pretty evenly with the Bruins throughout the night’s action. Perhaps it helped that Jonas Gustavsson started in net for the Bruins instead of Tuukka Rask.

Now, quick hits!

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    • Eichel returns to Boston with a bang

Jack Eichel was named the game’s first star on Saturday night.

Eichel scored two goals and added two assists, but played great outside of what the scoresheet said. From start to finish, Eichel was creating chances, and was the fastest skater on the ice.

Before the last empty-net goal by O’Reilly, Eichel was leaving a vapor trail as he raced up the ice trying for the hat trick. Sabres head coach, Dan Bylsma said, “It was the fastest I’ve seen him skate all year.”

    • Sabres need to win division games

If the Sabres are going to make the playoffs, their best route is by taking down their division foes.

The win against the Bruins was their fifth win out of eleven games played this season against the division. Buffalo needs to be more productive against its division rivals if they want to have any chance at creeping into the playoff picture.

The only team Buffalo is in front of in the Atlantic, in terms of points, is the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    • Mike Weber had a game

Saturday night was Mike Weber’s best game of the 2015-16 season, and it was probably his best game in at least three seasons.

Weber made smart plays in his own end all night, made great outlet passes out of the zone, and chipped in on the offense. Weber’s bank pass to Ryan O’Reilly was perfectly placed, and set up O’Reilly for an easy goal.

Weber played 16:55 in the game, had his assist, and led the team with five hits on the night.

    • Bogosian and McCabe need to be broken up

The pairing of Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe have been dreadful at times this season.

To be fair, they have been playing some decent hockey in the offensive zone. In their own end, they are a disaster.

The two were responsible for letting David Krejci get behind them on his goal in the second period.

Going forward, Bylsma may want to pair Bogosian with Cody Franson. Both could be physical and offensive forces together, but Bogosian is a good enough skater to get back if Franson is unable.

    • The Eichel line is fire
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This was the first game we have seen the full force of Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, and Tyler Ennis together.

Every single time they were on the ice, they were making some big-time plays.

Eichel finished with his four points, Ennis finished up with an assist, and Kane ended with his second period goal.

It may be wise to keep this line together as long as they are producing. This line could have the most offensive potential of any trio on this current Sabres team.

Written by Joe DiBiase

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