Quick Hits: Sabres at Capitals / vs. Oilers

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Looking back on a tough stretch of two games in two days against two tough opponents, it is hard to think the results could have been much better than they were for the Sabres.

Things started off relatively well for Buffalo in both matchups. Washington and Edmonton both proved to be a tough opponent for the Buffalo Sabres, but as we’ve seen recently, Buffalo’s game is improving and the proof is on the ice.

In both matchups, Buffalo’s increasing offensive presence is showing. The return of Jack Eichel certainly has helped in that department.

In 5 games since Eichel’s return from a high ankle sprain, the Buffalo Sabres are 3-1-1 with 7 points in 5 games, all against currently slotted playoff teams. The tide seems to be turning in Buffalo.

The stats definitely don’t lie either – Buffalo is scoring 3.20 goals per game in the 5 games since Eichel’s return.

We don’t want to anoint the return of Jack Eichel as the end all be all of the Buffalo Sabres season but slotting back into the lineup has provided much needed stability throughout the four lines, which is something that was surely missed in the first few months of the season.

On the back end, something special truly is happening right now.

In the last two games, the Sabres have continued to push out a rag-tag group of defensemen, which features only 2 players who have more than 185 games of NHL experience (Franson / Ristolainen).

Somehow, Dan Bylsma appears to be pushing all the right buttons because the wacky pairings of McCabe / Ristolainen, Guhle / Franson, Falk / Burgdoerfer has worked well enough to assist the offense and goaltending in grabbing those 7 of 10 points.

Time to look back at the action on the ice.

Buffalo took an early lead at the Verizon Center, thanks in part to Zemgus Girgensons’ 2nd goal of the season. Kyle Okposo would later add his 8th goal of the season to the score sheet.

Washington’s offensive pressure mounted throughout the game, as many expected. While the Capitals only had one goal from Jay Beagle early in the second, the other shoe appeared ready to drop.

A late power play for Washington resulted in a goal for Marcus Johansson, which appeared to break open the dam for the Capitals. Momentum was trending completely in their direction.

Buffalo was able to hold on for the tie through regulation but in overtime, it was Johansson who put the game away. Johansson’s 10th and 11th goals of the season did the damage against the Sabres and sent them home as overtime losers.

The turnaround time for Buffalo would not be long though, as they prepared to host the NHL’s leading point scorer Connor McDavid and his Edmonton Oilers.

Things started off pretty hot for Buffalo – two goals in the first frame from Evander Kane (2nd of the season) and Brian Gionta (6th of the season).

The second period would not be so kind to the Buffalo Sabres – Edmonton grabbed their first tally of the evening on the power play, off the stick of Jordan Eberle, but they would not be done there. Edmonton would return 1:45 later and score their second of the game off the stick of Milan Lucic.

Buffalo would stabilize their defense but they were in dire straits heading into the third period.

The Oilers would use another power play opportunity to pick on the Sabres shoddy penalty kill unit, midway through the third period. Leon Draisaitl would get a great feed from Connor McDavid and make no mistake in tipping the puck home. Draisaitl’s 11th of the season pushed Edmonton to a 3-2 lead.

Buffalo looked to be down and out, until way late in the third period. A Ryan O’Reilly shot deflected off of Cam Talbot, while players were scrumming in front of Talbot. Evander Kane was able to get his stick on a loose puck before the puck was cleared from the crease.

Kane’s 3rd of the season, and 2nd of the game, tied the game up with 28.3 seconds remaining. An incredible moment for the newly lamented never-say-die Sabres.

Buffalo headed into the overtime on a power play opportunity, due to an Adam Larsson hold on Marcus Foligno.

It would take Buffalo 57 seconds, but there would be no doubt about the Rasmus Ristolainen shot from the point in overtime. If you missed it, you can see it below. My goodness, it was a laser shot from the Risto.

After going 1-0-1 in these two games, the Buffalo Sabres now sit in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. With 26 points, the Sabres sit just 6 points out of 8th place.

The Sabres continue their homestand and look to extend their points-collecting ways this Friday night against the Washington Capitals, at the KeyBank Center. Puck drops shortly after 7 PM and the game will be broadcast locally on MSG.

Quick hits!

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    • Welcome to the Show.

The best story you’ll probably hear all season. Defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer signed with the organization to be a veteran presence for the Rochester Americans. Following the ridiculous rash of injuries, Burgdoerfer has accomplished something he never did before – take the ice in a National Hockey League regular season game.

After 429 career minor league games between the ECHL and AHL, Erik Burgdoerfer took the ice on Monday night at the Verizon Center for what was his first NHL game.

Burgdoerfer logged 10:03 of ice time on Monday night (17 shifts) and another 12:17 on Tuesday (17 shifts) against Edmonton.

Welcome to the show, Erik Burgdoerfer.

    • Penalty kill

The penalty kill sucks.

That is all.

    • Risto Play 60.

Rasmus Ristolainen is a freaking defenseman robot, I swear.

In a back-to-back, Ristolainen locked down 59:49 TOI – 29:51 on Monday, 29:58 on Tuesday.

This performance included 1 goal, 1 assist, 6 shots on goal, 15 hits and 7 blocked shots.

Again, RISTOLAINEN IS A DEFENSEMAN ROBOT.

If you missed last night’s game-winning Ristogoal, I present to you “The Ping Heard ‘Round The World”.

    • Tweet of Game

    • On a side note..

I personally appreciate y’all. I have been sick as hell for the past week and it’s been real tough to get anything accomplished.

So thank you for the understanding, I should be back to 100% momentarily.

Written by Ryan Wolfe

Ryan Wolfe is the founder and editor-in-chief of BLTD Sports. He can be heard on the BLTD Podcast. Ryan's writing is also featured over at TheHockeyWriters.com.

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