The Sabres once again came out strong in the first period against the powerful Chicago Blackhawks. Marcus Foligno got a quick goal against the run of play to give the Sabres an early 1-0 lead. They were being out-shot 10-0 when he scored but his goal was the result of a strong forecheck. Anders Nilsson made that 1-0 lead stand up until late in the first. While making a number of strong saves, he couldn’t keep out Ryan Hartman’s shot, and the teams went into the first intermission tied at 1. On that goal, I thought that Taylor Fedun should have made a better effort to knock Hartman off the puck as he was entering the zone. On the replays, it seemed like he just let him walk right past him. Regardless, Nilsson stood on his head last night and kept the team in the game.
Ryan O’Reilly returned to the ice last night for his first game back since his emergency appendix surgery kept him out 4 games. His presence was definitely felt on the power play. He looked a little winded at times which was to be expected, but he made a great pass to Jack while the Sabres were on the power play in the third, and Eich ripped a one timer past Corey Crawford to give the Sabres a 3-2 lead.
The whole time after the Sabres took the lead in the third, you could just feel that the Hawks were going to score.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t hold on for the regulation win. The whole time after the Sabres took the lead in the third, you could just feel that the Hawks were going to score. They shifted their lines and threw Toews out there with Pat Kane and Artem Anisimov, and these three All-Stars were too much for our guys to handle. Kane threw a floating backhand at the net and as Nilsson was screened by Anisimov, the puck hit his right pad and laid in the crease. All Anisimov had to do was bang it in as Bogosian looked on helplessly. That tied the game at 3 and sent it into overtime. At that point, we knew what was going to happen. The Sabres are now 3-9 in OT this season and that is just not good enough. If that record is reversed, or if we close out more of those OT losses in regulation instead of going to OT, we are in the wildcard hunt.
I liked Nilsson’s game last night and I think that is one of my main takeaways from the game. He made big saves in the first period and set the tone for the game. He did give up 3 goals in regulation, but he did enough to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win and that is all you can ask of your goalie.
I have been pushing for O’Reilly to be the next captain, but I think Eich should get the “C” once Gionta moves on. He is becoming the leader of this team with his play and with his words in the room. Either way, it is great to see strong leadership on this team and it will only benefit the group going forward.
Another takeaway for me is how much Magic Jack Eichel wants to win. His desire to win shows in his play and lifts the team. At the end of the second period, after completing a full shift, he picked up a loose puck at center ice and with less than 10 seconds in the period he took off down the left side. He burned Duncan Keith and was in one on one with Crawford. He got hooked and still almost managed to score. I thought they should have called a penalty shot, but they gave the Blackhawks a penalty and on the subsequent power play to open the third period, Okposo scored. This kind of effort gets noticed by your teammates and it led Jeremy Roenik in the studio to call for Eichel to be named Captain. I have to agree with JR. I have been pushing for O’Reilly to be the next captain, but I think Eich should get the “C” once Gionta moves on. He is becoming the leader of this team with his play and with his words in the room. Either way, it is great to see strong leadership on this team and it will only benefit the group going forward.
Last night’s game was another tough one to swallow. The chance for the win was there, but we just came up short at the end. On a positive note, we took 3 of 4 points against two of the best teams in the league. After losing back to back games to Boston, this is a nice rebound. We have Winnipeg at home on Saturday afternoon. O’Reilly should be back to 100% for that game and we should look for a strong effort to get 2 points.