For the first time in what felt like forever, the Sabres came out to play with some swagger. They looked confident, like a home team should going up against a struggling young squad in Calgary. Six different Sabres had tallies as they tied their season high offensive output, scoring six for the third time this season.
Marcus Foligno seems to have found his niche on this young Buffalo team. His goal and two assists snapped a seven game scoreless streak, but he seems to have an opportunity or two every night. He’s been putting himself in good situations, and eventually, good things are going to come his way.
Foligno made no doubt about his shorthanded goal, putting a fancy dangle through the Flames defenseman and burying his wrister by a helpless Jonas Hiller. He’s averaged over 15 minutes on ice the past eight games, and if he continues to turn in quality time, that number could increase.
Two of the Buffalo scores came on shots that could be described as nothing other than pure filth. The first one was Johan Larsson’s score, off the great feed from captain Brian Gionta. Larsson found himself alone in front of the net with his back turned to Hiller. He put the backhand shot the only place it could go, flipping it up top shelf past Hiller, who had no chance.
The other fantastic goal was the real clincher from Jack Eichel on the power play. Drifting from left to right at the point, the rookie fired a bullet with a quick flick of the wrist that had pinpoint location in the top right corner. His 18th of the year was absolutely lethal. After a five game pointless streak and seven without a score, Eichel looks to finish out his rookie campaign strong.
Nic Deslauriers’ goal could almost qualify for filthy as well. Nic Deslauriers? Filthy? Same sentence? It happened. Zach Bogosian slid a pass onto Deslauriers’ forehand who fired a wicked wrist shot short side, top shelf past Hiller. The grit and hustle that the 25 year-old plays with is worthy of a roster spot alone. When he adds anything offensively, that has to be seen as a major plus for the Sabres.
Robin Lehner was the definition of “good enough to win” in net for Buffalo. After a couple of ridiculous efforts from Lehner that ended in a loss, it was really nice to see the offense step up for him on a night where he wasn’t at his best. He finished with 26 saves in further solidifying his role as the number one netminder.
In what has not been unusual, Buffalo didn’t score the first goal of the game. Instead of sulking to a team that is in many ways their equal, they answered right back and never took their foot of the gas. Ristolainen’s goal ended a 21 game scoreless skid for the young Fin, as this was a game that seemed to get a lot of Sabres back on track.
The next game poses a much tougher task for Buffalo as Minnesota comes into town for some Saturday afternoon hockey. Developing consistency is a big part of making a good young team even better, and they will get a chance to prove if this effort was the real deal.