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Sabres faced first real test in Columbus

Buffalo battled back, but Blue Jackets were the better team

Wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils gave the Sabres a much-needed positive start to the season. In both games, Buffalo dictated the play and neither game was really close despite the first being a 3-1 score.

Many wondered if the Sabres could continue that type of play on Monday night when they took on the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that had lost its’ first two games. 

That wasn’t the case. 




The Blue Jackets looked hungry for their first win, and they took Buffalo’s game and shoved it right back in their face. They applied pressure and had sustained time in the offensive end. It led to the Sabres playing on defense much more than they had in games No. 1 and 2. When the Sabres were on offense, their passes were off, their stretch passes were intercepted or off-target, and they struggled to get into the Columbus end.

Luckily for them, their power play continued to be a strong point. Victor Olofsson’s game-tying goal in the final minutes helped Buffalo earn a point and Marcus Johansson scored earlier with the man advantage as well. 

The Sabres were also fortunate that Linus Ullmark came to play. He gave up four goals on 44 shots, but he looked sharp in goal. He faced a lot of high-quality chances, including the overtime goal and shouldn’t be faulted for any part of the loss.




The Sabres are still looking good from an analytical standpoint after three games. Both charts below from @ChartingHockey help show the success Buffalo has had through those three games so far:

 

It’s good to see. Last season, we saw Buffalo rattle off 10 straight wins, but it was arguably the luckiest winning streak of all-time. After three games, the Sabres are 2-0-1 and the stats/analytics are backing up that performance on the ice. 

If there was a desired way to lose the first game, this was it. The Blue Jackets were the better team on Monday night, but the Sabres should be proud of the way they competed and made adjustments. I’m not saying that this is a moral victory, but it’s the type of compete that we haven’t exactly seen in recent years. 

Going down 2-0 in Columbus, the team could have easily mailed it in. Instead, they came out in the 2nd period and tied it up, getting themselves right back in the game.

They did the same thing later in the 3rd period as well. 

Were they fortunate to get those power-play chances? Yes. But right now they’re executing with the man advantage and that’s making a huge difference. They’re atop the league in that category at 60% right now, which is very unsustainable but shows how dangerous that power play can be. 

Sabres fans should be pleased with what they saw against Columbus and the fact they managed to get a point out of it. 

The Sabres are home for three straight games now with Montreal on Wednesday, Florida on Friday, and Dallas on Monday. It’s a great opportunity to continue this strong start. 




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