Sabres keep playoff hopes alive


Buffalo comes out strong and finishes a physical game over the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. A great game by Carter Hutton to control the pace and “Monster” Jack Eichel netting two goals on the power play, including the game winner, were key contributors to this win.

Getting the lead early is something the Sabres are getting used to, but what they do with that lead has contributed to the emotional roller coaster that this team has gone on over the last seven games. Now winning five of their last seven, the Sabres are still giving themselves a chance to catch the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third-place spot in the Atlantic. The importance of being able to bounce back from the beating they took on Tuesday night cannot be overstated, but they need to keep going if they want to make the Playoffs.

“We have to take it one game at a time. We’re just trying to chip away. In the grand scheme of things, we have a lot of work to do, but right now we can only focus on what’s at hand here.” – Carter Hutton

Contributions throughout the lineup were seen through the game today. Goals from four players and points from nine, we see that balance that Ralph Krueger has been working towards with this group. Most notable of those was Jeff Skinner, who had not scored a goal since December 2nd (23 games). Pushing through the mental strain of a slump like that is not easy, and those are the wins that Buffalo needs.

“I’ve had probably a couple other better chances to finish one, but he (Marcus Johansson) makes a great play there.” – Jeff Skinner

Pittsburgh was still able to show some signs of life. Evgeni Malkin, who has a strong history against Buffalo, put home two off of hard work around the net. The rest of the Penguins put pressure on Buffalo as they left the defensive zone, creating turnovers and poor passes. This is an area the Sabres have struggles and we are seeing quite a few teams press this way to expose this weakness. It needs to be addressed in order to be successful in the long run.

Goaltending was a big factor in this game as well. Hutton stopped 41 of 43 shots, including some stellar saves on Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust (Pittsburgh’s top scorer). You could see the frustration as the game went on and the crowd grew quiet. Tristan Jarry, who has played quite well this season, went just 21 for 26 tonight for Pittsburgh. The open time for Eichel on the power play and turnovers by the Penguins defense leading to Sam Reinhart’s breakaway contributed to the lack of success for Jarry.

The physical game has been tough throughout the season for Buffalo as well, but they kept up to Pittsburgh’s aggressive 40 hit total with 31 hits of their own. This definitely opened up the opportunities that the Sabres had tonight and we need to see this continue in order to give more time and space to the skill players on the team.

The Sabres return home tomorrow afternoon to face off against the Winnipeg Jets at 3 p.m. in KeyBank Center. Stringing together a weekend of wins would be huge for the confidence of this team and is necessary for keeping the playoff dreams alive.

1:14Zemgus Girgensons (11)Kyle Okposo (8)
16:48Sam Reinhart (22)
110:51PPGJack Eichel (34)Rasmus Ristolainen (25)Sam Reinhart (28)
211:10Evgeni Malkin (19)
35:39Jeff Skinner (12)Marcus Johansson (18)Michael Frolik (7)
312:17PPGJack Eichel (35)Rasmus Dahlin (33)Rasmus Ristolainen (26)
317:57Evgeni Malkin (20)


Cory Hubbard
I am a lifelong Buffalo hockey fan living in Boston, MA, where I moved after graduation from the Rochester Institute of Technology. I have played hockey my whole life and love bringing my passion for Buffalo hockey together with my knowledge and love of the game.
[td_block_social_counter facebook="BuffaloHockeyCentral" twitter="BHCdotcom" custom_title="Follow BHC:" header_color="#002654" open_in_new_window="y"]