Jack's Just Dishin: Couldn’t help the shameless plug for our friends over at Just Dishin, but fits how Captain Jack played last night. In what felt like a must win game vs. a tough Islanders team, Jack stepped up and carried much of the Sabres offense, as he has done all year long.
Late in the first period Eichel won a key offensive zone draw back to Jeff Skinner, who ripped a laser past ex-Sabres net minder Robin Lehner. Eichel’s expertise in offensive zone draws has led to a multitude of goals and scoring chances, and cannot be overlooked. Skinner now quietly sits just 4 goals behind Ovechkin in the race for the Rocket Richard with his 34th goal of the season. Jack wasn’t done there though as he stormed down the wing a few minutes into the second period and hit a cutting Jason Pominville with a beautiful backhand saucer to give the Sabres back the lead, one the Sabres wouldn’t give back. Eichel extended his point streak to 6 games, as he has tallied 8 pts (2G, 6A) over that span. Captain Jack will have to keep rolling if the Sabres are going continue to push for a playoff spot.
Linus the Great: Sabres fans owe Ullmark a big pat on the back for the way he has played for the team most of this season. Last night was no different, as the net minder stood on his head when the team needed him most. Linus turned away 24 Islander shots in last night’s effort, as it appears he has taken over the #1 role in the crease for the team. Late in the third, New York really turned up the pressure on Ullmark, but the young goalie didn’t seem to be phased.
One shift in particular stands out to me when Islanders star Matt Barzal was buzzing around the Sabres defensive zone with just a few minutes left in the game. Barzal was throwing the puck at the net from every angle and going between his legs, but Ullmark was up to the task. Back to my article last week, I talked about how the Sabres defensive zone play has been a complete and utter disaster. I don’t think it has approved any since Housley has made a few tweaks to the blueline pairs. Ullmark’s strong play in the net will have to continue, as I don’t see this defense turning it around anytime soon.
Gameplan: Overall last night I thought the Sabres game plan was evident, as the team appeared to learn from the first time they played this Islanders team. The two last met on New Year’s Eve, when New York got the better of the Sabres in a 3-1 win. The Islanders don’t have a great team on paper, but they play a tough physical defensively sound game. I don’t think the Sabres appeared prepared for the physicality the Islanders brought last time the teams met. Fast forward to last night, the Sabres came out ready for a dogfight and that’s just what it was. Sabres dug deep and match the physicality of the Islanders and came out of the locker room with the jump they needed to win that game. This was nice to see, as at times the Sabres come out of the gate slow and don’t turn things up until the third period. Good on coach Housley for having the boys ready to go and prepared in a big matchup like last night.
Look Ahead: The Sabres take on the New York Rangers on Friday Night at the Key Bank Center at 7:00pm. Every game from here on it is pretty much a must win, as the Sabres trail the final wild card spot by just 2 pts. Overall, a very winnable game for the team as the Rangers have had a tough year and sit right around the .500 mark. Until then Go Sabres!