Follow me on Twitter!
The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a rematch of a last Thursday's nationally televised game they lost in a shootout. The Sabres didn’t play a particularly strong game but Carter Hutton was solid when he needed to be and the defense held up in the third period to seal the victory.
The game started in disastrous fashion when Darren Helm opened the scoring just 27 seconds into the first period
Carter Hutton loses sight of the rebound here and unfortunately for him, Helm notices before Jack Eichel does.
The Red Wings get caught in the neutral zone and the Sabres take advantage with some solid transition hockey, which has been a challenge for them all year. Bernier is a little show to react to this shot but Sheary does well to get enough on his shot to not give the Red Wings goaltender a chance.
Helm would get his second of the game just over seven minutes into the second period to help the Red Wings retake the lead.
On the surface this looks like a 3 v 3 battle but I question Brandon Montour’s intention when he's hanging by the side of the net. Montour may think Rasmus Ristolainen is going to retrieve this puck but this is in general a 50/50 battle. When the third Red Wings skater goes to the front of the net, Montour probably should have joined him there to at least disrupt any potential pass.
After getting outplayed for a bit in the second, the Sabres managed to tie the game at 2 thanks to some effective zone entry from Rasmus Dahlin, capped off by a good finish from Marcus Johansson.
Dahlin draws several Red wings defenders towards him, creating the space for Johansson’s shot. Again, it’s not something we see often in Ralph Krueger’s tactics. In stark contrast to former head coach Phil Housley, Krueger isn’t usually keen on having defenders take risks to create offense in this way. If any defender should do it for them however, it's probably Dahlin.
Sam Reinhart would score his 21st of the season just under a minute into the third period to give the Sabres their first lead of the game.
This is a tough break for Bernier, who tries his best to hold the post and was unsuccessful in his attempt to clear the puck with his blocker. It’s good work by Sam Reinhart to follow up on the play, fighting his way into a tough area to get the game winner.
I hesitate to use a sample size as small as one game versus the worst team in the NHL, however it’s worth pointing out that the second line everyone thought was a mess actually played quite well. Fan favourite Curtis Lazar posted an impressive CF% of 61.11 and a respectable XG% of 49.34.
Marcus Johansson was moved from centre to Lazar’s wing and he too had a great game, leading the team in XG% at 73.78. This line is unlikely to be a winning strategy moving forward but in his limited time at wing this year Johansson has shown he has more to offer than what he’s shown at centre. I’m not sure he’s a top six mainstay but he would probably make a very good third line winger for the 2020-21 Sabres.
Henri Jokiharju and Jake McCabe saw the most minutes of any skater on the Sabres at 5v5 and absolutely crushed it. They posted the best XGF and CF% of any pairing on the Sabres and actually saw the majority of their ice time with the make shift second line anchored by Lazar. Jokiharju in particular has seen a long stretch of heavy defensive usage over the last little while but in this game he got an even split. This balance seems to be what works best for him and hopefully the coaching staff will continue this sort of zone deployment for him.
Thanks for reading!