The Buffalo Sabres enter this game with a 1-4-1 record looking to close out their western road trip with a win against a “hot out of the gate” Vegas Golden Knights’ team who are 4-1-0 and second in the Pacific Division.
Vegas last game recap
The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their fourth win of the season against the Boston Bruins defeating them 3-1. Goaltender Malcolm Subban picked up his first NHL win stopping 21 of 22 shots for a .955 save percentage.
After a scoreless first period, Alex Tuch opened the scoring by stealing the puck and going top shelf for his first NHL goal of his young career. With about two minutes to go in the second, Las Vegas made it 2-0 after a mad scramble in front of the net. Tuch got the assist on Vadim Shipachyov’s first NHL goal in his first ever NHL game.
David Pastrnak made it 2-1 with about 30 seconds left after the puck bounced off of William Karlsson’s foot into the net past Subban. Mere seconds later Oscar Lindberg sealed the game with an empty-netter to give the Vegas Golden Knights their fourth win of the season.
Finally a win
After five straight losses, and missing out on nine of ten possible points, the Buffalo Sabres finally got their first win of the season on the back of their backup goaltender Chad Johnson and Marco Scandella’s knee.
Western New York native Justin Bailey opened the scoring 1:36 into the first period after a wild scramble in front of the net resulted in the puck finding its way in. It was Bailey’s first goal, on his first shift after being called up that day. After Anaheim’s goal was overturned with eight minutes left in the second period, they scored shorthanded four minutes later to tie the game at one.
Buffalo has now given up a shorthanded goal in every game played this year. With about 30 seconds remaining in the second, Buffalo went back on top after a beautiful tip by Sam Reinhart flipped over John Gibson’s pads and into the net to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead.
Anaheim had their fair share of chances in the third period, but could never get it past Johnson. They were even thwarted with a ridiculous play that resulted in Marco Scandella making the save of the game. Johan Larsson scored an empty-netter as insurance to give Buffalo the 3-1 win.
Three keys to the game
Better defense – If the Buffalo Sabres want to win this game they have to play better defensively and stop leaving their goalie out to dry at certain critical times. They must keep the puck in front of them and slow this speedy Vegas Golden Knights squad if they wish to win.
Buffalo has shown flashes of defensive brilliance, and have been able to shut down good teams to start the season, but they weren’t able to do enough to get the win and were lucky that Anaheim was so injury ridden.
If the Sabres want to get in the win column again, they have to pick up their play defensively and shut down Las Vegas.
Score – More players need to score on this roster than Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, and Jason Pominville. That finally happened against the Ducks, but it has to be consistent for Buffalo to win games. This roster is too loaded with talent to only rely on three players, and Eichel’s pure, star-studded talent can only take this team so far if the others don’t pick up the slack.
Subban is a good goaltender, but not great. If Buffalo can get the puck on him early, they might get him rattled and be able to score.
Time of possession – Buffalo seems to face an uphill battle when in their own zone. From not being able to get the puck out of their own zone, to having to chase the other team around, it’s not working. They can’t do that against Vegas, or any team. Buffalo has to keep their guys fresh to keep up with the speed at which Vegas plays.
Buffalo doesn’t have many speedy guys, but if they can consistently move the puck and not be stuck in their own zone for minutes on end, they will have a shot at a win. This Buffalo Sabres’ squad has to be prepared to not play as sloppy as they have been and be able to be consistent at both ends of the ice.
The Vegas Golden Knights have been able to shock teams with their speed and forechecking ability, and Buffalo has to tighten up their play or Las Vegas will pounce all over their mistakes.
Prediction: 4-2 Buffalo
If head coach Phil Housley rides the hot hand at goaltender in Chad Johnson, then the Buffalo Sabres should be able to leave T-Mobile Arena with a victory to wrap up their west coast road trip. Now that other players have realized that they can score, and if Bailey is kept in the lineup, Buffalo should click on offense and everything else should fall into place.
If Buffalo can just tighten up their mistakes, or at least decrease them, then they should walk away with a victory.
If Johnson can continue his stellar performance from the last game, and if Buffalo doesn’t give up another shorthanded goal, then they should end the road trip on a happy note heading back home to play Vancouver.
Ways to watch
The only ways to see this game are on the local channels or through NHL TV/NHL Center Ice.
Buffalo: MSG-TV or WGR 550 AM Radio
Las Vegas: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain Sports or KRLV Fox Sports 1340 AM/98.9 FM Radio
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