Well that was exciting. The Sabres stood toe to toe with what could be a potential Stanley Cup contender in the St. Louis Blues. Buffalo took St. Louis into a shoot out only to lose off a controversial shoot out goal by Alexander Steen. Here are my five takeaways from the game.
1. Tyler Ennis was the worst Sabre on the ice- My frustration with Ennis may be a bit over exaggerated. Maybe not though. Ennis cost the Sabres a goal five minutes in after a boarding penalty that put him in the box for five minutes. He continued to turn the puck over in the offensive zone after making one too many moves. He reminds me of a guy that used to wear #61 on the Sabres. For every eye popping play he makes, there are 2 costly mistakes that lead to opposing goals. I am not saying it is time to make a move on Ennis but he doesn't seem to make players around him better. Eichel disappeared when Ennis was on his line.
2. The Gionta-O'Reilly-Moulson line was extremely productive- What can I say about Ryan O'Reilly. He has been the most valuable player to Buffalo. His 7th goal to tie up the game in the second period was his 7th of the year which is a team high. He was 16-5 on face offs (76%) and helped create chances for both Gionta and Moulson.
Matt Moulson continues to quietly make plays. He fought off two Blues defenders to get the puck to Gionta who then fed O'Reilly on a wide open net. He has 8 points on the year now and is one of a few forwards with a positive plus minus.
Gionta also looked solid. He seems healthy and is making a lot of nice passes. The veteran forward has gotten it going lately with a goal and 5 assists on the year.
3. Sam Reinhart is developing into a potential star- The 19 year old has a major clutch gene. The rookie scored another big goal in the second period after a Ristolainen shot was directed wide by Blues goalie Jake Allen who then couldn't get back in time as Reinhart hacked the puck into the net. His puck possession was excellent and did a great job along the boards against a Blues team that was a lot bigger than the Sabres. The former second overall pick has 4 goals on the year and is improving each game.
4. Linus Ullmark steps up big to clinch a point for the Sabres- Say what you want about the 22 year old about his struggles, but the fact is this kid has what it takes to be a franchise goaltender. After a shaky start to the game, Ullmark came up big in the third period after a series of good scoring chances for the Blues. The rookie came up big with two minutes to go after Cody Franson turned the puck over and Alex Pietrangelo took a wrist shot after crashing on net.
The Swedish goaltender looked strong in the shootout as well. He stopped Shattenkirk and Tarasenko before Alex Steen scored a goal that should not have counted after Steen hit the puck twice.
Ullmark's strong play is making an interesting situation at goalie for the Sabres. When Lehner returns from his injury, he may not have a starting job to come back to.
5. The Sabres can compete with the NHL's best- Two games in a row the Sabres took on elite western conference teams and could have won both. If it wasn't for a coaches challenge by Mr. Lindy Ruff Tuesday night, the Sabres would have forced overtime and potentially could have defeated the top scoring team in the NHL.
Against the Blues, Buffalo fought just as hard. The defense battled despite a tough matchup, the offense continued to generate opportunities from in front of the net and at the blue line, it was an impressive performance all around.
With another point in the overtime loss, the Sabres are now 8-8-2 with 18 points to show for it. They currently stand 3 points behind the second wild card seed which is held by the surprise team of the year in the New Jersey Devils.
The point is this team isn't what many expected. You heard the fact that this team would improve gradually over time with all the young talent, however not many expected Buffalo to be standing toe to toe with the NHL's best franchises.
Things are looking up for the Buffalo Sabres. With Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian healthy, this team is ready to make a run.