The Buffalo Sabres can hit 23 points in 23 games, but they will have to beat one of the best teams in the East to do so.
When the Buffalo Sabres take the ice at the KeyBank Center tonight, they should have plenty of reasons to be excited.
For starters, the home crowd should be pretty raucous, given that tonight will be the home debut of one Jack Eichel.
Of course, just the fact that Eichel will be on the ice for the Sabres is cause for excitement, as well, as the Sabres enjoyed their second-highest scoring game of the season Tuesday with Eichel back in the lineup.
Toss in the fact that Buffalo could hit the .500 points percentage if they earn a win over the New York Rangers tonight, and you have lots of reasons why the Sabres should come out energized and ready to take care of business tonight.
Here are my Three Ways To Not Blow the Game for this team tonight!
As I wrote yesterday, the Eichel Effect is real – there is no doubt that Eichel makes the Sabres a better team on the offensive side of the ice. However, if Buffalo’s five-goal explosion Tuesday night was due in part to a temporary burst of adrenaline and excitement that Sabres players experienced because of Eichel’s debut, this team is going to be in trouble tonight. No, it’s not reasonable to think that Buffalo will score five goals every night with Eichel in the lineup, but this team cannot drop back down to the team that could muster only one goal an evening, either.
Jack Eichel is a damn good player . . . but he is only ONE player, so everyone on this team must continue to raise their level if the Sabres want to get in the habit of winning regularly.
2. Continue to win the special teams battles
It’s funny: Buffalo is the only team in the NHL to currently average less than two goals per night, but somehow the Sabres own the league’s fifth-best power play, converting on 22.7% of their man-advantages. That’s good news, and as we saw Tuesday, the Sabres’ PP unit is even more dangerous with Eichel back. The bad news is that the New York Rangers are not that far behind, converting 21.1% of their power play opportunities.
Even worse news? The Rangers own the league’s 6th-best penalty kill success rate, at 85.5%. The Sabres are holding steady . . . in the 25 spot, killing off just 78.7%. It is imperative that Buffalo stay out of the penalty box tonight, and capitalize on any infractions committed by the Blueshirts.
3. Play a full 60 minutes
Seriously – did you watch the second period against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday? Now you know why I am afraid that the Eichel effect will amount to nothing more than a serious sugar high. The Sabres played great hockey for 20 minutes thanks to the return of Jack, and then had their assess handed to them for the next 20 minutes by Ottawa. This team has too many questions marks up and down the roster to gift-wrap an entire period to a team like the Rangers. You can sleep when you are dead, boys!
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The Buffalo Sabres face a stiff test tonight, but the team is energized and ready to begin living up to the expectations that it set before the season started. The puck drops at 7 p.m. so be on the look out for our Fan Chatter, follow us on Twitter @sabrenoise, and Let’s Go Buffalo!