Beast mode. It’s a term alluding to someone raising his or her game when in competition or combat to overpower an opponent. It’s powering up into a stronger version of one’s self. It’s the nickname NFL running back Marshawn Lynch earned when he continually powered his way past and through opponents.
Lately, beast mode is a reference to describe Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel’s play.
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Eichel Went Beast Mode Against the Kings
Tuesday night in Buffalo, the 22-year-old captain from Chelmsford, MA, was a force in a 4-3 overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings. He was all over the ice, dominating play and possession every time he was over the boards.
Tallied up, the score sheet indicates he played 25 shifts for 25:57 of ice time–14:55 at even strength, 10:23 on the power play, and 39 seconds of shorthanded time. It topped his previous high of 25:45 against the New York Rangers back in early October.
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Eichel unleashed 14 shots with 10 getting on net. He scored once, giving him goals in three straight and five in the last three games. At the end of the third period and the beginning of overtime, Eichel appeared to play the longest shift ever by a Sabre. Battling like it was a must-win game and during a double shift in which he was gassed, Eichel kept his feet moving and drew a penalty with only 3.9 seconds left in regulation. He then played on the resulting power play in overtime which featured Jeff Skinner’s game-winning goal.
The win ended the Sabres five-game losing streak, which came immediately after a franchise tying 10-game win streak.
“After getting beat here [at home] 6-2, we come out and don’t really play a great 40 minutes, where I don’t think we were emotionally engaged in the game,” said Eichel. “It’s good to see the last 20 [minutes] go our way, but we gotta start piecing together full games here.”
“It’s good to get two points because we needed it. We were on a little bit of a skid there,” said Eichel. “It’s good to stop the bleeding and hopefully get something going here.”
Eichel’s Stats This Season
Through 31 games this season, Eichel has 10 goals and 28 assists for 38 points. He’s leading the Sabres in scoring and is on pace to rack up 100 points this season, shattering his previous personal-best mark of 64 points in the 2017-18 season. As of Wednesday morning, he ranked tied for ninth in the league in points and tied for fourth in the league in assists. His 1.23 points-per-game average have him tied for 16th in the NHL–alongside Sidney Crosby, Mark Scheifele, Gabriel Landeskog and David Pastrnak. Pretty decent company.
Eichel’s two points against the Kings give him multi-point games in five of his last six outings. Already, through 31 games, he has an eye-popping 15 multi-point games this season, tied for the league lead with the Colorado Avalanche’s Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon.
Though Eichel’s average ice time of 20:15 ranks 117th in the NHL, he’s has taken more shots (138) than anyone in the NHL this season. That’s six more than Nathan MacKinnon, 14 more than Tyler Seguin, and 22 more than Alex Ovechkin. While his shooting percentage is only 7.2 percent, a career low, it’s bound to rebound soon enough.
This season, his first season as the team’s captain, Eichel seems more focused than ever. He’s playing with even greater tenacity, determination and commitment. And his instincts are leading the Sabres to success. The team sits in third place in the Atlantic Division, eight points inside the playoff line.
Eichel’s mentality and demeanor seem more mature and his leadership skills more apparent. He speaks and plays like a true captain in the NHL. There’s a “good enough isn’t good enough” mentality and no quit in his game which is translating to wins. It’s not a new or different style for Eichel. It’s that he’s finally healthy and has a winger in Jeff Skinner that plays and sees the game at his pace.
At the end of the season, no one counts up which wins were quality wins or which ones were lucky. A win is a win and all that matters is how many points a team has accumulated. Analytics be damned.
That said, Eichel is not content to take two points from a less-than-stellar game, nor does he sound satisfied. Instead, he looks for opportunities to improve and lessons to be learned. For a young team, Eichel is leading the way, a shining example of the effort and attitude required to win.
Sabres Are Making Progress
This year, Eichel likely won’t garner any Hart trophy consideration unless the Sabres make the playoffs. And his goal output isn’t at elite status yet, so he’ll fail to capture national recognition. The 6-foot-2, 206 pound Eichel is playing a sound 200-foot game, being responsible at both ends of the rink and elevating every player that joins his line.
“We’ve got a tough stretch coming up here,” said Eichel after the game. “Arizona’s playing some good hockey and then you’ve got a back-to-back against two of the top teams in the East. We’ve just got to start playing a better 60 minutes.”
If Eichel continues playing in beast mode, anything is possible.
Jeff has been covering the NHL for over a decade for various sites. He’s been with The Hockey Writers as a lead Sabres writer three years, while also writing a satire column called “Off the Crossbar.”