Earlier last week, the Buffalo Sabres won two games in a row for the first time since December 14-16, and looked to be making improvements on a run of poor outings and recent struggles. That success didn’t last long, however, as they’ve now lost their last three games in a row, and are just 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Now surpassed by the Ottawa Senators, the Sabres sit at seventh place in the Atlantic Division, and 27th overall in the NHL standings. As always, though, there are new storylines, some positive, to take from an otherwise unremarkable week of hockey. In this edition of Sabres Weekly, read about the latest Sabres storylines heading into a new week.
Tage Thompson Steals the Show This Weekend
Tage Thompson has been perhaps the best thing about the Sabres this season, and he earns his title as the shining star of the last week of Sabres hockey. After the Sabres put together back-to-back wins, they stumbled against the Senators, a team that they’ve spent most of the season ahead of in the standings, and dropped that game 3-1, moving into seventh place in the division. Thompson was just one player who said that lit a fire under the team. “Losing sucks,” Thompson said. “It never feels good to lose, but I think the team responded well . . . After last game, that’s not our standard. That’s not what we’re about and everyone in the room knows that.” (From ‘Thompson’s 1st-career hat trick comes in home loss to Colorado’ NHL.com, 2/19/2022)
Thompson, who leads the Sabres in goals (20) and points (38) this season, has 21 points in his last 19 games, including 14 points in his last 11 games. On Saturday in a game against the Colorado Avalanche, he scored his first-career hat trick, notching the Sabres’ only three goals in the whole contest. His hat trick came in the same week as line mate Jeff Skinner’s four-goal, five-point effort against the Montreal Canadiens.
“It’s a cool experience, for sure,” Thompson said on his hat trick that he scored on home ice at the KeyBank Center this weekend. “You grow up and you want to play in the NHL and those are little dreams you have: scoring a hat trick, winning Stanley Cups. For one of those to come true and get a hat trick, it’s a cool feeling.”
Dahlin Sidelined After Hot Streak
Among the list of young Sabres players who have boasted impressive bounce-back seasons, Rasmus Dahlin nears the top of that list, and is en route to the best statistical season of his young career. The 21-year-old has eight goals and 25 assists for 33 points in just 49 games played, and is on track to surpass his previous career high 44 points, set in his rookie season back in 2018-19.
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Unfortunately, the Sabres had to play their last game against the Blue Jackets without Dahlin, who was sidelined due to a lower-body injury that has him listed as day-to-day, and who has otherwise been totally healthy this season. WGR Sports Radio 550’s Paul Hamilton reported that Dahlin was sore after Saturday’s loss against the Avalanche, and that’s why he was held out from the next game. In the past five games, Dahlin has averaged 23:27 time on ice (TOI), and scored five points.
Eichel Makes His Golden Knights Debut
This might not be at the top of the list of news around the NHL that Sabres fans want to read, but given the circumstances, I think it’s notable, and I certainly consider it worthy of an appearance in at least one Sabres Weekly column (I promise I won’t bring it up again). Former Sabres captain Jack Eichel made his Vegas Golden Knights debut last Wednesday, and has skated in three games with his new team to date. After a slow start, it looks like he is finding his groove and producing like we all expect him to.
In three games with the Golden Knights, Eichel is point-per-game with one goal and two assists. It took him until game No. 3 to put the puck in the back of the net, but now that that’s done, he feels like the monkey is off his back. “There was a little bit of relief,” Eichel said after scoring his first goal with his new team. “You get the first one out of the way, and just keep playing hockey.” (From ‘’Jack Eichel, ‘trying to get a little more aggressive,’ scores his first goal with Vegas Golden Knights’’ ESPN.com, 2/20/2022)
Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer said “It’s a little bit of pressure off of him now. But I liked his game tonight,” of the new No. 1 center. “I think that with every game, he’s taken another step, and tonight, he was that much better.” Eichel played his first games in almost a year and since undergoing his disk replacement surgery in November, and debuted on the top line with the Golden Knights.
The Sabres Week Ahead
The last week was an up-and-down one for the Sabres, capitalized by a high of back-to-back wins and a low of three straight losses. Such is the way of things with a young, inexperienced team in the process of rebuilding for the second time in a decade, however. Thompson scoring his hat trick gave fans a reason to cheer, and Dahlin missing a game gave them a reason to worry. One thing that gives me solace is that this team is actually giving fans a reason to feel something again.
The Sabres continue their road trip for three more games before coming back home to Buffalo, and play their next game Wednesday night in Montreal against the Canadiens. That game could be a perfect opportunity to get back in the win column and take some momentum into the following games.