A 50/50 split on the West Coast road trip would be great for the Buffalo Sabres. Standing in their way, though? The surprising Las Vegas Golden Knights.
The Buffalo Sabres headed into their current four-game road trip in desperate need of two things: a win, and a hockey game in which they looked like professional hockey players.
Having been booed off their home ice at the Key Bank Center following a lifeless 6-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Sabres were in danger of losing a chunk of its fanbase less frustrating hobbies such as, oh,
Buffalo’s play was noticeably better during the first two games of this trip, but the results were the same: two more losses, this time a 3-2 defeat at hands of the San Jose Sharks and a 4-2 decision to the Los Angeles Kings. Finally, Buffalo earned its first victory of the season in Anaheim, and have a chance to finish this road trip with a .500 record . . . IF they can get by the surprising Las Vegas Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights became the first expansion team in NHL history to start their inaugural season 3-0, and they are currently in third place in the Western Conference with 8 points and a 4-1-0 record. They score three goals per game, and only surrender 2.2 goals per contest, the fifth-stingiest defense in the league. Wait – it gets worse! Las Vegas has the third-best penalty kill in the NHL, boasting a 92.8% success rate.
And their fans are rabid, thanks to the team being the first professional sports franchise in the city, and the fact that the organization knows how to put on a good show, something that some of our fans claim make no difference whatsoever in how well a team plays at home.
Finishing this trip with a break-even record would be huge for the Sabres – but can they do it, skating with what amounts to (mostly) second-line quality forwards or worse? (More on this topic in a day or two.) Here are my three bold predictions for tonight’s game, Buffalo’s first-ever against the LVGK.
Prediction #1: Sam Reinhart will earn a point for the second-straight game.
I would not want to be Sam Reinhart right now. First, a dose of reality: Reinhart was not worthy of being picked 2nd in the draft. If you expected him to go off for 65+ points this year, you were only setting yourself up for disappointment.
Even so, he is a better player than what we have seen for far this season. While it was nice to see Reinhart get his first goal of the season against the Ducks, it was Benoit Puoliot who did 95% of the work, and let’s face it: eight shots on goal in six games is not the sort of offensive production that is going to help the Sabres win many games.
Reinhart’s play has been so disappointing that Elliotte Friedman told the NHL Network that he had started to hear Samson’s name being mentioned as possible trade bait. Unless Reinhart actually wants out of Buffalo – mind you, a plausible scenario – I expect to see more strong play from him, leading to his second-straight game with at least one point.
Prediction #2: Kyle Okposo will earn his first point of the season tonight.
Hey: it has to happen sometime, right? Okposo is back after missing two games to illness; tonight, he shows up in the stats sheet.
Prediction #3: Jack Eichel will score tonight . . . twice.
Don’t ask me why, but I feel like Eichel will find the back of the net more than once tonight. He already has one goal and four points on this road trip, so unlike some Buffalo Sabres players who claim that they are sick of losing, yet fail to produce, Eichel has definitely taken his game up a level after Buffalo stunk up the ice against New Jersey.
Those are my picks, and I am sticking to them! Feel free to share your picks down below.