The Buffalo Sabres managed to keep themselves in the thick of the wild card race with a win in Chicago last night, but they need to get in gear.
The Buffalo Sabres scored a much-needed win to improve to 8-9-1, and thanks to much of the Eastern Conference remaining stagnant, they aren’t too far behind in the wild card race here on Monday morning. The Blue and Gold are just three points behind the Carolina Hurricanes and the Tampa Bay Lightning, so a sound Week 7 would be huge for the Blue and Gold.
And there are a few things they can take away from last week to incorporate in the final portion of November. Let’s explore the three biggest.
3 major takeaways for the Buffalo Sabres in Week 6
1 – Dahlin setting the stage
Rasmus Dahlin had four points in three games this past week, including three in last night’s win, bringing his total up to 15 in 18 contests. During the Sabres loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Dahlin dramatically upped the intensity level of his game, and that carried over into last night.
The effort foreshadowed what we may see this week when the Sabres gear up to face the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the New Jersey Devils. He will need to bring that A-Game, as will the rest of the team in every single one of those contests.
2 – Luukkonen enjoys another epic week
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen showed us this week what happens when you stick to and continually hone your craft. Sure, he still has his bad moments, but Luukkonen finished the week with 38 saves in 40 shots on goal, good for an outstanding 0.950 save percentage.
If the Buffalo Sabres have a top goaltender on the roster heading into Week 7, it’s Luukkonen, and he could end up as the main guy in the net if he keeps up his current trajectory. It’s also worth noting that in the last three games he’s played in (two starts), Luukkonen has recorded a 0.923 save percentage or better.
3 – Johnson, Benson more than make cases
Zach Benson has been lights out since he returned from injured-reserve, and it would be pointless to assign him to the Wenatchee Wild. Unless the Sabres make such a head-scratching move before Wednesday, expect Benson to solidify his spot on the team with one more strong outing in the final game of his trial.
This past week, he logged two assists, including an unforgettable pass that led to a Dahlin goal last night. The Sabres also have a collective 17.1 on-ice shooting percentage when Benson is in the game at 5-on-5, so it’s worth noting that he’s been part of several big plays, even if it doesn’t reflect the stat sheet.
Meanwhile, Ryan Johnson is coming off yet another stellar week, and the Blue and Gold often seem to find themselves with puck possession when he’s on the ice. Even more impressive is the fact that the Buffalo Sabres are still shutting out opponents at 5-on-5 with Johnson in the game.
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)