Red Wings win in Buffalo as Mittelstadt gets his first NHL point

March 30, 2018
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The Buffalo Sabres took on the Detroit Red Wings for the final time this season. While both teams occupy a spot in the bottom ten of the NHL, this matchup had a lot of hype around it. That’s because 2017 eighth overall pick Casey Mittelstadt made his NHL debut after signing his entry level contract a few days ago.

The Sabres got off to a quick start as just three minutes into the first, Jack Eichel collects the puck at center ice and just blows past Jonathan Ericcson before ripping one far side on Jimmy Howard.

In the midst of all the Mittelstadt hype, Eichel reminds us who’s in charge. Great speed and a well placed shot give the Sabres a 1-0 lead.

The Sabres would add to their total just a few minutes later on the power play. Rasmus Ristolainen gets his point shot through traffic and on net, Sam Reinhart collects the rebound and sets up Ryan O’Reilly, who scores his 21st of the year, extending the lead to 2-0.

The two goal lead lasted just thirty seconds, however. Evgeny Svechnikov’s centering pass bounces a couple of times in front of Robin Lehner, but the puck eventually finds Dylan Larkin in the slot who puts home his 13th of the year.

The Red Wings would find the equalizer a little over five minutes into the third thanks to some awful power play work by the Sabres. Ristolainen’s half-hearted hesitant entry gets nowhere and Frans Nielsen sends a backhander to center ice, where Darren Helm is waiting all alone. He uses his speed to create the breakaway chance and makes no mistake deking out Lehner.

The Red Wings would pick up their first lead with three and a half minutes to go in the third. Just as their power play is about to expire, Joe Hicketts’ point shot is stopped but Anthony Mantha is left uncontested and he tucks the rebound past Lehner, giving the Red Wings a 3-2 lead.

The Sabres were looking to start the third period strong to get back the lead they lost. Instead, a poor zone entry attempt from Nathan Beaulieu allows the Red Wings to counter with an odd man rush, eventually finished off by Andreas Athanasiou.

That’s a terrific pass by Justin Abdelkader, but this was so poorly played by just about every Sabres skater involved. Justin Falk commits to the dive way too early and Beaulieu tries to swat the puck out of mid-air instead of taking his man. Neither Mittelstadt nor Reinhart put enough effort into getting back to cover Athanasiou, who gets an open net to shoot at because Chad Johnson (came in relief of Lehner in the third period) was way out of position.

The Sabres would cut the deficit to one again just a few minutes later. Off the faceoff, Mittelstadt gets his first NHL point as he pulls the puck back to Evan Rodrigues, who takes a few strides into the slot and rips one past Howard for his seventh of the season, making it 4-3 Red Wings.

That’s as close as the Sabres would get though. Near the midway point of the third, Gustav Nyquist throws a shot pass towards the front of the net, and a pinching Danny Dekeyser gets enough on it to put it past Johnson, restoring the Red Wings two goal lead.

The Sabres attempted to mount a comeback by pulling Johnson for the extra skater. However, he couldn’t even get to the Sabres bench before the puck was turned over to the Red Wings. Svechnikov plays a give and go with Mantha and puts it past a sprawling Johnson to put the game out of reach, final score 6-3 Red Wings.

The Sabres were out attempted 5v5 37-34 but the real story is their expected goals for of 0.88. That would imply that perhaps Eichel’s goal is one that should have been stopped. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but even then the Sabres failed to generate much at 5v5 and the loss was pretty well deserved.

As you can see, both teams generated shots from just about everywhere, but the Red Wings got the bulk of their chances in the prime areas.

Corsica.hockey

 

The top two lines for the Sabres had decent nights against their main matchups. Everyone else, not so much. The Marco Scandella and Casey Nelson pairing also had a good night, posting a CF% of 63.39 and 51.44 respectively.

Other Notes:

Aside from the assist and maybe one or two shifts, it wasn’t a stellar debut for Mittelstadt. He missed his defensive assignment twice leading directly to goals and took a faceoff violation penalty that screamed rookie mistake. Most of this is understandable and even expected to some extent. It wasn’t that long ago he was playing against college kids who could barely keep up. Now he has to try and keep up with Dylan Larkin. The point here isn’t to bash the kid, but understand the situation. We’re talking about a young player on a bad team. There are going to be growing pains. In the meantime, enjoy this rush as a sign of things to come.

Speaking of nice rushes, Jack Eichel wasn’t about to let Mittelstadt steal his thunder.

Eichel’s goal was fantastic. I’ve been saying the priority for the Sabres is to reshape the defense, and I stand by that, but perhaps almost as important is finding someone who can hang with Eichel. Fortunately this horrid season comes with the silver lining of a potential top four pick (assuming the Sabres finish last) and three of the consensus top four are wingers, all of whom would look great next to Eichel.

Michael Ghofrani
About Michael Ghofrani

Michael Ghofrani has been working on finding hockey statistics that can break down and explain certain game events. He's also a Sabres follower from Toronto doing his best to fend off Leafs Nation.

Browse more articles by Michael Ghofrani.

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