Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
First-off, I think Edmonton's Taylor Hall is a helluva player and in no way, shape or form do I believe him to be dirty. From the limited number of games I've seen he plays fast, plays with skill and is basically plays the game the way it should be played.
That said, what he did last night in boarding Buffalo's Sam Reinhart smacked of malicious intent as he took out his frustrations on a player in a prone position.
Early in the third period of last night's game with the Oilers up 4-2, Hall got tangled up deep in his own zone with Sabres d-man Jake McCabe who was pinching in on the play. McCabe's stick ended up between Hall's legs and he went down to the ice. No penalty. When Hall got up he bee-lined towards the puck which was on the far side. You could see in his stride that he was ticked off and when a short pass went to Reinhart along the boards, Hall took out his frustrations on him and received a two-minute minor penalty.
It was a dangerous hit, the type the NHL is trying to eliminate. Reinhart got up and skated to the bench a little off-kilter, but had he not, we'd be looking at something a bit more serious.
Hall is a star player who's having an outstanding season thus-far with 28 points (11+17,) good for seventh in the league. But that doesn't give mean he should be given a pass on this.
The Oilers pretty much left the Sabres in the dust last night as they were flying around all over the ice. They pressured Buffalo in every zone and made them look as if it were last year's team. The official giveaway stats don't come close to telling just how much trouble the Sabres had in the game.
"Every puck through the first 30 minutes was north and behind our defenseman," said head coach Dan Bylsma to the gathered media post-game. "They got in with speed, got in with a forecheck and forced us in a lot of areas."
Edmonton not only controlled the first 30 minutes with the puck in play, they also controlled the faceoff circle. Buffalo was 13 of 36 (36%) on the dot and their best faceoff man, Ryan O'Reilly, was even worse as he went 4 of 11 (27%.) Two of Edmonton's three goals were direct results of winning a faceoff in Buffalo's zone.
When all was said and done, the Sabres headed into the third period down 4-2 but had redemption on the horizon as Hall took that boarding penalty. The Sabres managed four shots on goal and they would get no closer as the game would end with that score.
Although this wasn't a clunker on the scale of the 7-2 Montreal debacle, the Sabres just didn't play well as a team. There were way too many individual lapses, especially early on, that put Buffalo in a hole and by the time they woke up, they were down 4-2 with the Oilers in lock-down mode.
One could make the excuse that their slow start was a product of adjusting to the Mountain Time Zone, and there's some truth to that. But there's also truth to the fact that they've been notoriously slow starters for much of the season. In saying that, it also looked like the Sabres weren't prepared for the Oilers' speed as they witnessed it first-hand for the first time this season.
They got schooled by an Edmonton team that they'll be compared to for years to come and not just because of the Connor McDavid/Eichel thing. They're two of the youngest teams in the league who were built with a bevy of first round draft picks and they both like to use their team-speed to play an up-tempo game.
The next meeting between the two clubs will be March 1, 2016 as the Oilers visit First Niagara Center to kick off a four-game road trip and one would expect Edmonton to have McDavid in the lineup at that time.
One should also expect a better performance from Buffalo as well.