Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
It lasted 44 games dating back to November 1, but last night it came to an end.
Matt Moulson, a former three-time 30-goal scorer with the NY Islanders and a player who suffered through the better part of the last two seasons with a bottom-feeding Buffalo Sabres team, finally scored. Leave it to Jack Eichel and Zemgus Girgensons to get the job done and some props should be given to defenseman Jake McCabe who actually started the play by knocking down an Ottawa shoot-in at the red line.
McCabe would get the puck to Eichel at center ice who used his speed to gain the zone and ring one around the boards where McCabe was waiting at the point. McCabe shot it towards the net and Girgensons tipped it to Eichel down low. The rookie phenom gathered the puck and sent a behind the back pass to the crease to a charging Moulson who deposited the puck...finally.
We're not sure who was more excited about the goal, the entire Sabres team or Moulson himself. Or maybe it was GM Tim Murray who's been wondering all season what he's going to do with a four-goal scorer making $5m a season for the next three-plus seasons.
Coach Dan Bylsma called it a massive weight lifted off of Moulson's shoulders with the 31 yr. old forwards saying to the post-game media, "I've put in a lot of work lately just trying to make sure I'm getting better each day."
Moulson is a rather humble lad and seems like a genuine good guy. The organization respected him enough to give him and his family the responsibility of being a billet for Eichel. The 19 yr. old rookie has been living with the Moulson family all season and of all the players he was the most excited. "It's great to see him get rewarded," said Eichel, "I'm just happy he scored."
Eichel himself wished he'd have scored last night as he was stymied on a breakaway in overtime and just missed high in the shootout, something he alluded to last night when speaking with the gathered media.
"We did a lot of great things," he said of the 2-1 SO loss, "[but] I think this one falls on me. If I want to be the player I want to be it's got to go in the back of the net."
Good on him. Even though he has points in seven of his last 10 games (3 goals, 6 assists) and it was his sweet set up that got Moulson off the schneid, he's focused upon the one that got away.
Second-year Sabre Nic Deslauriers dropped the gloves with Ottawa veteran tough-guy Chris Neil last night and left the ice bloodied.
Neil has played in 951 games during his NHL career and is a just shy of reaching the 200-fight mark for his NHL career (including preseason and post season.)
Philadelphia's Radko Gudas has played in less than 200 NHL games and already has a reputation as a cheap-shot artist as seen by the hit on a vulnerable Daniel Catenacci when the Sabres played the Flyers last week. And the big Czech goon was at it again last night as he leveled New Jersey's Bobby Farnham with a shoulder to the head. Gudas rightfully received a match-penalty and maybe this time he'll get a call from the league.
Both of those hits by Gudas, who seems to be in some Broadstreet Bullies time warp, were on players who were already engaged with Philly players and constitutes a cheap-shot at it's worst.
Although Neil has been known for cheapshots in the past, some that were borderline, I don't ever remember him suckering a player when they're already engaged in a play.
What do these two have in common in relation to the Buffalo Sabres?
They're both nemises to the Sabres and to the league in general and there's no Buffalo player presently on the roster to combat them. The one guy they do have is in Rochester.
Patrick Kaleta has done some stupid things during his NHL career as his reckless abandon landed him squarely on the league's progressive discipline list. Because of those actions he was banished by former Buffalo GM Darcy Regier to Rochester in 2013 and he's been there ever since.
Has he pulled a "Saul-to-Paul," Matt Cooke-like transformation to a player who plays hard away from the edge? One would think so. But there's only one way to find out--give him the call to Buffalo.
Kaleta bleeds blue and gold and he'll do anything for the team. He's always left it all out on the ice and is the type of player that the other team is aware of. And he's always come to the defense of his teammates with out regard fro personal safety.
If, for instance, he was playing in the game against Philadelphia, were he on the ice he'd have jumped Gudas without hesitation. This is a guy who once took on Milan Lucic and despite getting the worst of it, felt he had done what he could and was pumped up. The Sabres won that game against Boston, by the way.
Even if he weren't on the ice against the Flyers at the time of Gudas' cheapshot on Catenacci, you could bet your bottom dollar that on his next shift, Philly would have been looking over their shoulders wondering where he was on the ice.
As for Neil, he is what he is, the Sabres know it and although Kaleta is no deterrent to his antics it's that same thing--like with Neil, the opposition is aware whenever they're on the ice.
The trade deadline's coming up in less than two weeks and some spots will open up in the Sabres roster. Jamie McGinn could be on the move as could veteran David Legwand. Murray and Co. have already gotten a good look at a few fourth-liners who bring a little something different to the table.
It's time, in my opinion to give Kaleta his shot.