Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
At 6'2" 207, we knew Buffalo Sabres winger Hudson Fasching was a big body and from we'd gathered throughout his college career, especially this past season, we knew he liked being around the net. Fasching, who scored 46 goals in 115 NCAA games for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, always has had a nose for the net and the skill to finish when he got there.
Yesterday afternoon he did exactly that.
After fellow first-time-NHL'er Casey Nelson worked the puck to d-partner Mark Pysyk, Fasching headed up ice and grabbed Pysyk's pass along the wall at the Winnipeg Jets blueline. The Jets Jacob Trouba seemingly had the rush cover save for the fact that he underestimated the player with the puck. Fasching shrugged off Trouba's check, cut to the net and deposited his first-ever NHL goal, on his first shot, right from the blue paint.
You only get your first NHL goal once and it was a doozy.
Nelson was credited with the secondary assist on the play as he hit the scoresheet for his first-ever NHL point. The undrafted free-agent defenseman was locked in all game and if he was nervous, one couldn't tell most of the afternoon. He adapted to the pace of the NHL really well and save for a few glitches, none of them detrimental, he had a really solid NHL debut. Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma gave Nelson 16:33 of ice-time, including :53 on the powerplay, and the 23 yr.old rookie came away with the assist and a plus-1 rating.
It was a charge of the youngins yesterday against a depleted and reeling Winnipeg Jets team that got out to a 2-0 lead. The Fasching goal pulled the Sabres to within a goal before Sam "The Forgotten One" Reinhart made his presence felt by scoring game-the tying goal and setting up Jack Eichel for the game-winner on a nifty pass at center ice.
As is often the case when Eichel gets the puck, anticipation brings fans to the edge of their seats and when he rocketed a wrister past Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson, the crowd erupted.
This was the 10th afternoon home game for Buffalo this season providing an opportunity for the young fans to watch their favorite team. Coming into the game against Winnipeg the Sabres were 4-3-2 in matinee's at First Niagara Center and those lucky enough to be at yesterday's game were treated to a glimpse of a future they'll grow right along with.
It's reminiscent of a time when a fledgling Buffalo Sabres franchise was icing talent like the French Connection. The same kind of anticipation that fans had with Eichel yesterday was there when Gilbert Perreault cranked it up and flew up ice. And there was the same eruption from the crowd when he lit the lamp some 40 years ago.
Yesterday belonged to the youth. Reinhart was the game's first star, Eichel the second, Fasching the third. Those three were the first trio of rookies to score in a game since March 31, 2010, according to Sabres PR, when Tim Kennedy, Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis did so. Fasching was the first Sabres to score on his first shot since Zemgus Girgensons did so in October 2, 2013.
With his goal, Eichel hit the 50-point mark, and is the first Sabre to do so since Derek Plante in 1993-94 and at 19 yrs. old is the youngest since Phil Housley in 1982-83, according to Sabres PR.
And from Elias Sports Bureau, Fasching and Nelson are the first Sabres to record their first NHL points on the same play since Alexander Mogilny and Dave Snuggerud did so on October 5, 1989.
One more tidbit, Eichel, Reinhart and Evander Kane, who are all under the age of 25, all came into the game with 20-goals and Bylsma was asked post-game what it means to have the youth on the team on track and contributing the way they have. "Since the All-Star break Sam's been leading us in points and Jack's leading us in goals," the coach told the gathered media. "I don't really look at them as rookies or young players any more. They're players that are stepping up for our team and leading in a lot of ways."
You can add Fasching and Nelson to the charge of the youngins with their contributions yesterday. Both brought to the table exactly what management thought they would when they were signed earlier this week and they both earned another start.
The Sabres are off today but will see a serious uptick in talent and drive as they hit the road to take on the Detroit Red Wings tomorrow and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. Detroit's battling to make the playoffs for the 25th consecutive season with the Pittsburgh has stormed into third place in the Metropolitan Division on the strength of an 8-2-0 record over their last 10 games.