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Sabres Emerging Stars Shine in Loss to Dallas

January 20, 2022, 9:44 PM ET [1389 Comments]
Hank Balling
Buffalo Sabres Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Don’t let the score fool you.

Tonight was a good night for the Buffalo Sabres as their emerging young talent was on full display at KeyBank Center. It was the 25-and-under crowd who contributed most positively for the home team.

It was all about the defensemen for the Sabres in the early going of the first period. Rookie defenseman Mattias Samuelsson laid a beautiful hit on a streaking Tyler Seguin who was attempting to track down a puck in front of Sabres goaltender Aaron Dell a couple minutes into the opening frame. Samuelsson’s strong physical play on Seguin neutralized a potential scoring chance against the Sabres and in turn allowed the strong offensive plays that followed.

Shortly thereafter, Rasmus Dahlin scored an absolute beauty – and a definite candidate for Sabres goal of the year – as he put the blue and gold ahead 1-0 only 2:47 into the first frame. While Dahlin doesn’t have overwhelming speed to take defenders by surprise, his combination of hands, shiftiness and patience is unique among NHL defensemen. All of those attributes were on display for his goal against the Stars as he walked past two Dallas players on his way to the net and dangled a nifty back-hand goal against Braden Holtby who had no chance on the play after a slick deke from Dahlin.

That was only the beginning of the good news for Sabres fans who tuned in to see the emerging Sabres youth movement.

Jack Quinn subsequently scored his first NHL goal on the powerplay as he wired home a wrister on a pass from Dahlin. His shot went high-cheese on Holtby and struck iron before going bar-down to extend the team’s lead to 2-0 on the beautiful wrist shot from the Sabres’ 2020 first-round pick. Quinn has an incredible 18 goals in 24 games for Rochester in the American Hockey League and his goal against the Stars on Thursday night should show fans that his skill set as a sniper figures to successfully translate to the National Hockey League level.

The Stars would draw within one of the Sabres late in the first following a penalty to Robert Hagg and Mark Pysyk’s subsequent inability to clear the puck out of the zone during the resulting penalty kill. The rebound shot ended up on the stick of 22-year-old Jason Robertson who scored his 14th of the season, and the Sabres ended the period with a 2-1 lead.

In the second, it was Dylan Cozens’ time to shine as he scored a breakaway goal for his 10th of the season on a nice pass from Victor Olofsson who hasn’t scored a goal in 21 games.

Olofsson’s feed was a beauty to find a streaking Cozens who went backhand-forehand-backhand to beat a sprawling Holtby who overplayed the chance. Cozens’ 22-goal pace certainly takes the sting out of losing perennial 20-goal scorer Sam Reinhart, and if Cozens can get to that 20-goal goal plateau annually – whether it be at center or wing – he will be an important part of the team for years to come.

The Sabres were shortly thereafter victimized on the penalty kill following a somewhat weak call against Pysyk for a slash against Roope Hintz. Hintz would make the most of that opportunity as he scored his 16th of the season on the ensuing powerplay to make the score 3-2 Buffalo. Dallas, like Buffalo, has an encouraging youth movement in process with the likes of Robertson and Hintz taking the reins from veterans like Seguin and Jamie Benn.

Dallas drew things even as Pysyk’s tough night continued when Tyler Seguin fed a prayer from below the goal line to the net and the shot subsequently ricocheted off Buffalo’s defenseman and into the net. With that goal, the game was essentially a new one with 30 minutes to play in regulation. Pysyk is supposed to be a quiet player whose name you hope not to hear as his game is predicated on subtle, smart plays, but he was too often the culprit of silly plays against during the contest versus Dallas.

Thankfully for the home side, Alex Tuch got his third goal of the season and eighth point in eight games this year as he took the puck wide down the left side and scored a soft goal to beat Holtby and bring the Sabres back to a one-goal lead.

The third period was much calmer for both teams in the early going as they attempted to trade possession time rather than scoring chances during the first five minutes. The Sabres were undoubtedly fine with that trade off as they attempted to nurse a one-goal lead. Rob Ray rightly pointed out in the third that Don Granato is remains animated throughout contests as opposed to his predecessors Ralph Krueger, Phil Housley and Dan Bylsma who were often statuesque and aloof during their time behind the bench.

Tuch was definitely the best forward for the Sabres during the final half of the third frame. Certainly Tuch does not possess the raw skill and game-breaking ability of Jack Eichel, but his physical presence and two-way game helps fill the void of a supreme talent like Eichel. Simply put: he plays the game the right way in all phases of the game while playing big minutes for a young team.

The Stars drew things even again at the 12:23 point of the third period following a penalty to Cody Eakin as Seguin wired home a wrister to beat Dell. That would be the last time that the Sabres would have a lead. This Sabres squad is still learning how to play a game with a lead and close out games when they have one. That will take some time. The writing was on the wall for a Sabres loss as Dell had faced 45 shots through 55 minutes of play to that point.

Rasmus Asplund sealed the loss with a tripping penalty called with 4:24 left in the game while tangling in the offensive zone. That kind of penalty is both senseless and unnecessary. Jason Robertson connected on a mid-air feed from Seguin to put home his 15th of the season to give the Stars the lead which unfortunately squandered most of the good feelings.

Still, there was a lot to like about this game for the Sabres moving forward.
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