Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Sabres were very hospitable to their former captain Jack Eichel on Thursday - handing him breakaways, open nets and a four-point night, as Buffalo’s losing streak has now hit four games.
The fans booed Eichel louder than I’ve ever heard a player booed in Buffalo, and even when he started scoring, it never let up.
This is the only building that Eichel has ever scored a NHL hat-trick in, and he scored his third-career hat-trick in a span of 13:39 of the third period. As a matter of fact, all four of his points were in the third, where the Golden Knights outscored Buffalo, 4-2.
Midway though this game, Casey Mittelstadt scored on the power play and it was a 2-2 game. However, Alex Tuch turned the puck over just inside the Vegas blue line later in the second, and Paul Cotter walked in alone and deked Eric Comrie badly to give the Golden Knights a lead they never gave back.
Trailing by only a goal after 40 minutes, I thought to myself, the Sabres are getting chances, they're getting zone time and if you take the turnovers away, this is an even game.
The problem is, you can’t take the turnovers away.
Comrie stopped Eichel on two breakaways before he ever got on the scoreboard. Comrie did make some big saves after turnovers, but the fact is every time he gets into the net, three or more goals are scored. The one exception was when he went to Edmonton and beat his hometown team, allowing just two goals.
Handing Comrie the No. 1 goaltending position hasn’t worked, but we’re only in November. The fact remains he was signed to improve the goaltending from last year, and through 10 starts, that hasn’t happened.
Craig Anderson has made four starts this season and has been the better goalie.
Vegas took the lead early when he kicked a rebound to his left, right to Chandler Stephenson, who had an empty-net to score in. Eichel’s second goal was the same thing, a huge rebound that went to him for an empty-net shot.
If you look at these four losses, as a whole, there’s been a theme: The Sabres are getting demolished by the stars on their other team.
It started in Carolina where the Hurricanes' top-three scorers - Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov - couldn’t be stopped. Aho had three goals and an assist, Necas had a goal and two assists, and Svechnikov had two assists.
The next night in Tampa Bay, it was the Nikita Kucherov show. Kucherov had a goal and three assists, while Brayden Point had a goal and an assist and Brandon Hagel had a goal and two assists.
The Arizona Coyotes don’t have a superstar on their team, but their best player - Clayton Keller - accounted for a goal and an assist.
Now Eichel comes to town on Thursday and scores three goals and an assist.
The reason the Sabres never beat the Boston Bruins is they can’t even come close to stopping the Patrice Bergeron line with David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. The Bruins bring their 12-2-0 record to Buffalo on Saturday night.
Buffalo started the season 7-3-0 and were looking like a team that just might contend for a playoff spot a year earlier than expected. However, in just seven short days, November has turned into the same disaster it's been for the last 11 years.
Buffalo has gone from second place in the Atlantic Division and one of the top-five teams in the NHL to seventh in the division and 22nd in the NHL.
The Sabres have given up 21 goals in the last four games, and missing Mattias Samuelsson and Henri Jokiharju is really starting to set in.
Goal scoring isn’t a problem for this team, as the Sabres are still second in the NHL offensively. As a group defensively, they're getting worse by the game. With Boston coming in, the Bruins are the highest scoring team in the league.