OPINION: Tage Thompson just getting started

Thompson had six points in the Sabres' pasting of the Red Wings

Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – It was a night of record-setting performances on Monday, as the Sabres closed out October with an 8-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, Tage Thompson had eight shots on goal and 12 shot attempts, but didn't score.

Against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, Buffalo was dominating but were up against a hot goalie and trailed 3-1 midway through the third period.

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At that point, Kyle Okposo found himself with Tage Thompson and Jeff Skinner, and what happened in the next five periods-plus and overtime had only been done in Buffalo by Pat LaFontaine during the 1992-93 season. Thompson scored two goals to send the game into overtime, then assisted on Victor Olofsson’s game-winner.

At the 12:53 mark of the third period on Monday, the Sabres led 5-3 and Thompson had two goals and three assists, giving him points on eight-consecutive goals.

Just 3:05 later, Thompson completed the hat-trick, and his six points was one short of Gil Perreault’s team record of seven.

Thompson became just the third player in NHL history to have six points during a game on Halloween, joining Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Clarke.

I also don't want this to get lost: Skinner scored his 300th NHL goal in the second period on Monday. Only 212 players in the history of the league have accomplished that feat. He joins 24 other former Sabres players in that club:

- Danny Briere
- Don Lever
- Clark Gillies
- Tony McKegney
- Phil Housley
- Danny Gare
- Geoff Sanderson
- Mike Foligno
- Slava Kozlov
- Wilf Paiement
- Ray Sheppard
- Miro Satan
- Peter McNab
- Thomas Vanek
- Rick Martin
- Eric Staal
- Rick Vaive
- Doug Gilmour
- Pat LaFontaine
- Alex Mogilny
- Gil Perreault
- Pierre Turgeon
- Dale Hawerchuk
- Dave Andreychuk

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With a goal and an assist, Rasmus Dahlin leads all defensemen in the NHL in scoring with 12 points in nine games. Thompson’s big two games has vaulted him along with Dahlin to ninth in league scoring.

The Sabres had 46 shots on Alex Nedeljkovic on Monday, marking the first time in team history Buffalo had 45 shots or more in three-consecutive games.

With 12 points in the standings, the Sabres currently hold down second place in the Atlantic Division. They remain four points behind the Boston Bruins. They’re .667 points percentage is tied with the New Jersey Devils for fourth in the Eastern Conference, and tied for sixth in the National Hockey League.

In his first seven games, Thompson wasn’t getting too many chances and was stuck on a goal and two assists. He sat down with head coach Don Granato on Saturday morning, and in four-and-a-half periods, he accounted for five goals and four assists for nine points.

It just goes to show you the kind of goal scorer Thompson has grown into. He is another example that players need the time that many fans don’t want to give them to grow.

Thompson just turned 25 on Sunday, and he didn’t start blossoming into the player he is now until he was 24. Some of the comments I hear about 19-year-old Owen Power make me sick, especially since we’ve just seen how long it's taken Thompson and Dahlin to turn into stars for this team.

Some players need time, and general manager Kevyn Adams and Granato understand that process. That’s why they’re not worried about their 23-year-old prospect goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen playing in the AHL this season.

Mattias Samuelsson didn’t become a top-four NHL defenseman overnight. The 22-year-old played two seasons at Western Michigan University and two seasons with the Rochester Americans.

Even though Buffalo had 45 shots against the Canadiens, Granato felt there wasn’t enough traffic around the net. After Buffalo tied that game in the third period, they retreated and didn’t keep playing fearless.

That was a huge point of emphasis in meetings the next day, and the players were listening.

Dylan Larkin scored a shorthanded goal at the 4:19 mark of the third period on Monday, and all-of-a-sudden, Buffalo’s 4-1 lead had become 4-3. There was absolutely no retreating, but instead, these players just hit the gas pedal.

Talk about playing fast, Buffalo scored four goals in 6:28, and made sure there was no doubt.

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Buffalo scored two power play goals, giving them a goal with the extra man in six of their last seven games.

The Sabres are next in action on Wednesday at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
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