Twice in the first period he put on some vintage Jack Eichel moves – if an 18-year-old rookie can have the word “vintage” used to describe his play.
Eichel blew by veteran Montreal defender Jeff Petry to charge the net with the puck and create scoring opportunities.
They were fantastic moves and one included a sick toe-drag, but neither resulted in a goal.
And that’s starting to wear a bit on Eichel.
“I think I’m getting frustrated at this point,” said Eichel who had four shots in the Sabres 7-2 loss to the Canadiens at First Niagara Center Friday night. “You feel like you’re getting a lot of chances and you’re playing well and you’re doing the right things and then it’s not going your way but it’s a long season. You’re going to start getting the bounces sooner or later if you keep doing the right things.”
Eichel took care of his first NHL goal in his first game. He now has two goals in seven games and he’s looking for more production from himself. That’s when he starts to feel the frustration creeping into his game.
“Just trying to do too much,” Eichel said when asked how he knew he was getting frustrated on the ice. “You don’t want to stray away from what you’ve been doing that’s helped you get the chances. The way I’ve always looked at it – if you’re getting chances then you’re doing something right. I think you just need to bear down a little bit and once you get one I think it will open it up.”
Speed has helped Eichel create two fantastic goals and a host of near-chances that have Top 10 Plays written all over them.
But the oohs and ahhs of his offensive game aren’t what impress Dan Bylsma the most. The Sabres coach repeatedly talks about Eichel’s play away from the puck when asked to assess his game.
“I’ve been more amazed at his play away from the puck and his defensive play than I have his offensive play,” Bylsma said about Eichel earlier this week. “He’s been elite away from the puck and working hard away from the puck and you see that just as much as the offensive flair.”
It’s something that Eichel has heard emphasized by Bylsma and something he understands as key to breaking out for more goals.
“Coach has been on me when I don’t have the puck to make sure I’m moving my feet. Attack defenders. Make them play me and obviously utilize my teammates at the right moments,” Eichel said. “I think that’s the most important thing because … everyone skates well at this level. The time where you can stun D is when you don’t have the puck and they’re not expecting you and then you get at that full speed and they’re not able to stay up with you because you’re at full speed and they were standing still.
“That’s what’s going to translate. Obviously I think I can get better playing away from the puck and I think that’s going to help me maybe finish some of those chances.”
Former Sabres Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn returned to play in Buffalo for the first time since they were dealt to the Canadiens in a trade deadline deal last season.
Mitchell finished with a goal while Flynn was plus-1 as the two played on a line with Devante Smith-Pelly.
Flynn said there was an adjustment period for him playing with Montreal.
He had no points in nine regular season games with the Habs last year then contributed a goal and two assists in six playoff games.
He entered training camp more comfortable, ready for a fresh start and finding the Canadiens’ style suits his game.
“It’s just fast,” Flynn said. “We play really fast. We skate. We don’t play a big, physical style of hockey. Kinda just in your face with our speed and our sticks and cause a lot of turnovers and I think that plays to my strengths of skating and checking and so far this year with Mitchy and Smith-Pelly we’ve bene able to find some chemistry and we play against the other team’s top lines and do a good job holding them off the score sheet.”
Flynn was an undrafted free agent when his colligate career at Maine ended. The Sabres signed him and he played five games in Rochester to close out the 2011-12 season.
He split the next year between Buffalo and Rochester before becoming a regular in the Sabres lineup.
“I think it was good for me to start my career and development here and maybe I got a chance to play a little more right off the bat than maybe would have if I was with the Canadiens or another team that was winning,” Flynn said. “I’m very grateful for the time I had here and going back to Rochester. I learned a lot along the way and I think it’s helping me now.”
Former Buffalo Sabres coach Jim Roberts died, the St. Louis Blue confirmed on Friday.
Roberts replaced Roger Nielson in December 1981 and coached through March 1982 going 21-16-8 in his 45 games with the Sabres.
He won five Stanley Cups with Montreal (1965, 1966, 1973, 1976, 1977) and was the first member of the St. Louis Blues who picked him in the 1967 expansion draft. He played in 1,159 career games including 447 with the Blues.