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Game Recap: Winnipeg Jets vs. Buffalo Sabres

Just give Helly the Vezina, dude.

Winnipeg Jets v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets have had a bit of an uneven experience playing against the Eastern Conference. The beasts of the East are numerous, and would rival every top club in the Western Conference. Surviving the gauntlet of the Bruins, Canes, Leafs, and associated company must be a nightmare for teams that are more middle-of-the-pack. One of those “middling” squads just happens to be the Buffalo Sabres, the second-highest scoring team in the league. Facing a somewhat middling opponent in the Jets, I was concerned Buffalo’s elite finishing might put Winnipeg out of it early. Instead, Hellebuyck and some clinical finishes helped the Jets to 2 massive points.

Winnipeg and Buffalo kicked things off quickly, exchanging some early scoring opportunities with a fast-paced start. The Sabres held the early shot advantage just a few minutes in, but it was Dylan Samberg who opened the scoring. He collected a pass from Schmidt and simply ripped one past Luukkonen for the 1-0 advantage. That puck looked like an absolute bullet. The pace of the game once again picked up, and the Jets looked eager to add to their lead. With Buffalo capable of scoring a boatload in short order, every goal counts. The Jets regrettably had to settle for the 1-goal lead instead, but 2 more chances remained.

Winnipeg Jets v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

You probably figured that this Sabres offense would eventually crack Hellebuyck. After numerous attempts on goal, some of them quite dangerous, Buffalo finally evened the scoreline off of Victor Olofsson. Buffalo’s breakout star from last season has been scoring at a pretty nasty clip this year, and the Jets blueline was struggling to disrupt the Sabres puck movement. Something had to give, and it did. The really neat thing about Winnipeg is that they don’t seem to let disruptions halt their efforts. Josh Morrissey sent a beautiful Ehlers pass right into the top shelf, restoring Winnipeg’s lead a scant 2 minutes later. This Jets squad doesn’t quit, that’s for sure.

Things are never going to be easy against an opponent with over 150 goals-for, and Buffalo punished Winnipeg’s third period sluggishness with a Tyson Jost marker. I honestly didn’t recall Jost even moving to the Sabres. His star power has certainly diminished over the years following his World Junior hype, but you see shades of the talent he once was. Luckily, Winnipeg’s own talent is really good at scoring goals. Ehlers, being his typical baller self, sent a perfect breakaway pass up the middle of Kyle Connor. Our resident sniper undressed Luukkonen for the game-winner, emphatically stamping his mark on a breathless affair. The Sabres took over the game after that point, but Hellebuyck stood tall. Kuhlman chipped in an empty-netter to finish the game out.

Five Takeaways

  1. Hellebuyck, man. Sometimes, you just have to tip your cap to his brilliance.
  2. Ehlers continues to pop and soar. I was worried he’d look a bit on the slower side post-hernia, but his rehab appears to have paid dividends. Welcome back, Fly.
  3. Josh Norrissey just can’t stop scoring points. This man is a wonder to behold, and the career resurgence couldn’t happen to a more deserving Jet.
  4. Winnipeg’s top-6 was surprisingly muted against the Sabres. It did generate a number of dangerous looks here and there, but you can tell it still needs a talent injection.
  5. The Jets won’t get much rest before a date with Pittsburgh. This Eastern Conference jaunt is always a murderer’s row of great teams. We’ll learn a lot about Winnipeg’s resilience over the next few weeks.