Alex Tuch marvels at Josh Allen after pitching in another Sabers victory | Popgen Tech
LAS VEGAS – The Buffalo Sabers had just heard coach Don Granato congratulate them for Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes and reporters filed into the dressing room at Mullett Arena to a roar, but almost no players.
Almost the entire team was in a restricted area with the TV locked at the end of the Bills-Miami Dolphins game at Highmark Stadium. Suddenly, a huge roar came from the out-of-sight group to celebrate Tyler Bass’ game-winning field goal.
MVP Josh is back. That was the immediate takeaway after Saturday’s thrilling, 32-29 win for the Buffalo Bills over the Miami Dolphins at snowy Highmark Stadium.
Diehard Bills fan Alex Tuch, a key cog in the Sabres’ success, came out cheering and applauding a group of smiling players. Someone shouted from the other room, and laughed even harder: “Tuchie, remember you’re not on the team.”
Tuch has struck up a friendship with quarterback Josh Allen and marveled at him again Sunday after practice at T-Mobile Arena. He said most of the team saw two plays before the Bass field goal and that he was blown away by Allen’s clock management to get the Bills in position to run it out and win.
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“He’s one of the best players in the world, not just as a quarterback, but in football, in general,” Tuch said of Allen. “To be able to, like, watch him and see how he sees a play, and next thing you know no one’s open and he’s throwing it perfectly in (Stefon) Diggs’ hands. Wow. The confidence, coolness, calmness. You see he’s been growing over the last few years. Everybody notices it. And I think the entire BillsMafia nation has faith that he’s going to develop into the player he is today.”
Skinner scored two goals and Thompson had the third to cap a three-point night as the Sabers beat the pesky Arizona Coyotes, 5-2, to win their third straight game.
Tuch continues to develop as a standout all-around player for the Sabres, with 15 goals and 34 points in 31 games. He had three assists on Saturday, and created some quality scoring opportunities. And playing Tage Thompson on a third-period penalty kill with the Sabers nursing a 3-2 lead, Tuch made some strong plays with the puck to keep the Coyotes at bay.
“He’s dangerous, over and over again. He’s a beast, and when he walks, it’s amazing,” Granato said after Saturday’s game. “The penalty kill is as impressive in 30 or 40 seconds as I’ve seen from any player this year in any situation. He’s been there in three different spots, winning physical matches and races. He’s impressive when he’s like that. “
With Tuch on pace for career highs of 39 goals and 89 points, Granato reiterated his belief in him here Sunday.
“A lot of times, we’re talking about these younger guys because they’re 21 years old,” Granato said. “And we forget that some of these people who are 24, 25, especially in this sport, can be better. Better. that and see, ‘OK, how does this get you to the next plateau?’ ”
Tuch said he’s building chemistry on the penalty kill unit with Tage Thompson, just like he does at 5 on 5 or on a power play.
Saturday was a great day to be a sports fan in Western New York. The Bills, Sabers and Bandits won on the same day for the first time in history.
“In PK, you’re able to read off guys, you’re able to pressure together,” said Tuch. “I thought we had a lot of momentum. And we weren’t letting them set up.”
The Sabers hope to get some help on defense Monday night against the Vegas Golden Knights with the return of defenseman Ilya Lybushkin for the first time since Nov. 28, when he was hit by a shot from Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos.
Owen Power and Jacob Bryson both remain out with lower-body injuries. Rasmus Dahlin and Mattias Samuelsson were both left on the ice Sunday to rest. With four defensemen injured, Samuelsson is averaging 30 minutes and Dahlin 28:56 per game in the two contests on this trip.
After Tyson Jost’s empty-net goal put the Sabers ahead of the Coyotes 4-2, Granato actually called a timeout to give his top two blueliners more rest.
“The first thing you notice about Mullett Arena is the noise. It’s everywhere,” Mike Harrington wrote.
“It’s not often you get to call a timeout up 4-2 and allow the other team’s top line to rest,” Granato said. “But we feel comfortable that it’s ‘Put the top line against those two guys.’ They can handle it.’ “
Eichel-less Vegas struggling at home
The Golden Knights are an NHL-best 14-2-1 on the road, but just 8-8 at home, including 1-5 in the last six. It’s a huge talking point here, and equally confusing to Tuch, an alumnus of Vegas’ 2018 Stanley Cup finalists.
“Maybe it’s just luck,” Tuch said. “The fans are unbelievable. It’s one of the loudest, if not the loudest, buildings in the league. They’re going to come out hard tomorrow because they want to make it a tough place to play. That was always a key focus when I was here, to make this building the toughest place to play in, and they’ve done a good job over the years. So I’m sure they want to come back here.”
Former Buffalo captain Jack Eichel is expected to miss his fifth straight game with a lower-body injury. Eichel has a team-high 13 goals and 29 points in 27 games this season.
Soccer fans get their kicks
There was plenty of chatter in the dressing room about the Argentina-France classic in Sunday’s World Cup final. Granato said the players huddled in the hotel and hurried down the street to get ready for practice so they could catch the dramatic penalty-kicks finish at the arena.
Near the end of practice, Granato called a shootout drill by joking, “World Cup. Five shooters.”