So the first game of the 2014-15 NHL is in the books for the Buffalo Sabres. It is always tough to start out a season with a loss, but the pain is a bit easier if there were positives to take from it. The team is young and the season is long so there is plenty of time to prove critics right or wrong.
There is something about the start of a new season that has me giddy like a school boy. I spent my morning looking at hockey magazines, watching whatever hockey related shows I could find, all while wishing the time away until I left to pick up a buddy of mine to watch the game.
Standing in the Sabres way from opening the season on a positive not were the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Sabres were coming into the season following one of their worst in team history. The Blue Jackets entered play on Thursday coming off their best season in franchise history, having made the playoffs for only their second time, almost upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Sabres were without Ryan Miller as their starting goalie. Miller was traded at the deadline last season to the St. Louis Blue and then signed a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks. Getting the start in the opener was Jhonas Enroth. Battling against Michal Neuvirth during training camp for the starting job, Enroth took that spot over for the time being.
In a pretty uptempo first period, Enroth was Hasek-like, flopping all over the place making saves with every pad on his body just about, while turning away 12 shots that came his way. Enroth looked like a man on a mission that was showing everyone why he should be the #1 goalie in Buffalo.
Columbus’ Jack Skille opened up the scoring in the later stages of the second period on a shot high on Enroth’s glove side that probably would have gotten past anyone. At that point in the game it seemed as though it was just a matter of time, because the Sabres had to fight off penalties and thwart some of the Blue Jacket offensive advances.
Even though he allowed three goals, Enroth was solid in net and is certainly deserving of many more starts.
A player that is under a lot of pressure to succeed is Tyler Myers. Myers who fell from his Calder Trophy winning play has struggled to regain that form. Last night it appeared it could be on its way back. I am not saying that whatever was holding him back isn’t anymore, I am just saying that he looked really good on the ice.
Myers was skating all over the place and even trying to create chances in the offensive zone. I feel that this change (obviously way too early to tell) is due largely in part to the addition of Josh Gorges. Gorges has made an impression on management and teammates already which is evident by the “A” on his chest. His veteran leadership and style of play is only going to benefit Myers.
The “M-E-S” line
One of the Sabres lines that has me very excited is the Matt Moulson – Tyler Ennis – Drew Stafford line. They have an upbeat tempo and created plenty of opportunities in the offensive zone. It was a shame that they didn’t capitalize on any of them but the outlook appears bright.
During the first half of the game, my buddy and I were talking and wondering if Girgenson’s was even out on the ice. Our question was answered when Big Z knotted the game at one late in the second period on a highlight reel goal. When the game started to have a dull kind of feel after the Columbus goal, he took matters into his own hands to get the crowd back into it. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be enough but was fun to watch. Take a look:
The Sabres allowed 40 shots on goal. That needs to be worked on. One thing that is a positive from the game was their ability to block shots. Buffalo blocked 22 of the Blue Jacket shot attempts on Thursday night. 15 of the blocks came from the defense. Andre Benoit led the way with four, Gorges, Meszaros, and Myers each chipped in with three.
Too Many Chances
Columbus had way too many chances to blow the game open at any time. Early Sabres’ penalties eventually led to a powerplay goal by the Blue Jackets to take the lead for good. Enroth as was already mentioned, stood on his head and did all he could do, but more discipline is necessary in order for the team to have success.
Enroth: I thought we played OK. Gave up maybe too many chances, but I liked how we battled hard. #BUFvsCBJ
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 10, 2014
Columbus outshot the Sabres 40 to 22 and won the game 3-1.
One of the many things that went wrong last season for the Sabres was their lack of offensive production. In Thursday’s game is was evident again but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. At times the Sabres offense was pressuring Columbus but couldn’t get more past Sergei Bobrovsky. Certainly don’t want to take anything away from his performance, but the Sabres will need to do a better job in this category which is an understatement.
What are your things that stood out on the good or the bad side?
Although the loss is disappointing, one thing is for certain. Hockey is back!
Other Sabres Notes:
- Defensive pairings were mixed around a little with the exception of Gorges/Myers
- Johan Larsson was assigned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League
- Cody McCormick didn’t practice with the team but will travel to Chicago for Saturday’s tilt against the Blackhawks
- Sam Reinhart will now center the line with Marcus Foligno and Chris Stewart, with Zemgus Girgensons moving to the line with Cody Hodgson and Brian Gionta
John Is a contributor with The Hockey Writers covering the Buffalo Sabres. He is also a Senior Writer and Editor at MetsMerizedOnline.