In a season already wrought with expectations, the Buffalo Sabres have gotten off on the right foot and sit at 4-2-0 through their first six games. Obviously, it’s still very early and some players are still trying to shift out of first gear and find their bearings, but it’s been an encouraging start so far.
The team faced a tough challenge immediately with its annual trek to Western Canada coming in the second week of the schedule. However, the Sabres rose to the occasion and finished the trip 3-1, including impressive upsets of the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. As they return home to play their next four in Buffalo, let’s look at the three biggest takeaways from the Sabres’ opening stretch of the season.
Dahlin Explodes Out Of The Gate
In the Sabres’ 53-year history, the team has never had a Norris Trophy winner and it’s evident that Rasmus Dahlin wants to change that. The 22-year-old has been on the rampage in the early going and set an NHL record for defensemen by scoring a goal in each of the team’s first five games. The streak was snapped against the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday, but he did record an assist to push his point streak to six games. The league recognized his torrid start by naming him the First Star of the Week for Oct. 17-23.
It’s only a week and a half into the season and Dahlin will taper off at some point, but his hot start has been a welcome sight for the Sabres. The Swede is building further on his breakout performance from last season and is continuing to progress towards the upper echelon of NHL blueliners.
Dahlin leads his team with nine points and sits in a nine-way tie for fourth in overall scoring. His emergence as a leader over this past offseason has been praised and he’s proving the Sabres made the right call in naming him an alternate captain. It’s still early, but a special season could be in the works for him.
Tuch Is a Future Captain
Like Dahlin, Alex Tuch is also off to a hot start in his first full season in Buffalo. After spending the first half of the 2021-22 campaign on the shelf recovering from shoulder surgery, the Syracuse, NY native had to wait almost two whole months after being acquired to debut for his childhood team. He quickly made up for the lost time, however, scoring at a nearly point-per-game pace in the second half and finishing with 38 points in 50 games.
Tuch has picked right up where he left off this season and has six goals and seven points through six games, including his first career hat trick in a 6-3 victory over the Flames. Also, like Dahlin, it’s not likely he’ll sustain the pace he’s on, but the odds of him being the captain of the Sabres one day continue to look better and better. In addition to emerging as a major fan-favorite since his arrival, it’s becoming increasingly evident that he’s also a locker-room leader with his conduct both on and off the ice.
Kyle Okposo may have been the most logical choice to be awarded the “C”, and though he’s currently in the final year of his contract, the Sabres will almost certainly bring him back for another tour. Tuch is the heir apparent, however, and will more than likely succeed him in the role, something Sabres fans will have no issue with.
Buffalo Can’t Krack Seattle
Though it’s a very small sample size to this point, the Seattle Kraken have given the Sabres the business thus far in their existence. After two lopsided defeats to the NHL’s newest team last season, the Sabres came to Climate Pledge Arena on Tuesday looking to sweep their Western swing, but were once again defeated decisively, 5-1.
It felt like the team’s first true loss of the season, as their only other was in a tight, back-and-forth contest against the Florida Panthers that the Panthers held on to take 4-3. Obviously it can’t be read into too much, but it is interesting that the Sabres, who appear to be the far better team on paper, have had issues mounting a challenge against a Kraken team that finished 30th in the league last season.
The Sabres will solve them eventually, but the Kraken have proven to have the edge to this point. They will clash again on Jan. 10, 2023, at KeyBank Center.
Sabres Look To Keep Rolling
It’s been an encouraging introduction, but the Sabres can still do better. The team is out to prove that it’s the real deal, and to do that it will have to prove that it can bounce back from tough defeats. Next up is the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, certainly an ample opportunity to do just that.
Related: Sabres’ Defensive Depth Tested Early Due to Injury
Every good team has to learn how to win and the Sabres appear to be doing just that after a few impressive victories to open the season. What will be crucial to this team, however, is its ability to keep rolling. Sabres fans in Western New York, Southern Ontario and everywhere else are chomping at the bit to see their team in contention once again. These Sabres have the potential to do that – if they can keep their momentum going.