With the NHL lockout finally over, the long awaited start of this year’s hockey season is finally here. As a Sabres fan, it’s been a difficult wait to see them play with the amount of young talent and unanswered questions about their roster coming into this year. The Buffalo Sabres opened up their season today against the Philadelphia Flyers at the First Niagara Center. The Flyers entered the game with a loss yesterday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Coming into this game, all eyes were focused on Mikhail Grigorenko, the 18-year-old Sabres prospect. Throughout training camp this week, his expectations continued to rise and he was announced as a part of the Sabres roster for the start of the season, although there wasn’t much to be said about him in today’s matchup.
Marcus Foligno established his physical style of play early on by throwing his body around and stirring up some action on the ice by dropping the gloves against Luke Schenn. He received 2 roughing penalties within the first 7 minutes of the game.
Steve Ott made his presence felt in Buffalo by smoking a one-timer past Ilya Bryzgalov on the Sabres power play. Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville both received an assist on the play.
The flyers appeared to tie the game late in the first period, but Ruslan Fedotanko got called for goaltender interference after pushing Miller back into his own net allowing the puck to get by.
Buffalo got caught in a bad change early on in the second period, and the Flyers tied it up on a deflection by Couturier that got by Miller. Philadelphia then took the lead shortly after on the power play with a hard slap shot from Claude Giroux beating Miller glove side.
The Sabres capitalized on another power play late in the second period on a breakaway goal by Thomas Vanek, making Bryzgalov look absolutely foolish with a quick move.
The Sabres play was noticeably physical throughout the game, trying to send a message to the league early on that they wont be pushed around anymore. The pressure has been on for Buffalo for their lack toughness, and with their redesigned team it looks like their days of being labeled as a “soft” team are in the past.
Tyler Myers got the go ahead goal in the third period on yet another Sabres power play on a shot that got deflected by a Flyer defensemen.
Cody Hodgson’s aggressive style of play in front of the net and awareness on the ice generated several scoring chances for Buffalo, and he finally found the back of the net to make the game 4-2 late in the third period. Look for him to be a play-maker for Buffalo as the season progresses.
The story of the game today was penalties, with a total of 20 in the game. The Sabres made the most of their power play opportunities going 3 for 6, while the Flyers struggled only getting one goal on the man up advantage.
Thomas Vanek got the empty net goal that put the game out of reach for Philadelphia to secure the W for Buffalo. He was a key component in the Sabres win today with a total of 5 points in the game consisting of 2 goals and 3 assists.
Miller turned away a total 27 of 29 shots and looked solid in net for Buffalo.
The Sabres take on the Maple Leafs tomorrow night in Toronto.