Buffalo Sabres vs Columbus Blue Jackets: Rapid Reaction


Buffalo Sabres hockey is back, but not with a bang. The Sabres lost their home opener to the Blue Jackets, 3-1.

Despite playing a depleted Columbus team that was missing a few key pieces, Buffalo could not keep pace. Only 10 Sabres that were on last seasons opening roster skated in this one, and the newness of the lineup was painfully evident. Some problems clearly remain, while other issues from last year appear to be solved.

I may have been blinded by my excitement, but the Sabres looked fairly good in the opening period. The line of Chris Stewart, Zemgus Girgensons, and Marcus Foligno was effective and created a handful of nice-looking scoring opportunities. Rookie Samson Reinhart took a nasty welcome-to-the-NHL hit, and Mike Weber immediately responded. Meanwhile, Buffalo was repeatedly giving up too many odd-man rushes to the Jackets, but Jhonas Enroth stood tall in his first game as the Sabres starting netminder.

In the second period, the Sabres ZMC line finally cashed in on their efforts, as Girgensons scored a highlight-reel goal on an amazing individual effort. On the other side of the coin, the Jackets finally made Buffalo pay for providing too many odd-man rushes to them. Game flow seemed to slow down in comparison to the first period, despite the goals.

In the third period, Columbus finally put the Sabres away with a pair of goals. One came courtesy of a defensive lapse by Andrei Meszaros during a penalty-kill, and Andre Benoit was too slow to cover for the mistake. The other was an ugly goal that Enroth simply could not see, while screened by Josh Gorges.

As for Buffalo, it seemed obvious to me that leadership on the team has finally improved. The Sabres also appeared to actually care about each other, and what was going on during the game, unlike last years squad. They were quick to defend each other, and the on-ice communication has clearly improved. Since half the team is new, it may take 30-40 games or so for the roster to gel and become familiar with each other.

The bad? Well, this team displayed two of the traits the helped doom them last season: lack of scoring, and giving up too many shots/opportunities. The Sabres surrendered 40 shots to Columbus, and Enroth had to do everything he could to stop 37 of them and try and keep Buffalo in the game (which they were, up until the final half of the final period). Additionally, the “scoring line” of Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson, and Tyler Ennis was largely invisible. If Buffalo wants any chance of improving upon their minus-90 scoring differential last season, they will NEED the top line to be producing on a nightly basis. Looking at the composites of the other 3 lines, it is unrealistic to expect the other players to help make up THAT large of a differential.

Lastly, it was disappointing that Reinhart was almost unnoticeable on the ice. I understand that it was his first game, and that he is not a flashy player, but it would have been nice to see more of his talents translating early.

Oct 9, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons (28) scores a goal on Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) as defenseman Jack Johnson (7) defends during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports