The first game of the 2017-18 season is in the books – and the Buffalo Sabres still suck in the shootout! Read on for more observations on how the team can get its first win.
Game one of the Buffalo Sabres’ season was a mixed bag, a combination of things to come (a much more exciting style of play) and ghosts of seasons past (flat periods and an inability to score in overtime or the shootout).
While it is hard to complain too much about the Sabres earning a point on opening night, it was not ideal being made to endure a case of deja vu right off the bat. Another shootout loss? Another point left on the ice? Another case of the team giving only 40 minutes of consistent effort?
Heading into tonight’s game against the New York Islanders, here are three things the Sabres must do to get their first W of the season.
Tighten Up The D
The Sabres might have thrown 45 shots at Montreal goaltender Carey Price on Thursday, but they also asked Robin Lehner to face 40 shots of his own. That is 10 more shots than the Canadiens averaged last season, and it’s pretty obvious that this is too many to allow against the New York Islanders.
Granted, Lehner once again showed fans that he is capable of doing great things for this team: his save percentage Thursday was a sparkling .950, so for everyone who wants to drag out the “Lehner sucks in the shootout” storyline, remember: he got the team to OT, and then to the SO. It’s not his fault his team failed to find the back of the net after Jason Pominville scored 22 seconds into the second period.
So yeah: Lehner was brilliant. I doubt he wants to see that much rubber all season long, however, so it is time for the improved Buffalo Sabres defense to show up.
Have Sam Reinhart Follow Evander Kane’s Lead
It is not surprising to see that Evander Kane led the team in shots against Montreal; after all, he did lead the team in SOG last season. However, what IS surprising is that Kane had as many SOG (11) as Jack Eichel (3), Kyle Okposo (2), Ryan O’Reilly (3), Jason Pominville (3) and Sam Reinhart (0) combined.
That last number is especially troubling: for someone who once looked like he might team up with Eichel to be one of the NHL’s most prolific scoring duos, Reinhart has really dropped off the face of planet Earth. He only fired off 9 shots in his last seven games of 2016-17, and for him to come out Thursday and manage zero shots? Phil Housley and company better figure out how to get Samson going, and fast.
If It Goes To A Shootout, Use Jack
I’ll make this one short: for the rest of the season, whenever the Buffalo Sabres go into a shootout, Jack Eichel needs to be one of the team’s top-3 shooters. They paid him $80 million to win games; let him, uh, win some games.
End of story.
How do you think the Buffalo Sabres will fare against the New York Islanders? Leave your comments below!