Buffalo Sabres: Five Observations from the Home Opener
Oct 9, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Matt Moulson (26) and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson (7) fight for position in front of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) during the third period at First Niagara Center. Columbus beat Buffalo 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
The Buffalo Sabres started their regular season last night and it’s fair to say it didn’t go quite as planned. The dastardly Columbus Blue Jackets spoiled the party, winning 3-1 and sending fans home in a miserable mood.
Cam Atkinson scored what turned out to be the winner with 7:15 to go in the final period, in the event securing the game’s first star. The goal was scored on the power play which, by the way, was one of four the Blue Jackets had, compared to just one for the Sabres.
However, we’re not here to talk about the Blue Jackets. But we are here to talk about the past (apologies to Mark McGwire), so here’s five Sabre-specific observations from the home-opener:
1) TECHNICAL ISSUES
The night got off to an unfortunate start during the pre-game video introduction, designed to get Sabres fans worked up into a frenzy. (And it was working. Heck, even I was beginning to foam at the mouth, although it’s possibly that had nothing to do with the game.)
However, disaster struck when the video suddenly cut off halfway through. I remember thinking at the time that I hoped it wasn’t a precursor for the night ahead. Unfortunately, it was.
2) JHONAS ENORTH
Without question, the Sabres top performer of the night was Jhonas Enroth. Unfortunately it was out of necessity, as the Blue Jackets out-shot Buffalo 40-22.
Oct 9, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth (1) makes a pad save despite losing his goalie stick during the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Regardless of the circumstances, Enroth still had a damn fine game between the pipes. For the most part the Sabres were outplayed, but remained in contention until the final 2:36, all thanks to their goaltender.
If last night is anything to go by, Enroth looks poised to have a bounce-back campaign. Which is exactly what I
guessed predicted on Thursday.
3) SAM REINHART
Understandably, everyone was keen to see the NHL debut of 2014 second overall draft pick Sam Reinhart. However, it’s fair to surmise the occasion might have gotten to him, which you can’t really hold against a kid who is all of 18 years of age.
Reinhart finished with no points, and indeed no shots on goal. He did have one highlight though, when he set up a chance for Cody Hodgson with a deft pass in the third period.
Overall, the best thing is that Reinhart now has a better idea of what playing in the NHL is all about. As he gains more experience, he’ll get more used to the pace and physical nature of top-level hockey.
Talking of highlights, I think it’s safe to say this stood out most for Sabres fans:
5) THE CROWD
I was surprised to hear the announced attendance at First Niagara Centre was 18,215, meaning it was short of a sell-out. (The officially capacity is 19,070.)
I genuinely believed the circumstances surrounding the night – the Pegula’s officially securing the Buffalo Bills, combined with the fact it was the home opener – meant the Sabres would be playing before a packed house.
However, that turned out not to be the case. Don’t get me wrong, those who turned up were in fine voice – I was just disappointed not to see a sell-out, especially given how hard-core Sabres fans generally are.
What did you think of the home opener? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.