1- New Coach, New Style
There were a lot of questions surrounding the style of play new bench boss Ralph Krueger was going to implement. Thursday night it was apparent, the Blue and Gold had bought in. There was speed, along with pace bringing the puck out of the zone. There was stick to stick, creative passing we haven’t seen from this group in quite some time. They were innovative both in the zone, and on the power play. When Pittsburgh forced a turnover in the offensive zone, the Sabres responded, multiple times, and found ways to keep the play alive and keep the puck in the zone. Buffalo dominated the majority of the game against a skilled Penguins group.
2- Sheary’s Revenge Games Continue
The former Penguin continues to find success against his former team. Sheary opened up the season with the Sabres’ first two goals of the year. In four games against his former club, the forward has four goals and six points. Sheary had an very strong training camp, and carried that success over to the season opener. Sheary and Casey Mittlestadt have seemed to develop some early season chemistry, which could generate secondary scoring success that the team lacked a season ago.
3- Secondary Scoring
Speaking of secondary scoring, the Sabres won their season opener without a goal from their top line. Reinhart and Olofsson each recorded an assist on the night. Buffalo struggled a year ago generating consistent scoring from multiple lines. Thursday night against the Penguins, every forward but Marcus Johansson recorded at least a shot on net. (FWIW, every defenseman but Henri Jokiharju had at least two shots on net.) Buffalo was able to generate valuable scoring chances across all of their lines, a threat that was not entirely posed a season ago.
4- Caution: Possible Excitement Ahead
Yes, it is just the first game of the season, so everyone has to take things with a grain of salt. However, if the Sabres continue to play like they did against Pittsburgh, this team has the potential to have a lot of success, and win a decent amount of games this season. There was a renewed spark among the group Thursday night, and there was a lot to like across the board. Carter Hutton was composed, the team held Crosby, Malkin and co. to just one power play goal (despite five power plays,) and the offense generated scoring chances across the board. It’s very early, but this group shows they have a lot of potential to build upon.