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Buffalo Sabres Fall Short Of Opening Night Comeback: 5 Takeaways vs Senators

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The only way to describe the atmosphere in the First Niagara Center before the puck dropped could be by using one word, magical. An awe inspiring introduction video that had over 19,000 people's eyes glued to the screen. Looking back on a year that was full of controversy and fighting, I was glad to see all the fans come together and cheer as loud as they have since the last home playoff game in 2011.

The opening night magic was spoiled however by the division foe Ottawa Senators. After letting in a goal only thirty seconds into the game, the Sabres struggled to match Ottawa's physicality. After being badly outplayed in the first two periods, the Sabres outshot the Senators 14-4 and came within one after an absolute rip by the all mighty Jack Eichel. The crowd was ecstatic.

The momentum continued for the Sabres two minutes later as Evander Kane came around the net jamming the puck passed Craig Anderson's pad. It appeared the Sabres had tied the game at two but after the new NHL rule of a coaching challenge being allowed in-game, the zebras (refs) found that Girgensons had gone off sides. The Sabres managed a few more chances but ultimately fell after Curtis Lazar put home an empty netter to go up 3-1.

Here are five takeaways from the opening night thriller in Buffalo.

1. Jack Eichel is legit- Is it not obvious yet how good Jack Eichel is? Opening night showed just how dangerous the second overall pick can be. After the Senators managed to blanket Eichel and Kane for the majority of the game, Eichel turned the switch in the third. On the power play Marcus Foligno was able to find Eichel on the left wing wide open. Eichel slowed the pass down and drilled a shot home that according to some hit all 4 posts of the opposing net. His raw speed and puck movement is something Buffalo has never seen. Never. Every time Eichel would come crashing in the offensive zone, fans would be half way out of their seats ready to blow up. Although it was in a losing effort, Sabres fans have to be happy with how the rookie showed the ability to fight back in his very first NHL game.

2. The Sabres are razor thin on defense- With Zach Bogosian out of the starting lineup, the Sabres had to go to both Carlo Colaiacovo and Mike Weber against the Senators. It did not look good. Weber was adamant in playing the skater instead of the puck. He was slow, unaware of his surroundings, and he just didn't seem like he played with any urgency. The game likely would have been over earlier if Chad Johnson didn't rob the Senators on a breakaway after Weber could not control the puck in the defensive zone. Weber finished with a -1 and 0 hits which is what he is known for.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Pysyk finished with a solid performance including 3 blocked shots, he and Ristolainen looked great with fore checking in the offensive zone, however Ristolainen often drifted around the goal crease without bodying any Senator forward. If Bogosian is set to miss a few weeks, the Sabres may have to turn to young skaters in Jake McCabe and Brendan Guhle.

Anything but Mike Weber.......my god.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

3. Goaltending will decide the Sabres fate after Lehner's injury- What an unlucky break for Robin Lehner. After letting in a hard wrist shot only 30 seconds in, the 24 year old goaltender bounced back admirably stopping 11 of the Senator's 12 total shots until he appeared to have injured his right leg. It is unknown exactly how Lehner injured his leg but according to head coach Dan Bylsma, Lehner's injury could be longer than a few weeks. Lehner was seen in a walking boot and on crutches after the game.

Chad Johnson stopped 8 of 9 in relief of Lehner but with Johnson being the lone goalie on the roster, the Sabres can do one of three things. They can turn to young goaltenders in Nathan Lieuwen and Andrey Makarov, seek to sign a free agent such as a Ray Emory, or Tim Murray can try to pursue a trade for a backup. A few suggestions may be James Reimer or Jonas Hiller but it could be too steep of a price for Buffalo to pay.

According to Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Americans have called up C.J. Motte which means Buffalo will call up either Liewuen or Makarov. Risky but Bylsma and Murray don't have many options

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports


Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

4. Sam Reinhart may be the odd man out when Gionta returns- There was a lot of hype with the former second overall pick in Sam Reinhart. In his debut, Rinehart had an up and down performance. He made some nice passes that generated a few scoring chances, however Reinhart couldn't match Ottawa's physicality and was tough on his skates. On numerous occasions Reinhart could find his footing and lost the puck.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports


With team captain Brian Gionta set to return to the lineup within a few days, as well as Johan Larsson and David Legwand playing solid minutes against Ottawa, it seems Reinhart still may need to develop before being a full time NHL forward. Reinhart played 11 minutes of ice time which was third lowest on the team. Hopefully Bylsma gives Reinhart more opportunities to play with Eichel to see if he can mold into a solid forward this season. It is hard to justify scratching the highly regarded prospect after one game. I saw some good things in Rinehart's game, but again there were mistakes being made by the rookie that have been his Achilles heel.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

5. The Sabres need more power plays- Only two penalties were called in this game......two! If the NHL wants to have 2-1 games every night and display a defensive oriented game of hockey that is already lacking offensive playmaking, than the NHL and it's refs need to adjust. For the Sabres, power plays will be a crucial part to the team's success. With all the offensive star power like Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis, and of course Jack Eichel, Buffalo will need to continue to play aggressive on offense to draw penalties. Often against the Senators, the Sabres would seem to be standing with the puck and not skating with urgency into the Senators zone. The Sabres lone goal came from Eichel on the power play.

It was a tough loss for the Sabres and it's fans, but there is a lot of positive things to take out of the season opener. Of course Jack Eichel looking like the star he was drafted to be is a great thing to have, however just being able to root for victories again and hearing fans call for referee's heads is awesome.

The Sabres are set to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday afternoon at the First Niagara Center. Chad Johnson will likely start for the Sabres as they take on a team with a loaded holster of offensive weapons.

0-1 but 81 games to go folks.

Thanks for stopping in.

Twitter- @DiBisportstalk


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