Sabres Lose But Eichel Shines

– Scott Goodwin

Eichel Leads Third Period Rally But Buffalo Falls Short to Ottawa

Jack Eichel scores his first NHL goal of the 2015 - 2016 season in the Sabre’s opening home game Photo Credit: Tom Brenner / Getty Images

Jack Eichel scores his first NHL goal of the 2015 – 2016 season in the Sabres opening home game (Tom Brenner / Getty Images)

Buffalo did not set their best foot forward in the first period of the game. They found themselves down a goal within the first thirty seconds of play. Kyle Turris managed to squeeze his way through on a defensive breakdown. Cody Franson lost track of Mike Hoffman as he fed a great diagonal pass that had a considerable zip to it, Turris managed to control it then fired into the open top right corner. In my opinion there was not much that Lehner could have done to prevent the first goal of the game.

There were not too many chances for the Sabres on the offensive side of the puck. Eric Karlsson, the Norris Trophy holding defenseman stuffed Rick Jeanneret’s predicted breakout player of the season, Tyler Ennis. The first line of the Buffalo Sabres struggled early on in this game. The played an unimpressive first period which demonstrated the need for an added amount of time to gel to build up line chemistry.

The Buffalo Sabres marketing team continued to show off the Beyond Blue and Gold videos during intermissions. The most recent one featured raw footage from the interview between Jack Eichel and the Sabres upper office. There were many jokes from Tim Murray’s staff regarding the way he stood up and stared daggers at Jack while walking to the podium. His announcement was confident and triumphant when he blurted, “Buffalo selects Jack Eichel”.

The Sabres had several noteworthy breakout plays during the second period. It was interesting to see the forwards group together in the defensive zone and fire passes in a triangular pattern, adjusting for their best point of entry.

A takeaway from this game is the complexion of Dan Bylsma’s system. You see plays develop in a very quick fashion whereas Ted Nolan relied on the veteran line leaders to adjust the flow of play. Eichel nearly had his first goal of the regular season with four minutes remaining in the second period. Girgensons got tied up in front of the Senators net, the puck squirted out of his possession, Eichel jumped on it and used his body to spin past a defender and ladle the puck in for a goal but Anderson shut the door.

Robin Lehner is removed from the game due to an injury suffered in the crease during the second period  (Peter Llewellyn / USA TODAY Sports)

Robin Lehner is removed from the game due to an injury suffered in the crease during the second period (Peter Llewellyn / USA TODAY Sports)

Robin Lehner was injured in his own crease during the second period. A trainer made his way out to address the goaltender and then proceeded to help him off the ice. Chad Johnson came in to replace Lehner which is a major warning sign for this Buffalo hockey team. We saw a very small amount of play from Johnson during the preseason, he is not a starting caliber goaltender. He was injured throughout the majority of the offseason and seems like a guy that didn’t have to work too hard for his roster spot. Fans should be worried about the duration of Lehner’s injury going forward. If he is out for an extended period of time the Sabres record will reflect that.

Turris took advantage of the injury and picked up a puck that careened off of a skate finishing a well set up passing play. He’s off to a very hot start, netting his second of the night which shows why he is the leader of the Senator’s first line.

Bylsma continued to play with the lines throughout this game and put together Eichel – Girgensons – Kane to spark the offense. They certainly did that, peppering Anderson with shots during the early stage of the third period. Ennis also found his stride but could have used more support from line mates, he was rubbed out against the boards on multiple rushing attempts. He was clearly the odd man out during Bylsma’s third period line movement.

Chad Johnson managed to lose his stick in the middle of the third period. There seemed to be an invisible barrier over the net when several Ottawa shots went wide of the net while Johnson laid helplessly on the ice.

Jack Eichel blew the roof off of the First Niagara Center when he found the puck on the right hand side of Anderson. He took his time, wound up and wristed a shot into the top left corner for his first of the regular season. Evander Kane then followed up with what could have been the game tying goal. It was later called back because Girgensons jumped slightly ahead of Evander on the Senator’s blue line. He struggled to stay on sides, Zemgus went well over on another play when the Sabres attempted to charge in on another scoring attack. The Sabres offense was moving as one towards the end of the game. They fired at a very high rate and managed to spread the puck well. The gentleman controlling the goal horn prematurely hit the button in the final minutes of the third when a puck rang the inside post.

Ottawa sealed the game shut when Lazar delivered the puck into the wide open Sabres net. The game could have gone much worse for Chad Johnson. The score should have been 3-1 much earlier in the third period when he struggled to stay focused on the puck’s movement. It’s very reassuring to see Jack Eichel get his very first of the season and lead the team in an important rally. The Tampa Bay Lightning are next up on the Sabres schedule, opening faceoff will take place on Saturday October 10th at 1:00PM at the First Niagara Center. Continue to follow HardFoulSports for all additional Sabres content.

ScottGoodwinProfilePicScott Goodwin

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