The Sabres fell behind quickly to the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night, losing by a score of 7-2. Before jumping to conclusions onlookers should step back and account for Montreal’s past season. They broke the 50-win barrier for the first time since the 1988-89 season. Michel Therrien and his offensively stacked team expect nothing less than taking the Atlantic Division title for a consecutive year.
Andrei Markov stepped up in a big way for the Canadiens and proved that scoring can come from all areas of the roster. The defenseman was named the first star of the game because of his involvement in five of the seven scoring plays.
“It’s great to have eight wins, but tomorrow is another challenge,” says Markov.
The defenseman scored the fourth goal of the game on a power play and tallied an additional four assists.
The Sabres played a hockey club that is in much better shape, has had success in consecutive seasons and is on the brink of claiming their 25th Stanley cup.
Today’s Montreal roster reminds me of the 06-07 Presidents trophy winning Buffalo Sabres. Back then the Sabres went 11-0-1 to begin the season but ended up losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 4-1 on November 4, 2006. When making comparisons, Max Pacioretty reminds me of Daniel Briere. Then you have follow-up production from P.K. Subban, one of the soundest, yet boastful defensemen in the league. His performance and skill is a few steps ahead of the capstone player on the 06-07 blue line, Brian Campbell. Buffalo’s vintage offense was further supported by the likes of Maxim Afinogenov, Jason Pominville and Chris Drury. The comparable players on today’s Montreal squad would be Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Thomas Plekanec; the main supporting cast around Pacioretty.
My question is, which team will upset the Canadiens current lossless record of 8-0? Going forward they play the Leafs, Canucks, Oilers, and Flames – meaning they have a great shot at getting to an overall record of 11-0-1. The Sabres will need to mature quickly, come more prepared and get much healthier if they have hopes of competing with them in the next matchup.
The Sabres defense is going to be the main excuse for losses if they don’t make changes to their game plan. Josh Gorges owned up to this in his post-game interview:
“You’ve got to play the right way the whole way through and too many times tonight, collectively as a group, we just made mistakes.”
The Sabres coaching staff continues to see positives from Jack Eichel. He worked hard in last night’s matchup but didn’t get the results to prove it. He dashed his way past defenseman Jeff Petry but was soon stuffed by the backup goaltender, Mike Condon towards the end of the first period. Hockey can be a very nerve-wracking game. We can only hope that Eichel does not feel to bogged down under the many pressures riding on his shoulders.
Tonight the Sabres face-off against the New Jersey Devils at 7 p.m. from the First Niagara Center. Chad Johnson will receive some rest as the coaching staff turns to the 22-year-old Linus Ulmark. The young goalie played in three games for the Amerks and posted a .932 save percentage. He spent a majority of the offseason recovering from a hip injury and needs to stay healthy in lieu of the depleted goaltending position. The Sabres cannot sleep on the Devils, they are a very hot team that is currently on a three game winning streak.