Good Effort, Good Energy
Let's start with the positives. The Sabres played a 60-minute, high energy game that showed good effort from all four lines. They got a hustle goal from Zemgus Girgensons (with help from Brian Flynn) and put some serious pressure on Detroit at times throughout the game. This is an improvement from last season, when at least 20 of those 60 minutes would have made you want to coat your eyes with Sriracha to dull the pain.
The Kids Were (Mostly) Alright
Zemgus Girgensons scored his first NHL goal (and the sabres only goal) in his debut, and put in good effort all night, especially on the PK. Mikhail Grigorenko had an up-and-down night, with no better example than his constantly getting knocked off the puck on the power play, but still being able to control the puck while knocked over. Mark Pysyk had a very nice game, with three shots, two hits, and a +1 rating in 21:21 of ice time. Rasmus Ristolainen had a very rough first period, but settled in fairly well after that and provided a good presence on the penalty kill.
For the fact that they were going up against Detroit, a very skilled, experienced opponent, the Sabres youngsters performed pretty well. Remember folks, this was Game 1 of 82, and while there was enough to like from the rookies, there's also plenty of room to grow.
JV vs. Varsity
Unfortunately, all the effort in the world didn't change the fact that Detroit skated circles around Buffalo for much of the game, simply because most of their highly experienced, highly talented team has been playing together for the better part of five years. The Sabres were simply outclassed in this game in all areas, especially the power play, where Buffalo went an abysmal 0-7, and never really looked dangerous despite receiving two separate 5-on-3's.
The pressure that the Sabres were able to apply was a result of effort, good luck, and a few Detroit mistakes. The Red Wing's pressure was due to quick, accurate passes, situational awareness, and Buffalo's miscues. Just watch the difference in the team's zone entries and power play passing if you need proof of just how much growing this young Sabres team still has yet to do.
Three Things To Watch
1. How quickly can the new lines and pairings find chemistry?
Looks like it might take a while. Of course, it doesn't help that every defensive pairing this season is brand new and most of the forward lines have little to no experience playing with each other. As the team plays more and gels together, this will improve.
2. Will Buffalo play with the consistent effort we saw in the preseason, or will they be overwhelmed by the moment?
The effort was there, but the talent and chemistry was not.
3. The start of a new division rivalry.
For the foreseeable future, this looks like it might be a rivalry the way that the Bills and Patriots series is a "rivalry".
Comment of the Game
I think one of the off season awards should be
the Tim Connolly award
for the Player who garnered the most hate despite anything positive they might have done.
Overreactions to one game and piling on a single player are Buffalo specialties.