I think everyone knew this was going to be a rebuilding year in Buffalo. However, as usual, a majority of fans were also hopeful things would click early on and the Sabres might have a shot at the playoffs, or at least some entertaining hockey. Maybe that's that just Buffalo sports positive thinking but with the new talent this year, and some returning, I was one of those more positive fans.
Three games in and the Sabres are sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic division with a 0-3-0 record. That's not ideal and there are plenty of things to be disappointed in. At the same time, their early season opponents weren't exactly basement dwelling teams, and have all been mentioned in playoff predictions. With the bad there have also been some positive flashes within the organization that might just keep the positive outlook alive.
Offense - Two goals in three games is horrible. Friday, there were plenty of close calls and that number could easily be tripled with better luck but we're not playing with horseshoes or grenades. The first line scoring really needs to step up and hold the team over until the rookies get in the swing of things and start producing themselves. We knew that some guys were going to need all-star caliber seasons if this team was going to be in contention and that remains to be seen. I'm talking about you Vanek and Stafford. Oh, and would it kill you guys to complete a few more passes while you're at it?
Injuries - We're three games into the season and the injuries are already piling up. Leino is out indefinitely (maybe that's a good thing?), Foligno hasn't played a game yet, and now Tallinder and Miller are both listed day to day. If players don't stay healthy the Sabres will be in even more trouble, especially with the injuries coming to the more veteran players making this team even younger.
Goaltending - Not counting a questionable penalty shot call and an open net goal the Sabres have only allowed five goals. Miller was lights out Friday night with 45 saves on 46 shots. Enroth looked solid too in his season debut Saturday night against a offensive minded Pittsburgh team. This team will need solid goalies if it expects to stay in contention and it looks like they have it. With it being a Olympic and contract year for Miller I expect him to have a bit of motivation to put up Vezina caliber numbers.
The Rookies - The young guys may not be lighting the lamp but they are looking impressive. Girgensons is definitely noticeable on the ice and Grigorenko and Ristolainen are both making their impressions as well. Hopefully they will all continue to get better, mesh with their "veteran" teammates, and the team as a whole will improve.
This may be a rebuilding year but if the goals start coming it's clear that, with continued solid goaltending, this team will be much more enjoyable to watch this year than last. Either way I think the building blocks are there for a great team down the road. The question is, will the organization put those blocks together in a way that will finally bring a cup to this city?
Let us know your early season impressions in the comments.