It's been a bit of a journey to the NHL for Sam Reinhart, last year's #2 pick who looked out of place in his nine-game tryout and was sent back to juniors in order to get fast, stronger, and better. Tonight, Reinhart was officially welcomed to the NHL as he played with the top line of Tyler Ennis and Ryan O'Reilly and scored his first NHL goal to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead in the first.
Reinhart was the Sabres best player tonight by far. In addition to his goal, he hit a post, and another glorious chance on the power play, and had a few delicious feeds to the front of the net that sadly did not result in any Buffalo goals. Of course playing with the top line will make anyone look better, but what's comforting to me is that Reinhart created as many chances as he received from his line mates. There's been some debate over where Reinhart belongs this year, but whatever side of that fence you're on, tonight was a clear indication that the 19-year old can hang in the NHL.
Speaking of hanging with the best, the Sabres completely dominated the Eastern Conference champs in the first period, outshooting them 16-3, which caused my brain to crash for a second after watching the last two years of Sabres hockey. The Sabres were flying through the first two periods, causing turnovers, playing solid defense, and creating chances thanks to speed and skill while Tampa looked like the underdogs in this game, who managed to capitalized on the few chances they had.
Ben Bishop was the best player on the Tampa side, stopping 31 of 32 Buffalo shots, including a number of grade-A chances in the 2-1 Tampa win. The Sabres played a strong defensive game, and the Bolts two goals came on their own great chances. Vladislav Namestnikov put away a breakaway chance caused by a Jake McCabe muff, while Alex Killorn scored on a late power play chance to seal the win.
While the result isn't what we all want as Sabres fans, but the process certainly was enjoyable to watch. The Sabres played a full 60-minute effort, outshooting Tampa 32-22 and never really having an extended lull on the night. They could have easily had three or four goals were it not for the heroics of Ben Bishop, but that's the way the cookie crumbled tonight, and the Sabres dropped to 1-4-0 on the season with a three-game home stand coming up.
1. How will Reinhart look on the first line, and how long does he stay there?
Reinhart looked great on the first line, both due to the talent of his linemantes and also the chances he created himself. He was Buffalo's best player (though he somehow didn't earn a star tonight) and if this game is any indication, he'l likely stay on the top line for a while longer.
2. Will the Lightning struggle without Victor Hedman?
Tampa struggled all night without Hedman to get out of their own zone and cover the Sabres during extended defensive shifts tonight. The Lightning didn't seem themselves without their #1 blueliner and the Sabres took advantage of that fact all night long.
Comment of the Game
I feel like we've had at least one new person commenting every game this year. Welcome to all, and let's keep that trend going!