From the day the NHL schedule was released, Buffalo Sabres fans had last night's game circled on their calendars. It was to be the first battle in the careers of two supreme talents, taken #1 and #2 overall in the draft - a showcase for the next generation of NHL superstars. But in the end, it was less of a back-and-forth battle, and more of a showcase for Connor McDavid.
The Edmonton Oilers wunderkind showed exactly why he was the #1 pick in last year's draft, scoring both Edmonton goals with style in a 2-1 Oilers win.
The Sabres got off to the worst start imaginable last night. Brain dead passing from Brian Gionta and Zach Bogosian (who was a trainwreck in this game) gave McDavid a chance just 20 seconds in to the game, and he made Robin Lehner look foolish as he slipped a backhand into the open net for a 1-0 Oilers lead.
His second goal would come in overtime, as McDavid zoomed around a tired Rasmus Ristolainen and put a soft backhand on net that Lehner somehow let past. It was a pretty weak goal, especially after the Sabres worked hard to kill off an overtime penalty to Sam Reinhart, but the great ones find a way to put those home.
McDavid's skill and especially his speed were evident all night. If you were wondering at the draft, there's no question - he's on another level than Jack Eichel, and 99.9% of the rest of the NHL, for that matter. That's not to say Eichel played poorly - he was the Sabres best forward on this ice by far. He led the Sabres with a team-high five shots, and had some impressive plays of his own, but you could tell both he and the rest of the Sabres were pressing to make something happen after the initial McDavid goal.
The Sabres lone goal came from Cal O'Reilly in the third period - his first goal of the season - off of a sick spinning backhand pass from Sam Reinhart. It tied the game at one and sent it to overtime, where the Sabres would eventually lose.
Buffalo spoiled another strong effort from Robin Lehner, who couldn't buy more goal support if his life depended on it. He stopped 39 of 41 Edmonton shots in the loss, but you'd really like to see him make that save in overtime on McDavid.
Jack and Connor will inevitably be linked for the rest of their careers, and the first battle of many clearly went to McDavid. How Eichel, and the Sabres, remember this game and grow from it will help determine the course of the war.
1. Who comes out on top in their first battle - Eichel, or McDavid?
Tonight there was no question - it was the Connor McDavid show. But one thing tonight also showed is just how much the Sabres miss Ryan O'Reilly. Not having that protection in the lineup for Eichel as well as missing the strongest two-way center on the team hurts. But still, I hope Eichel takes the tape from this game and burns it in to his memory this summer. See you next year, Connor.
2. Will the Sabres be able to score without O'Reilly and McGinn?
Nope, tonight was yet another game where the Sabres struggled to score. They put all their eggs in one basket with Eichel, Reinhart, and Kane on the top line, and they combined for 11 of the Sabres 32 shots, but it was Rochester call-up Cal O'Reilly who scored the team's lone goal. This was the third time in their last four games where the Sabres scored 0 or 1 goals.
3. Which awful thing will be least awful - the Sabres terrible home record, or the Oilers abysmal road record?
Buffalo's home woes continue, as the Sabres gave a packed First Niagara Center little to cheer for after a flurry of fun, sloppy hockey in the first ten minutes. Disco Dan wouldn't even indulge us by starting Eichel against McDavid's line. The Sabres are now 11-17-4 at home.
Comment of the Game
cant we get scoring from anyone other than O'Reilly???
Oh, it was Cal? Cool.