Following a disappointing shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens in their season opener on Thursday, the Buffalo Sabres put forth a substantially and superbly sloppy showing against the New York Islanders tonight, losing 6-3 on the road.
Where to begin?
Sam Reinhart was an absurdly atrocious -5 in the plus/minus box tonight. He was far too soft with his play tonight.
Speaking of soft play, most of the Sabres lineup was weak tonight. Poor choice by coach Phil Housley to insert Matt Moulson into the lineup over Jordan Nolan. Buffalo was pushed around all over the ice tonight by the Isles, and it showed in the final score.
Next...what has happened to Ryan O'Reilly? This is 125 straight minutes of horrid hockey from ROR. Is he upset that he wasn't given the "C" on his sweater?
In regards to captainship - tonight's performance may explain why the team lacks a captain to start the season. Nobody in the Buffalo lineup took charge when needed. Without a captain, accountability is so simply and succinctly skirted.
Evander Kane may have been the only shining light for the Sabres in this game. Kane notched a pair of short handed goals in the second stanza on the strength of solid efforts. The Islanders also had two shorties in the period, and the combined four short handed goals was the first time that has happened in one period in the NHL since 1995.
Next topic - the defense. Nathan Beaulieu played a game that was a notch below vomit. Victor Antipin was on board with the mistakes as well. The defense collectively left goaltender Robin Lehner out to dry for most of the game, and it was embarrassing to watch.
Lehner was the factor that kept them in the game for the initial period, making some stupendous saves. He eroded in the second period. It's almost as if he mentally cannot compose himself after a few goals. While all the goals against were not entirely his fault, the system Housley hopes to implement will require a goalie who can bail the team out at times. He will be the difference this season whether or not the Sabres make the playoffs.
Ultimately, Buffalo lacked hunger and chemistry tonight. Granted, it may take a month or two for the team to properly implement the system Housley wants, but I am not sure if the Sabres fanbase has the patience for that. We want wins, and we would've liked to see one against a lackluster Islanders lineup that got drubbed 5-0 the night prior. The complete disregard and interest in any form of body-checking was a complete catalyst to the loss tonight. I understand the increase in team speed, but the absence of sandpaper is befuddling. The game is still hockey, someone needs to be hitting out there. Soft Sabres teams plagued their talented lineups a decade ago, and I'd hate to see history repeating itself in 2017-18.
Next up, Buffalo takes on the New Jersey Devils on Monday. Here's to hoping the team learned something tonight from their pitiful performance.