Wait, Are the Buffalo Sabres.... Good?

Buffalo beats Montreal with three power-play goals.

Score: Sabres 5 | Canadiens 1

Shots: BUF 36 | MTL 31

Buffalo Sabres Goals: Kyle Okposo; Zemgus Girgensons; Victor Olofsson; Anders Bjork; Tage Thompson

Montreal Canadiens Goals: Chris Wideman

Plus 1 | Is This Real Life?

There were only 8,467 fans in attendance at Thursday night’s Sabres game, but they certainly got a treat. I don’t think anyone expected Buffalo to come out of the gate swinging like that, or pull off such a performance. The game was fun to watch, there were multiple chances that didn’t turn into goals but were still exciting, and there seemed to be an energy that we hadn’t seen in quite a while.

I watched the game with my own two eyes, but I’m still impressed. For how much people want to talk about how old Craig Anderson is, he looked sharp. (Credit to him and his desire to beat the Habs, perhaps). He made 30 saves including some several on a quick sequence. Dylan Cozens looked fast. Colin Miller had two assists! It was an all-around good, sixty-minute effort.

Plus 1 | Special Teams

Three of Buffalo’s five goals came on the power play Thursday night, putting them at 50% on the man advantage. Okposo, Olofsson and Thompson each scored on the advantage. The Sabres also limited Montreal’s chances, holding them off the scoreboard during four disadvantages.

The obvious caveat is that this is only one game, but it’s nice to see the special teams putting in the work early in the season and seeing that effort pay off.

Final Thoughts

It was nice to see some action from across the board tonight, as ten different Sabres players  recorded at least a point. Girgensons, Eakin & Okposo, despite being on the ‘fourth’ line, recorded four points. Your top line of Skinner-Mittelstadt-Hinostroza had three points, including a pair of assists from #53. Bjork contributed a goal from the second line, while the third line combined for three points.

Just as we all predicted..... right?

Having watched so, so many Sabres games over the years, I knew the attendance for Thursday’s home opener would be small, but it was still fewer people than I’d expected. Quite frankly, it was disheartening to see all those empty seats on TV, though I can certainly understand why things panned out that way. This was the first Sabres home opener in Buffalo that didn’t sell out since 2014, and by far the smallest crowd for a home opener in many, many years (if ever, historically - and obviously not including last year when fans weren’t permitted.)

It was a small crowd, but as the game went on, the fans certainly got more & more into it and you could actually hear them on the MSG broadcast. While I doubt one win over Montreal is going to make people jump out of their seats to buy tickets to the upcoming games - especially Saturday’s against our tank brothers in the Coyotes), we’ll have to see how the attendance numbers look as the season goes on.

It’s a two-way relationship: the team plays better, more fans will come. More fans come, the team has more energy to feed off and more motivation to play better for those in attendance. Prior to the season, many players spoke about how they missed having fans in the stands. It’s up to the players to give the fans something to cheer for, and up to the fans to give the players that boost when needed.

As a few additional notes: Arttu Ruotsalainen, John Hayden & Will Butcher were scratched for Thursday’s game. Colin Miller (20:28) led all Buffalo skaters in time on ice, while Okposo & Olofsson each registered five shots on goal. Robert Hagg had a team-high six blocked shots.

Casey Mittelstadt suffered an upper-body injury and did not return past the midway point of the second period. There was no update on his status post-game.

For the moment, let’s enjoy the sight of the Sabres at the top of the Atlantic Division standings:

Next up for Buffalo: a Saturday afternoon tilt against the Arizona Coyotes.