In the third season opener faceoff between the Buffalo Sabres and the Detroit Red Wings, the Sabres fell to the Wings 2-1 Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
While the score only read 2-1, it could have easily been much worse. The Wings outshot the Sabres 34 to 20, and it was obvious through their game play what a strong club they have. The Sabres were overwhelmed for most of the game, which made them constantly struggle and not look like they belonged together as a team. The chemistry that should have been present wasn’t.
But, let’s try and be positive here. Buffalo has a young team. This is Ron Rolston’s first full year as head coach. There are many factors that all line up saying, “There’s still so much to learn.” Whether or not this is Buffalo’s year for a Cup, it will be a year of learning to work together as a team, and a year of building trust with a nearly new coaching staff.
“We were right there all night. We got in a position to tie. I think we were improving as the game went on,” said Buffalo netminder Ryan Miller following the game. He played a great game. It’s nice to see him being positive when many fans watching probably want to pull their hair out.
In addition to adjusting to new players and new coaches, the Sabres are now one eighth of the new Atlantic Division, which also houses the Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Bruins, Panthers, Senators, Lightning, and the Red Wings. In previous seasons, Buffalo has not been in the same conference, let alone division, as Detroit. The realignment brings the two clubs together four times this season, and as far as the Sabres are concerned, hopefully this season opener isn’t a preview of what’s to come, both against the Wings and in general.
While Buffalo did manage to get a few decent scoring opportunities under their belt in the opening period in Detroit, overall they played weak. After failing to net on a 5 on 3, a bad line change allowed Wings’ center Stephen Weiss to steal the puck and nearly give Detroit the lead. There should be no bad line changes.
Buffalo head coach Ron Rolston said, “We gotta make sure everyone’s doing their job. [We’ve been] running around a bit.” No kidding, Ron. Better get on that. This team is going to need lots of continuous guidance this season.
The first tally of the night went to the Red Wings. Right winger Mikael Samuelsson popped one over Miller’s shoulder into the net, upon a pass from Cory Emmerton at 12:05 in the opening period.
As if being down by one wasn’t disappointing enough for the Sabres, 36 seconds later, they went down by two, when Pavel Datsyuk netted a backhander over Miller’s glove, unassisted. Buffalo closed out the period scoreless.
While there were no counted goals in the second stanza, there was plenty of excitement. Meaning, the Sabres got lucky twice. First, Detroit’s Daniel Clearly put one past Miller; however, he spun off Miller and fell over, resulting in a penalty for goaltender interference and no goal. This call was questionable to some; however, Cleary clearly knocked into Miller, so it made sense to penalize him.
Not too long later, Emmerton’s breakaway opportunity was cut short by Thomas Vanek, who dove to the ice and bumped Emmerton down with him. The refs saw fit to give Emmerton a penalty shot at 12:19, which Miller effectively prevented to keep the score 2-0 in favor of the Red Wings. Somehow, the Sabres managed to keep that score the same for the remainder of the period.
Buffalo finally got on the board and cut Detroit’s lead in half 12:36 into the third and final period with a tally by Zemgus Girgensons. After the puck was turned over by the Red Wings, the 19 year old rookie backhanded the it into the net, after Howard mishandled it. The goal was Girgensons’ first in the NHL, and he made his league debut in tonight’s game.
Despite Miller playing a solid game and Girgensons’ goal, the Sabres were unable to tie the contest and force an overtime period, leaving Red Wings to win 2-1. The Sabres return home to take on the Ottowa Senators this Friday, October 4, at 7:00 PM.