For the fifth straight year, the Buffalo Sabres kicked things off with a loss, falling to the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in a shootout. Buffalo saw a 2-1 lead disappear in the third period on a Canadiens shorthanded goal from Phillip Danault, who beat Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner on a wrap-around. In the shootout, Buffalo failed to score on all three-attempts, while Jonathan Drouin scored for Montreal.
Five observations from Thursday's loss:
Jason Pominville's last goal with the Sabres was on March 21, 2013, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That is, until Thursday, when he scored twice, instantly bringing back countless memories to Sabres fans everywhere.
Pominville scored the Sabres first goal of the year in the opening frame, flying into the Canadiens' zone, beating Carey Price with a back-hander top-shelf. Just like that, the Population of Pominville increased by one. In the second period, he beat price again, putting home a perfect pass from Jack Eichel.
Current population: 2
When the Sabres were introduced, Pominville received the second biggest cheer from the sold-out KeyBank Center crowd behind only Eichel. We're only one game into the season but Pominville seems like the same player he was when he was traded four and a half years ago. He's a reliable, smart and consistent player even at 34-years-old, an age that forwards often slow down at. Pominville is already showing he'll be a welcomed addition to the Sabres on and off the ice. Quite simply, it was a near perfect return for the former captain. The only thing that would've made it better -- a win.
Catch up with Pominville in our 7ABC one-on-one sit down interview here:
Now seems like the perfect time to catch up with Jason Pominville, who didn't take long to bring fans to their feet https://t.co/x6uUnVkL1d
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) October 5, 2017
Who is that guy?
When the Sabres took the ice on Thursday their lineup featured ten players who weren't on the team last year. Seth Griffith was one of those ten players and had a very, very impressive debut.
Griffith, who has spent most of his professional hockey career in the AHL, found himself on the scoresheet early on, tallying the primary assist on Pominville's first goal. The 24-year-old winger slid a nice cross-ice pass to Pominville, generating the scoring chance that lead to the eventual goal. As the night carried on Griffith made several more pretty plays, demonstrating both patience and creativity. Perhaps all Griffith needed was a fresh start.
Evander Kane still loves to shoot the puck and that's alright.
Here's his shot breakdown on Thursday against Montreal:
1st period -- 2
2nd period -- 7 (!)
3rd period -- 2
Kane's best chance of the evening came on a nice give and go on the Sabres first power play of the evening. He didn't score, but as we've seen with Kane in the past, he shoots to get hot and shoots to stay hot. This is a big season for Kane, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the year. A nice season could make Kane some serious money. Whether that's here or somewhere else remains a mystery.
Better on the blue line
To be fair, the defensive unit had nowhere to go but up. It's only one game, but Buffalo's new look blueline looked like a far more cohesive and comfortable unit in their first game of the year.
Antipin had a nice debut, especially for someone playing in their first game in the NHL. Scandella looked exactly how we expected, playing a physical game while still providing an ability to jump into the game. And then there was Beaulieu, playing against his former team. Beaulieu [and Antipin] did a nice job quarterbacking the second power-play unit, generating a few quality chances.
Don't get me wrong, it was by no means a perfect game for the group. Allowing 41 shots is still too many, but luckily for the group, Lehner was good enough to keep the game close.
The curious case of Robin Lehner
Shots faced: 41
Shots saved: 39
Not bad, but let's not kid ourselves, the second goal was really bad. Lehner was otherwise solid, but thay's a goal he can't let in.
Montreal's first goal came on a terrible Ryan O'Reilly turnover, leaving Lehner out to dry. As the game went on Lehner got progressively shaky, but he gave his team a chance to win. It wasn't a great game, but he doesn't deserve all the blame for the loss, either. I know there's people on social media upset that the Sabres lost another shootout but it's hard to win them without any goals.