BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Playing their first game in a newly realigned East Division, the Buffalo Sabres began the 2021 season in the loss column. The Sabres fell to the Washington Capitals 6-4 Thursday night, exactly two weeks after hitting the ice for the first time as a team since March.
Taylor Hall and Tobias Rieder scored the team's first two goals of the season. The Sabres will be back on the ice Friday for another match-up with the Capitals. Puck drops at 7pm.
5 observations Thursday's season opener:
Difficulty against the top line
It was the BOO show to kick things off as the Washington Capitals top line proved to be an issue all night. Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Alex Ovechkin were primarily responsible for the team's first three goals [they finished with a total of seven points between the three] and it looked as if the Sabres had no solution for them whatsoever. You can't allow a top line to take control that much, that early, and completely dominate.
Night of the newbies
The Sabres made a few additions this offseason and in the team's opener, it was the night of the newbies.
When the Sabres acquired former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, fans were excited to see what he could bring to the table and he didn't disappoint in the opener. Trailing 1-0, the Sabres went on the power play and it only seemed fitting to see Hall score the team's first goal of the season. Off a pass from Jack Eichel, Victor Olofsson faked a shot and slid it right to Hall who then notched his first goal as a Sabre. Trailing 4-2 in the second, it was Tobias Rieder's turn. He took a pass from Dylan Cozens [who picked up his first NHL point] and completed the wraparound to cut the team's deficit in half.
Hall and Rieder became the sixth and seventh newly acquired Sabre to score in the team's season opener in the last 10 years.
Hot, then quiet special teams
When we got our first look at the top power play line during Training Camp, we liked what we saw. We got our first game-time glimpse of it in the first period and it didn't disappoint with Hall capitalizing for his first goal of the season [see above]. After that, there was minimal excitement with the team immediately giving up a power play goal and then failing to capitalize on their next two extra man opportunities.
Last season the Sabres were ranked 20th in the NHL when it came to taking advantage of the extra man. Through one game, the power play unit is 1-for-3. We'll see how long it holds up and what they can do Friday night.
Empty and Eerie
Ask any athlete and they'll agree, there's nothing like the atmosphere of playing at home. Well, that was until this season. The Sabres opened things up without a crowd and it was just weird and eerie. The team personnel did their best, playing fan videos and pumping in crowd noise, but it just wasn't the same. I think it's going to take a bit to get used to this new "normal" for however long it lasts.
Time will soon tell
Over the last decade or so, we've seen the Sabres start off hot and we've seen them start off struggling. Each scenario has ended the same - missing the postseason. Thursday's performance is certainly not how you want to start a season and it was hard to ignore all of the woes from Sabres fans already circulating on social media.
In a shortened 56-game season, every game is going to be important, especially when you're playing in arguably the best division in the league. Is all hope lost? Absolutely not. It's just one game. Things can turn around. Only time will tell which team we'll see as they continue to figure things out and get the puck rolling.