BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago Western New York was filled with optimism as the Buffalo Sabres opened the regular season at home with a reloaded roster, new coach and an eight-year extension for Jack Eichel. Fast forward a week and the Sabres remain winless, falling to 0-3-1 with a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
Five observations from Thursday's loss:
Defensive struggles continue
To say it has been a slow start for the Sabres blue line would be a gross understatement. On Thursday those struggles continued as missed assignments, penalties and turnovers ultimately cost the Sabres the game.
Marco Scandella, the Sabres biggest offseason addition, struggled against the Sharks taking two separate penalties, along with losing his man on San Jose's second goal. Rasmus Ristolainen, who spent most of the night paired with Scandella, failed to clear a puck in front of the Sabres net in the second period. Sharks' forward Timo Meier took advantage of the mishandled puck, beating Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner a second later.
Despite the aforementioned plays, Buffalo's blue line had a much better night than they've had in their last two outings. It wasn't good enough, but it was at least a step in the right direction.
If you can't tell, I'm trying my best to be positive.
How much does Jason Pominville love playing with Eichel? For the second time in four games, Pominville found the back of the net twice, with both primary assists belonging to Eichel.
Pominville's first goal of the evening was on a partial odd-man rush, where he converted on a perfect no-look, backhand pass from Eichel. In the second period, the chemistry continued, as Eichel slid a pretty cross-ice pass to a streaking Pominville, who tapped in his fourth goal of the season.
Not surprisingly, Eichel has four assists on the year. Three have come on goals scored by Pominville. At this rate, Pominville is on track to have a very nice year.
Don't worry, I didn't forget about Zemgus Girgensons. On Thursday, Girgensons played his first game of the year with Eichel and Pominville and he didn't disappoint. Girgensons picked up secondary assists on both Pominville goals, tallying his first two points of the season.
As mentioned by several fans on Twitter these last few days, Girgensons has been a nice compliment to Eichel in years past. One game is, of course, a small sample size but Girgensons made a strong first impression.
Secondary Scoring, where are you?
Evander Kane: 4 goals
Jason Pominville: 4 goals
Jack Eichel: 1 goal
In four games to start the 2017-2018 campaign only THREE Sabres' skaters have found the back of the net. That's simply unacceptable and a big reason why the Sabres have struggled early on. Buffalo desperatley needs more from players like Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo and Sam Reinhart.
One step forward, two steps back
Buffalo didn't allow a shorthanded goal on Thursday, that's the good news. As crazy as it may sound, this is the first game this season where Buffalo hasn't allowed a shorty.
The bad news -- Buffalo once again failed to convert on the power play. Their best chance came just minutes after tying the game in the second period when the Sabres found themselves with a two-man advantage for nearly a minute. Ryan O'Reilly nearly capitalized, hitting the post from beside the net but that was as close as the Sabres would get. In four games, Buffalo is now an incredibly lackluster 2-for-16 with the man advantage.