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Three Observations: Sabres open season with 5-1 thrashing of Montreal

Canadiens Sabres Hockey Zemgus Girgensons
Posted at 9:42 PM, Oct 14, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — When a Stanley Cup finalist is in the house on opening night, there may be some jitters. For a team as young as Buffalo's, there may be jitters. But the Sabres certainly didn't show it Thursday night. Buffalo dominated Montreal on the way to a 5-1 final score.

Buffalo saw five different players light the lamp while Craig Anderson stopped 30 Montreal shots. The Sabres are home again on Saturday when the Arizona Coyotes come to KeyBank Center.

Three observations from Thursday's game:

About that attendance… 

Considering the attendance numbers throughout the season, this might’ve been par for the course. KeyBank Center was far from full; a lot of sections looked like they were still social distancing.

Between the Sabres’ three preseason home games, enough tickets were sold to pack KeyBank Center once. Not three times, once. The average attendance was just over one third capacity.

Maybe more positive results on the ice will change it. Or maybe the numbers will improve whenever the border reopens. Or maybe trading you-know-who will and closing that saga will change it. Hopefully something will.

Aggressive, Entertaining, and Free

We’ve known this was going to be Don Granato’s approach since he was the interim coach last spring. He preaches it. The players play it. And we’ve seen it pay off in spades for guys like defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.

“Our sport is entertaining. We need to play with the passion and energy. And I’m really excited we brought guys in that fit that,” Granato said. “We want to be a part of Buffalo.”

The fans that were there Thursday night bought right back in; this is a kind of game that a crowd can get behind. There was no lead-nursing. There was no sitting back on defense. Instead, there were hits, there was pesky forechecking, and the Sabres were always looking up ice.

The other notion this team has preached is that it’s going to be a group effort. All lines have to contribute. There may not be a 30 or 40 goal guy, but everyone has to get theirs to make this thing go. And everyone did tonight.

Man advantage making a difference

The one place a lack of star power may hurt the most is on the man advantage. But the Sabres went three for six on the power play and didn’t allow a single tally when they were on the penalty kill.

When you don’t have those big names that make a penalty kill lopsided, it falls on the passing, spacing, and rebound awareness. Each of those factored into the goals put up by that unit every time they were on the ice. And the Sabres never looked back.

At the other end, Craig Anderson had a great sequence in the second period when the Sabres briefly faced a 26 second 5-on-3. Robert Hagg came through for his netminder with a couple clutch blocks. When both units are humming, it’s often a recipe for success.