The Buffalo Sabres opened up their season Wednesday with a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. While the score was close, the overall play of the game told a different story as for most of the game, it was all Detroit.
With every loss comes opportunity to review and to see where a team can improve. The young Sabres squad showed fans some early problems that need to be fixed.
The Sabres were beaten to the puck quite often. While the Sabres were trapped in their own zone, it seemed like each Red Wing was skating circles around their man and beating them to loose pucks all over the ice. Detroit knows what it's like to play a 60-minute game at full speed and the Sabres looked out-classed in this facet of the game.
There were a few highlights for Buffalo with hustle. It was Thomas Vanek and Cody Hodgson who created a great opportunity in the third period with a forecheck that ended up as a puck being thrown in front of the net. Zegmus Girgensons' goal was a result of hustling and following up on another hustle play by Brian Flynn.
To win the battle for loose pucks, you have to keep your feet moving and be alert enough to make a play on it. Buffalo did not seem to possess those abilities Wednesday.
Seems like something that shouldn't be a problem at the professional level, right? Well, communicating with your linemates is one of the issues with the Sabres so far. Throughout the game passes were made to guys heading in a different direction or just weren't there. It seemed as if the team was lost on the ice, forgetting their assignments at key moments.
No play describes this more than Christian Ehrhoff's blind pass to the point on the powerplay that was nowhere near Vanek. The play resulted in a turnover that turned into a breakaway. Vanek took a tripping penalty on the breakaway in an attempt to knock the puck away, the penalty gave Detroit a penalty shot. Ryan Miller saved the day and made the save on the shot.
Despite the above problems, the Sabres still had their number of scoring chances, including going 0-7 on the powerplay, including two 5-on-3 chances that ended up with no goals. The team is searching for their identity this early in the season, but getting pucks on the net is something that every team needs to do to succeed. The Sabres weren't able to apply substantial pressure on Detroit all night, which allowed for the Red Wings to walk out winners.
The good news for the Sabres is that they have 81 more chances to get it right, and while this is a rebuilding year, it will still be crucial to see improvements along the way. Fixing the powerplay won't be an overnight fix, but communication and hustle are things that can be implemented immediately to improve the game drastically.
The Sabres' next chance to improve their game is Friday for the home opener against the Ottawa Senators.
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