THE BIG STORY: The Buffalo Sabres hosted the New Jersey Devils in a Monday matinee and it didn’t take long for it to turn into a horror flick for fans. The Devils scored twice in the first and four times in the second period to send the Sabres off the ice to thunderous—and well deserved round of boos. The Devils skated away with an easy 6-2 victory as Buffalo fell to 0-1-1 on the season.
MVP: Although they were completely meaningless in factoring into the game’s result, Evander Kane did score both of Buffalo’s goals. He also led the team with seven shots on nets and six hits. Basically he is one of the few that bothered to show up today.
LVP: If you remove Kane from the equation this dubious distinction can literally go to any Sabres skater on the ice, but for a second consecutive game Nathan Beaulieu looked appalling in his own end and committed intolerable turnovers that directly led to opposition goals. Buffalo got Beaulieu from Montreal for a third-round pick with hopes he’d be a top four blue liner, but he’s been an unmitigated disaster these first three games. He did take his frustrations out on Miles Wood by beating the shit out of him but it hardly erases how horrendous he—and most his teammates played in front of a home crowd that deserved better.
♦ This may have been just the third game of the regular season but the vibe felt like early March during the Sabres tank days. It’s almost unfathomable to play as badly as they did today.
♦ I think the Sam Reinhart experiment at center should be short-lived. It’s not that he’s been terrible centering the third line, even though he’s pointless and a minus-six through three games. I think he needs to go back to wing because perhaps it gives a lift to Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo on a “scoring line”. 90 and 21 have been atrocious early on. Do that and move Zegmus Girgensons between Seth Griffith and Benoit Pouliot, who I think may already be on borrowed time in Buffalo.
♦ I’ve already discussed how bad Beaulieu’s been, but let’s not let Marco Scandella off the hook. He hasn’t looked good at all, which has me wondering why there wasn’t more fan outrage when Minnesota dealt him. I know he’s been slowed by a sore hip and I hope that’s the reason for what I’m seeing, because he’s reminding me of Josh Gorges. That’s not a compliment.
NOTES: After giving up four shorthanded goals all of last season Buffalo has now surrendered four in three games after Jesper Bratt scored shorthanded… Okposo, O’Reilly and Reinhart have combined for one assist and minus nine plus/minus rating so far this season… Jack Eichel failed to register a shot on goal in nearly 20 minutes of ice time. That’s totally unacceptable… Jason Pominville and Rasmus Ristolainen each had an assist….
THE BIG PICTURE: The Phil Housley/Jason Botterill honeymoon period is ending rather quickly. The Sabres we saw today stinks. I’m not sure if newbies like Scandella, Beaulieu and Pouliot are failing because of Housley’s system or were they simply lousy personnel choices by Botterill? Something indisputable are the miserable starts incumbent stars O’Reilly, Okposo, Reinhart and even to some extent Jack Eichel are off to. Something has to give, and soon. Today was ugly and fans won’t stand for much more of these kind of days.
UP NEXT: The Sabres embark on a four-game western road trip starting Thursday in San Jose. I don’t think it’s too early to proclaim a 1-3 result or worse could have this team in a hole they may not climb out of this year. It’s critical this team finds its way and does it soon—very soon.