Unpopular Opinions From Opening Night

In the words of the GOAT Aaron Rodgers, “R-E-L-A-X.”

It’s just one game, fam. Sure it didn’t look pretty. But it’s just one game with a team that has LOTS of new faces. The boo-birds came quick - and quite possibly deservedly so.

After nearly a decade of piss-poor unwatchable hockey, fans came in to last night’s game PUMPED. Perhaps too pumped…I think we as fans over-hyped ourselves to start this season. What for though? An 18 year old rookie and Jeff Skinner replacing arguably the team’s best all around player?

Let's take a look at what changed since last season:

  • We’re relying on two rookies in scoring roles on offense - Mittelstadt and Tage Thompson.

  • We acquired a small winger who used to play with Sidney Crosby.

  • Jeff Skinner in place of our only good two-way forward.

  • Berglund and Sobotka, who have had generally underwhelming careers.

  • Jack Eichel’s jersey has changed. Twice.

  • Rasmus Dahlin (ok, that’s exciting)

Last night they looked like a young team with a lot of new faces who are still learning to play with each other/play in the NHL. Tage Thompson had a rough game overall. Casey Mittelstadt was Buffalo’s best player along with Samson Reinhart. Sobotka was dreadful. Berglund showed us that he shouldn’t be a second line center. Sheary was fun to watch and went pedal-to-the-metal every shift but struggled with Berglund and Thompson. Sheary really seemed to hit a groove once he was lined up with Eichs and Samson. Skinner was hardly noticeable most of the time, and Dahlin made some nice plays and didn’t really hurt the team at all.

The Sabres looked alright for the first eight minutes or so of the game. The rest of the first and the entire second period were not so great. They still mustered a few scoring chances, but ultimately failed to maintain any real possession on offense. The third period was better and showed a glimmer of hope. They looked re-focused and had some good chances on goal but Halak played great for Boston. The Sabres’ best chance of the night came six and a half minutes into the game where Jason Pominville fired a pass that Evan Rodrigues redirected to an outstretched Jaro Halak pillow. If that goes in, we’re talking about a whole different game in my opinion.

What happened last night was that the Bruins played an outstanding road game. This is how any team would play after playing the back half of back to back road games after they got manhandled 7-0 by the Stanley Cup Champions the night before. Boston took the crowd out of the game with the goal by Chara which was assisted by Brad Marchand. A nightmare sequence for Sabres fans as they booed Marchand down the ice only for him to make a perfect pass to the only other Bruin we hate, Zdeno Chara. Mouse farts could be heard. After going up a second goal in the first period, Boston did what road teams do after playing back to back nights - they went into a defensive shell.

Buffalo struggled mightily finding room from then on, with a lot of forced passes and dump-ins, followed by the inability to retrieve said dump-ins. Boston played a simple style of D keeping EVERYTHING to the outside and the Sabres visibly struggled to find any seams to get inside scoring zones, with most of their opportunities coming from point bombs.

If that Evan Rodrigues redirection goes in early on, Boston instantly becomes a tired road team on the run. Playing catch up. But instead they were able to dictate the pace of the entire game.

The giveaway to takeaway ratio was alarming, but Buffalo was forced to play into Boston’s hand and Boston is a notoriously great defensive team.

While the game did look ugly and reminiscent of nearly a decade a piss-poor hockey, I don’t think it was THAT bad. Do the fans deserve more on opening night from their team? Yes. I think they looked disinterested the entire second period. There were some bright spots and the defensive breakdowns were not bad ones. I look forward to Saturday and believe it will be a much better performance. Key to the game: Score the first goal! They will brim with confidence and force the Rangers to play back and forth hockey. You don’t want to do that against this fast and skilled, young Sabres squad.  

Justen Ehrig