It was supposed to be the hyped matchup of Connor McDavid vs. Jack Eichel. An Oilers – Sabres tilt that was worth watching for anybody. We didn’t get to see the Oilers’ young star, or a very competitive game.
It was a bad night for the Sabres. In the midst of a three-game Canadian road trip, it was not the way the young squad wanted to start. There was no hustle. The power play was in shambles. Chad Johnson looked putrid. The list could go on and on. But they need to get it out of their heads and regroup, then show up to play tonight in Vancouver.
Jack Eichel opened the scoring just a few minutes into the game, a quick change of events from what we have been seeing with the Sabres usually giving up the first quick goal. Somehow, Dan Bylsma still sees value playing the youngster between Brian Gionta and David Legwand, and they returned the favor with the games’ first goal.
But don’t be mistaken, this goal was all Eichel. It is unfair to have such force on a backhand shot as he flicked it by Anders Nilsson. Before the Edmonton netminder could react it was behind him. There was excitement for Sabres fans…it didn’t last long.
Teddy Purcell, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall all found the back of the net before the 1st period ended, sending Buffalo to the dressing room deflated, down 3-1.
Purcell deflected a Taylor Hall shot on a delayed penalty by CJ for the first goal. Evander Kane got a little lazy and didn’t move his skates, which led to the initial penalty call. Buffalo seemed too lax and gave up after the ref’s arm went up and Edmonton took advantage.
Sam Reinhart couldn’t win a battle behind the Sabres net with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and RNH shoveled a pass in front of the net that Zach Bogosian had no desire in breaking up. Jordan Eberle scored one of the easier goals he will find to put the Oilers up, 2-1.
In the 3rd of the period, right before the intermission, Johnson couldn’t get a stick on the initial shot in front of the net and Taylor Hall had a wide open net that a midget hockey player couldn’t miss on. While you can’t blame Johnson for everything that goes wrong, he didn’t help himself out one bit.
Buffalo had three straight power plays in the 2nd period and just looked awful. The O’Reilly tally came on the man advantage, but it came with eight seconds left on a power play that was useless for the first 1:45. There was no desire to keep possession of the puck. Edmonton had more scoring opportunities down a man than Buffalo did. It was a complete reversal of what we’ve been seeing from this team.
Edmonton is a team that Buffalo can beat. And you can’t call the Sabres a good team until they beat the teams that they should beat. They should have been fired up and ready to play against a team that has sort of driven a mini rivalry through the draft process. Instead, they flopped. They were a disappointment to the fans, and themselves.
Tonight will be a big test to see how this team faces adversity. Is it behind them, and they come out rearing to go against a solid Vancouver team. Or do they let this play carry on for the rest of the road trip? The onus is on Dan Bylsma to have this team compete night in and night out. Puck drop is at 10:00 pm EST at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver.