Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
The Buffalo Sabres fell just short of staging a third period come back last night. Even though they scored four goals in just over 13 minutes of the third period, it was not a good tune-up for the regular season. Fact is, they were an abysmal, turnover machine last night. The team, in general, also lacked intensity while goaltending did nothing to bail the team out. By the time they snapped out of it the Sabres were down 5-0 with less than half the game played.
But before the Peace Bridge gets overcrowded with Sabres fans or there's a run on pitchforks, torches and lighter fluid, it's best to keep in mind that this team is in the midst of a major transition and there will be growing pains, especially to begin the season. There were eight players on the ice last night (including goaltender Robin Lehner) who weren't with the team last year and three others who spent only a handful of games on the big club last season. In addition to that, the Sabres are employing an up-tempo system that's a far cry from what they were doing last year.
This is a fast team and head coach Dan Bylsma has been stressing pace all through training camp. Lack of execution at a fast pace results in turnovers and odd-man rushes and unfortunately for Buffalo, the Columbus Blue Jackets buried their opportunities. In a :30 second span at the five minute mark of the first period defensemen Jake McCabe and Rasmus Ristolainen both had turnovers. Lehner stopped the first one but the pass Ristolainen sent to the slot in his own end was easily intercepted and found the back of the Buffalo net.
“There’s a bunch of new faces, so everybody’s trying to figure out things as they go,” said new defenseman Cody Franson, who knows Bylsma’s attacking game plan should stop Buffalo’s zone from becoming a shooting gallery. “He wants to play a high-paced game, a very simple game: Get it up, let’s try and play in the offensive zone as much as possible.”
The game Franson mentioned above appeared in the third period as the Sabres scored four unanswered goals in just over 13 minutes. Although they couldn't get the tying goal, it shows just how much firepower and finish they have when the speed kicks in.
According to NHLnumbers.com, the Sabres have the second youngest roster in the league at an average of 27.007 yrs. of age. Only the Edmonton Oilers at 26.616 have a younger team.
So, get ready, Sabres fans, there will be some serious ups and downs this season with the downs being no worse than what we've witnessed over the last two season. What we all should be looking forward to are the ups, many of which we saw this preseason. Once Bylsma's system starts clicking, we'll have visions of the "Ferrari Sabres" dancing in our heads.
As mentioned, the Oilers have the youngest roster in the league followed by the Sabres, but what's scary for the league in general, and for teams in the east in particular, is that the Blue Jackets have the third youngest roster with an average age of 27.177 yrs. old. They already have a strong NHL roster but are also loaded for bear at the lower levels.
If there’s any doubt that Columbus GM Jarko
Kekkalainen doesn’t have a full cupboard of prospects, last night’s 6-4 win
over the Buffalo Sabres should put an end to those notions.
The Jackets recalled seven players from Lake Erie (AHL) for the game last night icing a large group of youngins with only a few vets while the Sabres countered with their presumed opening night lineup. It wasn't pretty for Buffalo as they found themselves in a 5-0 hole before the midway point of the game. Columbus scored on goals by Lukas Sedlak (2011, 168th overall,) Dean Kukan (2015, FA,) Markus Hannikainen (2015, FA,) William Karlsson (2011, 52nd,) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (2013, 89th.)
Who are these guys?
They're the ones that will trying to stake their claim to a roster spot alongside Ryan Johansson, Michael Chaput, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, Ryan Murray, Alexander Wennberg, and Kerby Rychel all players on Blue Jackets roster and all 23 yrs. old and younger.
Kekalainen gave head coach Todd Richards a club that's fast and gritty with a stable of prospects at his disposal to make the Detroit Red Wings envious and last night their youngins put on quite the display against mostly Buffalo regulars.
While the Sabres have just begun to build a team like that, the Jackets have been doing it for a couple of years now.
Of note, Richards was head coach of the bronze medal winning US hockey squad at the 2015 IIHF World Championship and one of his assistants was the Sabres Bylsma.
Buffalo had nine players score a point per game during the preseason:
Jack Eichel (4GP, 2+4)
Tyler Ennis (4 GP, 3+2)
Sam Reinhart (5 GP, 0+5)
Kane (4 GP, 4+0)
Nic Deslauriers (4 GP, 2+2)
Zemgus Girgensons (4
Brian Gionta (4 GP, 1+3)
Ryan O'Reilly (4 GP, 1+3)
(4 GP, 1+3)
The also scored five powerplay goals and five shorthanded goals.