After a promising start to the season on Thursday night, the Buffalo Sabres took a complete 180 in their second go-around of the year. The New York Islanders came to play on Saturday in Brooklyn, Buffalo clearly did not, and it was evident from the beginning. With a raucous crowd at the Barclays Center in the background, New York marked its territory immediately.
John Tavares had a career night and started it in relatively easy fashion. 1:50 into the game the Islander captain took an all-too-easy pass from Jordan Eberle and had no problem cashing it past Sabres G Robin Lehner, who went down about an eternity too early and left the entire net open (you’re as shocked as I am by this, right?).
The score remained 1-0 after that, but things didn’t improve at all in the second. Buffalo found itself on the powerplay after Scott Mayfield knocked Rasmus Ristolainen into Lehner, disallowing the ensuing New York goal. Buffalo had a chance to tie it back up, but Tavares again struck on an all-too-easy pass. The thing is, this time it wasn’t from a player in the blue and orange.
New defenseman Nathan Beaulieu made the bone-headed play of the game and attempted a drop pass back to a trailing teammate on a breakout. However, he completely whiffed on it and practically put it right on Tavares’ stick to give him an easy shorthanded tally. It didn’t get any better from there as New York chased Lehner and took a 4-0 lead after another shorthanded goal.
The bright spot of the game for the Sabres was two shorties of their own, both coming from Evander Kane (four a single game has to be a record of some sort). But that was as close as it got. Jack Eichel did tally his first of the year as well, but the Sabres could not muster any consistent momentum and went home the losers, 6-3.
What made the loss truly bad, though, was that the Islanders hit the Sabres from one end of the ice to the other and Buffalo did nothing to fight back. Two Isles in particular were under the team’s skin all night, Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas, the latter of whom scored twice. New York bullied Buffalo all game long, a fact that makes the loss much more embarrassing.
With Buffalo’s two most physical players being traded this offseason, Marcus Foligno and more recently Nicolas Deslauriers, the team needs to find a different source of toughness. Or else players like Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly and Jason Pominville are going to start being targeted. Who wouldn’t do that against a team of softies?
I understand it’s the second game of the season, calm down Matthews. The team looked very, very good on Thursday against Montreal and we have to hope that that was Buffalo Sabres we will come to know this season. Buffalo heads to New Jersey next to take on Taylor Hall and the Devils on Monday.