The Ralph Krueger era started out with an impressive season opening win for
the Sabres Thursday night.
Five months after being named the 19th
head coach in Buffalo
franchise history, Krueger gave Sabres fans a closer look at the brand of
hockey he wants his team to play in 2019-20. The effort through three periods
from his team produced a 3-1 road win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Most impressive was the play of Vladimir Sobotka, who has been a regular
punching bag for fans across twitterverse. The 2nd
year Sabre was
paired with Jeff Skinner and newcomer Marcus Johansson. Their assignment was to
shut down the line of Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist. Crosby
is still arguably the best player in the game and despite intense, overbearing,
over analyzed player analytics Sobotka’s line shut the Pens top line down.
Crosby and Co had their share of opportunities as you would expect. Crosby
scored, but it was with the man advantage.
Sobotka’s shifts were well under a
minute on average, he was credited with six hits and created a number of
turnovers. It’s one game but I liked how he played more important I like the
effort. Despite the backlash from fans, Sobotka can be a solid player for
Buffalo and is responsible at both ends of the ice. If Buffalo is going to make
the playoffs this season they will need more of the same effort going forward.
I believe Sobotka will continue to play well.
Conor Sheary torched his former team with two goals including the game
winner (via the power play) and was named the first star.
Rasmus Dahlin added an insurance goal late in the 2nd
the teams played to a scoreless third.
Carter Hutton’s performance might have been overshadowed. Hutton allowed
just one goal on 29 shots. Buffalo had 41, when is the last time Buffalo
outshot the Penguins?
The Krueger game plan worked almost to perfection. Buffalo took a number of
chances and out a lot of pucks on net. The breakout passes sprung a handful of
odd man rushes including two breakaways by Zemgus Girgensons. He was unable to
finish, that might be something to keep an eye on as the year goes on.
Overall, my take away from the win Thursday was that early victories lead to
confidence and the belief that playing Krueger hockey will be a huge plus for
the locker room.
The team will practice at the LECOM Harborcenter today at noon and on
Saturday they take on the New Jersey Devils at Key Bank Center for the home