The whistle blows and we expect the Sabres to skate away back to the bench with their heads between their knees. If Saturday’s game against Montreal was any indication, that won’t be the case anymore.
Halfway through the second period, the Canadiens move in dangerously close to Ryan Miller. Tyler Myers is the first man back and clears the area. Before you know it, everybody is paired up and the officials are trying their best to break it all up.
After one game, it’s impossible to foresee how the season will play out. But you can tell the Sabres have a different mindset this year. They’re not going to be pushed around.
There was another shoving match before that, again at the Sabres end where Chris Butler almost dropped the gloves with Big Hal Gill. I’m not sure that would have happened last year.
The additions of Mike Grier and Steve Montador help add to the toughness (and Patrick Kaleta was a joy to watch as he continually pestered Montreal) but the two rookies in the lineup, Myers and Tim Kennedy seem to have a reckless mentality that’s pushing everyone around them to play better. The healthy competition is something the team has lacked since the year after the lockout.
Myers and Kennedy have been given the opportunity to take roster spots away from veterans. Nathan Paetsch and Dan Paille were watching from the press box as Kennedy and Myers took the ice.
Both Myers and Kennedy were involved in extra-curricular activities after the whistle and each made a strong case to stay with the team.
Myers, as we all know, has only nine games to impress otherwise the Sabres can send him back down to juniors for the year. The injury to Toni Lydman has opened up a spot in the lineup (and played well enough to keep Paetsch away) and Myers should keep it for now.
If the Sabres are evaluating on a game-by-game basis, Andrej Sekera might be the low man on the totem pole. Myers was impressive in his debut and Sekera just didn’t look comfortable. Lydman could be healthy by the next game, so a lot could happen by Thursday.
Kennedy is in the lineup because of an injury to Adam Mair, but played on the second line with Jason Pominville and Clarke MacArthur for most of the night.
Drew Stafford’s ice time was limited as he recovers from a concussion and Kennedy made the most of his extended opportunities.
Kennedy didn’t contribute as much offensively as you might have liked, but he did a lot of things right and showed a lot of heart. If he stats lighting the lamp, it’s going to be very tough to justify taking him out of the lineup.
It’s only one game and there were a lot of negatives (1-for-7 on the powerplay, losing a game they mostly dominated). However, talking about being more physical and then actually doing it, to me, is the most important thing to take out of Saturday’s hockey game.
The Sabres don’t play again until Thursday when the Phoenix (they’re still Phoenix, right?) Coyotes come to town so we’ll have more as the week rolls on.