It’s good to have hockey back, even if the next few games are pretty meaningless.
Case in point: Thomas Vanek, Tyler Myers and Ryan Miller all suited up for Buffalo on Saturday while Toronto dressed aces like Clarke MacArthur and Jussi Rynnas.
Regardless, the Sabres came out and took care of business. More than a 3-1 victory, they outshot the Leafs 44-25, including a 19-9 shot differential in the third period).
As far as prospects go, Zack Kassian is one player to look out for. He was pretty impressive all night and tallied the primary assist on Tyler Ennis’ goal. It’s a shame he’s not allowed to play in the AHL this season because that’s probably where he belongs.
Kassian showed that he’s capable of skating with NHLers, but there’s no need to rush him, especially since the Sabres do have a lot of depth at forward. If he doesn’t stay in Buffalo, he’ll probably have a great year in juniors and come back to camp next season even hungrier.
He does still have a lot of learning and growing to do. He tried to fight Mike Komisarek in the third period when Komisarek grabbed the front of his jersey at the top of the crease. Kassian’s reaction? Drop the gloves and throw down. That might be the way things work in the OHL, but it won’t fly at the NHL level. Komisarek just stood there and pretty much laughed at the hotheaded rookie. The passion and energy are welcome, however, impact players don’t willingly take themselves off the ice like that.
Luke Adam is another player I really want to like. He’s got size and scoring touch. Saturday night, however, as a friend put it, he looked like he was trying too hard. He pressed and it often put him out of position. He bumped into his own players at the blue line (at one point he literally pushed Jason Pominville offsides) and took an irresponsible boarding penalty late in the third period. A year in Portland can only help him. We’ll see how he fairs tonight in Toronto.
It was tough to get a feel for how Drew Schiestel and Braden McNabb, the rookie defensemen, played considering they were paired with Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera. Let’s just say I wasn’t overly impressed by any of them.
There was a buzz in the arena that I missed over the summer. This is a team that we can get excited about. The Sabres only really only a few pieces away from being a legitimate contender with a good mix of vets (like Rob Niedermayer — although the goal he scored would never go in against an NHL-caliber goalie) and young guns hungry for spots (like Tyler Ennis, who was very impressive).
The perfect storm may not quite be brewing, and Saturday’s game doesn’t mean much in the long run, but I’ll say now that I think they’re close. Is it October yet?