Whelp, it wasn't the best of performances by the Sabres last night at Columbus against the Blue Jackets. At best it could be described as a group of players still grappling with chemistry and structure while hitting the ice against real competition for the first time. At worst it was a throwback to some pretty dismal times in Sabreland as the team looked outclassed and disjointed and generally looked flat-footed until they found themselves down by two goals late in the third period.
Then again, it's best to remember this was game No. 2 of the preseason.
"It looked a little sluggish at the start," new Sabres bench boss, Ralph Krueger said in his post-game interview, "The first period I thought were a little bit flat but we did like some things that developed in the second period. There were moments where we found our game, we created some nice o-zone time. In the third [period] we put up a good fight but in the end didn't really do enough to deserve to win here."
Columbus was by far the better team and the only thing keeping Buffalo in the game was goaltending. Linus Ullmark started the game for the Sabres and after surrendering a one-timer from the right circle on a Jackets powerplay a mere 52 seconds into the game, he tightened up. Ullmark kept the game 1-0 with a couple of beautiful saves before he was eventually replaced by Andrew Hammond midway through the second period.
Hammond himself was thrown right into the fire as he entered the game with the Jackets set to go on the powerplay and he made a couple of big stops during the penalty kill that kept the game 1-0.
The Sabres iced a lot of younger players anchored by a group of vets who really didn't do much for them, save for defenseman Jake McCabe. The 25 yr. old McCabe was motoring all night and scored the team's only goal. As for other vets like Kyle Okposo, Vladimir Sobotka and Scott Wilson? Lets just say it looks as if they were rusty, like heavy-Chevys that have seen a lot of Buffalo winters.
As for the youngins, Victor Olofsson looked the part of an NHL'er who will contribute. Although he's known for his wicked shot, the 24 yr. old has really embraced a two-way, 200' game and even provided a perfect screen on McCabe's goal. Rasmus Asplund looked ready to make a push for the big club while free agent Kyle Olson continues to make an impression at camp that should get him a contract with Rochester.
The players have today off while the coaches will be pouring over tapes from the two preseason games. "We'll look for things that will confirm what we want to do," said Kruger. "It's been excellent for us to evaluate [during the two preseason games]. You get to know the players so much better than in practice.
"We will be spending a day evaluating and on Thursday you'll be seeing some new looks, for sure."
One can expect a sizeable number of cuts as the team sends players to their developmental leagues. Buffalo has a home-and-home with the Toronto Maple Leafs beginning Friday then will be off until next Wednesday when the Blue Jackets visit KeyBank Center. The Sabres conclude their preseason schedule with an afternoon game at PPG Arena in Pittsburgh on September 28. They'll return to Pittsburgh five days later for an October 3 season opener against the Penguins.