There isn’t much good news for the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, but here’s one thing: at least they didn’t get shut out twice in a row. Thomas Vanek ended Buffalo’s scoreless streak at 122:30, but it was too little too late, as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Sabres 4-1.
Marc-Andre Fleury was mere minutes away from getting his second straight shutout while also ensuring that the Sabres would be shut out for the second time in a row.
Even though that splashier scenario didn’t play out, it still paints a picture of two teams going in remarkably different directions.
In the case of the Penguins, it seems like they have check marks in every category* except goalie, which is a question. On the bright side, Fleury, 28, is off to a hot start, allowing just one goal on 48 shots in two wins.
The Sabres’ only strength might be in net with Ryan Miller … and he’s already banged up.
Buffalo has only generated two goals in three games, and it’s not like the Sabres are suffering from bad luck alone. Their three opponents generated a disturbing 115-76 shot disparity, outscoring Buffalo 7-2 in the process.
The only saving grace might be the quality of the Sabres’ three opponents, as all three – Detroit, Ottawa and Pittsburgh – made it to the second round of the 2013 playoffs and are generally respected around the league. If the results are the same against less dominant competition in their next two games (home contests vs. Tampa Bay and Columbus), then Buffalo will really gather more “worst team in hockey” hype.
* – Many will quibble with this, but they at least have talent at many levels, can we agree on that?
Talk about getting thrown into the fire.
Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.
Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.
Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.
We’ll start to find out tonight.
Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.
— Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.
— Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.
— Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.
— Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.
— Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.
— Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.
Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.
“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly.
So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.
That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”
The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.
“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”
That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.
Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen