It would be difficult to imagine a worse start to the 2017-18 season for the Buffalo Sabres on the ice.
After dropping their first two games of the season, Jack Eichel called Monday’s game against New Jersey pretty much a must-win. Overstating the importance of an early October game? Probably. And that is always a dangerous thing because if you end up losing the game you end up looking kind of silly if you try to downplay it and then an early three-game losing streak turns into something much bigger.
But if you get absolutely dominated in that game and end up getting blown out on home ice to drop to 0-2-1 on the season?
Well, that makes things look just a little bit worse.
That is also what happened to the Sabres on Monday afternoon when they on the losing end of a 6-2 decision to the Devils.
It was not a particularly good showing by any part of the team.
Starting goalie Chad Johnson was benched after giving up six goals in two periods. The defense looked overmatched against the Devils forwards (this Nico Hischier assist was particularly impressive). The power play gave up yet another shorthanded goal, already the fourth one it has allowed in three games. So far this season the Sabres have a minus-two goal differential when their power play unit is on the ice. After only three games! There is no way to sugarcoat that. It is abysmal.
The Sabres took a pretty significant step backwards in their rebuild last season and it led to a total housecleaning in the front office and coaching staff. Getting off to a fast start under the new regime after such a down year would have been a nice way to help forget about how bad the 2016-17 season was, but the Sabres have given their fans the exact opposite. Now they have to embark on a four-game west coast road trip that will take them to San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Vegas. So the road is not really getting any easier from here.
The Devils, meanwhile, have looked mighty impressive so far this season. Taylor Hall didn’t score a goal on Monday but was arguably the best player on the ice, while rookie Jesper Bratt scored a pair of goals, as did offseason addition Marcus Johansson.
The Devils are now 2-0 on the season and have already scored 11 goals on the season. They actually look like a team that might have some potential to score a little bit this season.