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The Buffalo Sabres had an embarrassing 2020-21 campaign, which resulted in their 10th straight season without a playoff berth. After that the Sabres basically resigned themselves to starting the rebuilding process all over again. Rasmus Ristolainen and Sam Reinhart were dealt over the summer. Jack Eichel is in limbo as he waits for the Sabres to trade him to a team he hopes will give him permission to have the surgery he wants. So to recap, the Sabres went 15-34-7 in 2020-21 and then entered 2021-22 without their scoring leader from last season, the defensemen who averaged the most minutes for them, and their former captain and centerpiece.
So naturally Buffalo is 3-0-0 to start the campaign.
To make the story better, goaltending has been a key part of the Sabres’ early success. Craig Anderson, who is 40-years-old and played in all of four regular season games in 2020-21, has posted a 1.50 GAA and .954 save percentage in his first two starts this season. When Dustin Tokarski got his chance to start, the 32-year-old journeyman saved 20 of 21 shots to lift the Sabres to a 2-1 win over Arizona. If you picked Anderson and Tokarski to be a top goaltending duo entering this season you would have been laughed at, but at least in the early days of the campaign, they’ve been playing like one.
But then these are just the early days and if there’s one thing the Sabres have been good at in recent years, it’s creating false hope. Back in 2019-20 they got off to a 9-2-1 start en route to a 30-31-8 campaign. In 2018-19 they went on an incredible 10-game winning streak from Nov. 8-27, which pushed them up to 17-6-2 by the end of it. They still finished that season 33-39-10.
So we’ll see if these Sabres can continue to beat the odds. Even if they don’t though, for a rebuilding squad that entered the season with no expectations, they’ve been fun.
BUFFALO 5 VANCOUVER 2
Craig Anderson came up big for the Sabres, stopping 32 of 34 shots. He’s allowed just three goals over his first two starts with Buffalo.
This game was tied 2-2 through 40 minutes, but Jeff Skinner gave the Sabres the edge at 3:33 of the third period. Tage Thompson scored 23 seconds later to give Buffalo a 4-2 lead and the Canucks were never able to work their way back.
Zemgus Girgensons scored a goal and registered an assist for Buffalo. He’s up to two goals and four points in three contests this season.
Thatcher Demko surrendered four goals, but in his defense, he also faced 42 shots. He’s had to deal with an average of 37 shots over his first three games.
Bo Horvat found the back of the net for the Sabres. It was his first goal and second point in four contests.
SAN JOSE 5 MONTREAL 0
Adin Hill only had to make 21 saves to earn his fourth career shutout. It was a nice way to bounce back after allowing three goals on 23 shots to the Jets on Saturday.
Jonathan Dahlen led the charge, scoring two goals in the first 3:36 minutes of the contest. Those were the rookie’s first two career goals.
Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier each had a goal and two assists for San Jose. Karlsson’s up to four points in two contests.
Jake Allen stopped 20 of 25 Sharks shots. He’s dropped to 0-3-0 with a 3.05 GAA and .885 save percentage in three starts.
Mike Hoffman got into his first game with the Canadiens. He fired three shots in 16:36 minutes of ice time, but obviously he couldn’t make a difference last night.
FLORIDA 4 TAMPA BAY 1
Aleksander Barkov scored the game-winning goal and registered an assist. That gives him two goals and five points in three contests.
Anton Lundell also had a goal and an assist for the Panthers. Those were his first two points in the season.
Spencer Knight stopped 30 of 31 Lightning shots. It was his first start of the 2021-22.
At the other end of the ice, Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 28 of 31 shots. He has a 2-2-0 record, 3.22 GAA, and .893 save percentage in four starts.
Brayden Point scored the Lightning’s lone goal. He has a marker and an assist in four contests.
NEW JERSEY 4 SEATTLE 2
Jared McCann scored a goal for the Kraken. He’s gotten off to a great start with three goals and five points in five contests.
Damon Severson netted the game-winning goal. He was making his season debut after missing the Devils’ opener with a lower-body injury.
Ryan Graves assisted on two of New Jersey’s four goals. He’s up to three helpers in two contests.
Jonathan Bernier stopped 27 of 29 Kraken shots. He’s won his first two starts of the season while allowing five goals.
Joey Daccord kicked out 29 of 32 shots in his first start with Seattle. He wasn’t initially expected to start, but the Kraken put Chris Driedger on the injured reserve list late into the afternoon and called up Daccord to fill the void.
DALLAS 2 PITTSBURGH 1 (SO)
Michael Raffl scored the Stars’ only regulation time goal. He has two goals and three points in four contests.
When it came to the shootout Alexander Radulov provided the difference. He’s gotten off to a slow start otherwise though with an assist and minus-three rating in four games.
John Marino found the back of the net for Pittsburgh. It was his first goal and fourth point in four games.
Tristan Jarry saved 28 of 29 shots in regulation time. He then surrendered two goals on three shots to fall short in the shootout.
Braden Holtby turned aside 27 of 28 shots before the shootout. He picked up the extra point by limiting Pittsburgh to one goal over three shootout rounds.
WASHINGTON 6 COLORADO 3
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored two goals, including the game winner, and registered an assist. He’s up to two goals and six points in three games.
Three of Washington’s six goals were assisted on by Tom Wilson. That gives him four helpers in three contests.
Ilya Samsonov kicked out 24 of 27 Avalanche shots. It wasn’t the best of starts, but the Capitals helped him pick up a win in his season debut.
J.T. Compher scored a goal and registered an assist. The Avalanche forward has two goals and four points in three contests.
Darcy Kuemper saved 34 of 39 shots for Colorado. He fell to 1-2-0 with a 3.79 GAA and .890 save percentage in three starts.
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DETROIT 4 COLUMBUS 1
Lucas Raymond scored his first career NHL goal and registered an assist. The 19-year-old is up to three points in three games.
Thomas Greiss stopped 22 of 23 Blue Jackets shots. He’s allowed just two goals over his first two starts of the campaign.
Boone Jenner accounted for the Blue Jackets’ lone goal. It was his second goal and point in three games.
Joonas Korpisalo turned aside 41 of 43 Red Wings shots. He was making his season debut.
NY ISLANDERS 4 CHICAGO 1
Oliver Wahlstrom scored a pair of goals, including the game winner. He has three goals in three contests.
Anthony Beauvillier also netted a goal for the Islanders. That gives him a goal and an assist in three games.
Chicago’s goal was netted by MacKenzie Entwistle. Unfortunately, he scored at 19:34 of the third period and by then the outcome of the game was already decided.
That goal did prevent Ilya Sorokin from earning the shutout though. Still, Sorokin stopped 39 of 40 shots and secured the win, so I’m sure he’s happy with how his night went.
Meanwhile Marc-Andre Fleury’s struggles with the Blackhawks continued. He saved 25 of 29 shots, making this his third straight start where he’s surrendered four goals.
NASHVILLE 2 LOS ANGELES 1
Anze Kopitar kept his hot start going by scoring a goal at 4:38 of the second period. The Kings forward has 5 goals and eight points in three contests.
That marker put the Kings ahead, but Matt Duchene tied the contest early in the third frame. It was his first goal in three games.
Tanner Jeannot accounted for the game-winning goal. That was his first point of the 2021-22 campaign.
Juuse Saros saved 25 of 26 Kings shots. He improved to 1-2-0 with a 2.02 GAA and .927 save percentage in three starts.
At the other end of the ice, Calvin Petersen turned aside 29 of 31 shots. It was his first start of the season.
MINNESOTA 6 WINNIPEG 5
Kyle Connor scored two goals and registered an assist for the Jets. He has three goals and four points in three games.
Andrew Copp also came up big for Winnipeg with a goal and two helpers. That gives him two goals and four points in three contests.
Even with their efforts though, the Jets didn’t win and Joel Eriksson Ek is a big part of the reason why. He scored a hat trick that was capped off with the overtime winner.
Mats Zuccarello was also a big factor in the Wild’s victory with two goals and two assists. He’s up to five points in three games.
Cam Talbot stopped 25 of 30 Jets shots. We imagine that’s not his favorite win, but he’s nevertheless 3-0-0 to start the season.
Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 38 of 44 shots. He’s had a rough start to the campaign with a 0-2-1 record, 4.67 GAA, and .856 save percentage in three starts.
EDMONTON 6 ANAHEIM 5
Leon Draisaitl led the charge for Edmonton with two goals and two assists. He’s already scored two goals and eight points in three games.
The Oilers’ other star forward, Connor McDavid, contributed a goal and two assists. That gives him four goals and eight points in three contests.
Unfortunately, the news wasn’t all good for Edmonton. Mike Smith suffered a lower-body injury and is day-to-day. Smith stopped 11 of 15 shots before being forced to leave the contest. Mikko Koskinen stepped in and saved 20 of 21 shots the rest of the way.
Anthony Stolarz turned aside 31 of 36 Oilers shots. He allowed three goals in the first period and another two in the final frame.