It's a good thing the novelty of an NHL pre-season game on its own was enough to keep the fans in Dundas, Ontario cheering, because the Buffalo Sabres' 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators was nothing to write home about. The Sens iced few veterans, and although the Sabres had a good chunk of their NHL lineup, their big stars didn't see much ice time. Still, the tight-checking game offered some good physicality and a few solid saves, even if it wasn't a high-scoring, offence-first matchup.
Let's cut to the chase, because without stats (thanks, NHL), it's tough to offer too much analysis beyond my cursory observations:
Sens hero: Robin Lehner
Yes, the first goal was a terrible giveaway from behind the net (and he took the long way around the net, for some reason), and yes, his positioning on the second goal was amateurish, at best. But Lehner still made plenty of saves on the night, and--to be honest--he had little support, in large part. And more importantly, Lehner was able to bounce back from both goals: After the first, he made two terrific saves with his active right pad™ (Pierre McGuire trademark), and after the second, he made a great glove-save on Tyler Myers.
Sens hero: Patrick Wiercioch
Wiercioch had his best game of the season tonight, and had a goal to show for it--the result of some great puck control on the offensive blue line, and a perfectly-executed screen in front of Ryan Miller put up by Chris Neil. It's still likely Wiercioch will be on his way to Binghamton to start the season, but his final pre-season game gave the Sens' coaches and management something to keep in mind when they look for injury replacements through the season.
Sens hero: Chris Neil
It's pretty obvious that Neil's in game shape. He started the game off with a big hit behind the Sabres' net, and threw a few more of them, too. His screen in front of Miller was pivotal to the Sens only goal, and made life difficult (along with linemate Jarkko Ruutu) for Miller the rest of the night, too.
Sens hero: Bobby Butler
Another solid game for Butler, even if he wasn't able to get his name on the scoresheet. Still looks like the most NHL-ready offensive prospect in the organization, farther ahead than either Mike Hoffman or Roman Wick (who again looked overwhelmed tonight). Ottawa's got plenty of forwards right now, but a line of Butler with Jesse Winchester and Zack Smith wouldn't be a bad combination at all.
Sens zero: Peter Regin
Although he looks good alongside guys like Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, the few pre-season games he's played in have shown that Regin's not ready to lead a team's offence yet, if he ever will be. He's still getting used to this NHL thing (just a second-year player, after all), but tonight proved he's still got plenty to learn. And the way Nick Foligno has played this pre-season, he might be getting time on the fourth line learning some of it.
Sens killer: Jason Pominville
Ho-hum, nothing new here. Another goal for Pominville--the game-winner--even though he had barely any ice time until the latter half of the third period. Still, considering the best defenceman iced by the Senators was Matt Carkner, you'd expect a line of Pominville with Thomas Vanek and Tim Connolly to put up at least one goal.
Keep your head up: Matt Carkner
I'm still wondering what Carkner was doing as he carried the puck and waited... and waited... and waited, before passing the puck, until Cody McCormick came by and absolutely decked him. All the more odd because, even though I said 'keep your head up', his head was up the whole time. I don't know how he missed McCormick coming right at him, but he didn't let the kid get off scot-free, and dropped the gloves with him--and, on his way out of the rink, was sure to sign plenty of autographs (for fans and police constables alike), with a huge smile on his face. What's there not to like about this guy?