It’s one thing to know logically the shots will be harder and the play will be faster.
It’s another thing to experience it.
Jason Kasdorf had to go through the game to truly understand what it takes to be a goaltender in the National Hockey League.
And while the 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in First Niagara Center on Friday night was not the pro debut he was hoping for, the experience will be invaluable for the Buffalo Sabres rookie.
“I’m really glad that I was able to get this game just because now I know what I can work on, what I’m all right at and just from there into summer,” Kasdorf said. “I think it’s a good building block for me.”
His NHL debut came about a month after his senior season at Rensselaer ended and he took about two weeks to recover from a groin injury. He stopped the first 10 shots he saw before Matt Calvert’s shot from the left faceoff circle rang off the far post and in for the 1-0 Columbus lead.
In the second period, Kasdorf tried to stay focused as the Sabres kept the play in the Blue Jackets’ zone for an 18-6 advantage in shots. Kasdorf wasn’t as sharp as he would have liked, giving up two more as Columbus built a 3-1 lead.
“I try to stay focused the whole game. It shouldn’t matter,” Kasdorf said of the second-period light workload that can bother some goaltenders.
“I think the biggest thing is continuing to get used to the speed of the shots, the speed of the release. I thought there were a couple that I normally have and I think if I would have been a little bit quicker, there’s two goals I think I should have had back.
“I thought I should have been better though, just for my team. I thought the team played really well in front of me. It seemed like most of the game was in Columbus’ end but I thought I should have been better.”
In the final game summary, Kasdorf’s NHL debut goes down as a loss with four goals against and 26 saves. But perhaps the biggest upside for Kasdorf is his eagerness to learn. He spent his first four weeks with the Sabres asking questions and watching how fellow goalie Chad Johnson went about his business of practice and preparation.
Johnson knows all about coming into an NHL team. Himself a former college goalie for Alaska-Fairbanks, he has an idea of what Kasdorf’s transition will be like. For his part, Johnson sees in Kasdorf a young goaltender with the right attitude.
“I think when a guy comes in and he’s humble and he wants to get better and he wants to learn and he doesn’t come in trying to be too good or cocky or overstepping boundaries with the guys, when he’s as good of a guy as he is and open minded to learning it’s fun to be around that,” Johnson said. “It’s fun to try and give him advice.”
With Kasdorf playing Friday, the Sabres assigned goaltender Nathan Lieuwen to the Rochester Americans. Lieuwen has played in 26 games for the Amerks this season with a 2.86 goals against average and a .911 save percentage.
Two other players made their NHL debuts with the Sabres on Friday night.
Evan Rodrigues took five shots in 10:10 of ice time while Williamsville native Cole Schneider had two shots in 12:54.
“I thought they both looked pretty good,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “Cole looked comfortable with the pace and making plays, made a couple of good ones, had a couple of opportunities around the net.
“Evan, we talked a little bit about what he did in training camp to turn eyes – be on pucks, be a hound, be tenacious. I thought he was every bit of that.”
Schneider became the sixth player born in Buffalo to appear in a regular-season game for the Sabres joining Justin Bailey, Marcus Foligno, Patrick Kaleta, Tim Kennedy and Scott Thomas.