The Sabres' power play was the best in the NHL last season. It was also a one-man show along the blue line.
Rasmus Ristolainen was the only defenseman capable of quarterbacking the power play. He led Buffalo with 24 assists and 25 points during man-advantages. The next five defensemen to get power-play time combined for just 10 points.
Clearly, the Sabres need help. They acquired Nathan Beaulieu from Montreal to provide support. He had two goals and 12 points for the Canadiens during extensive power-play work last year.
On Saturday night, Brendan Guhle showed he knows what to do with the man-advantage. Someday, he'll do it for the Sabres. The plan is to let him develop slowly, but skill has a way of disrupting the best-laid plans.
Guhle had a goal and two assists as the Sabres pulled away from Boston, 7-4, in full and rollicking HarborCenter. The Sabres' power play went an impressive 5 for 8, and Guhle jump-started it.
The defenseman got an early shot from point through to the net, where Hudson Fasching cleaned up the rebound. Guhle scored the second power-play goal on Buffalo's second opportunity, starting a give-and-go with C.J. Smith that ended with Guhle speeding to the crease for a deflection.
He showed the multifaceted skills that aren't possessed by average defensemen.
"On the power play, you could see his skill and what he can add to our organization," said Rochester coach Chris Taylor, who is running the prospect team. "We're just very lucky to have him in the organization, but we've just got to keep developing him."
As Guhle embarks on his first professional season, he appears earmarked for Rochester. The Sabres added Beaulieu, Marco Scandella and Victor Antipin to the blue line, so there's no rush to throw Guhle into the NHL.
But the NHL talent is clearly there.
"The best thing about Guhle is his skating, obviously," Taylor said. "His first three steps, he can pull away from anybody, especially on a breakout. He's headsy. He can dish the puck and he can shoot the puck. He's got some hockey smarts. Even defensively, I really liked his game.
"Guys that can skate on defense and have offensive instincts like he does, they're hard to come by."
That's why so many fans have been clamoring for the 20-year-old to get a shot. He played in three games for the Sabres last season, and he fit in. Saturday's game was against fellow prospects, not NHLers, but it was another big step.
"It's also nice when you're on the power play for about half the game, so that was pretty exciting," Guhle said. "The objective is just come in and play my game and show them what I'm capable of doing. That's all they want to see. They don't want me to try and be someone I'm not. They just want to see what I can do."
Guhle and the rest of the Sabres' top prospects were quiet during Friday's 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey. A big reason was rust. They shook it off in their second game.
Fasching also had a three-point night, scoring twice. Smith had a goal and two assists. Justin Bailey and Nick Baptiste scored. They all got time in the NHL last year, and it showed Saturday.
"It doesn't tell the whole story, but hopefully it shows the coaches we can produce offensively," Guhle said. "We're supposed to be the leaders on this team, so to show that we were able to step up when we weren't very good Friday night, I hope that makes a good impression."
While the fans loved the scoring, they were enthralled by the passion shown. After Fasching knocked Boston's Emil Johansson out of the game with huge hit that earned a charging penalty, the game got chippy. The Sabres stuck up for themselves while remaining disciplined, burying three power-play goals in the final eight minutes.
It moved their record to 1-0-1 heading into Monday's 7 p.m. finale with Pittsburgh (1-0-1).
"It's so fun to play here," Taylor said. "The fans were into it. The guys fed off the fans. We came out in the third period and did a great job."