Zay Jones announced he was going to his first NHL game. Fans warned the Buffalo Bills receiver what he might see.
The Sabres delivered, living down to their putrescent ways.
Apparently not fond of their recent prosperity, the Sabres descended back into the depths of uninspired, unwatchable hockey. Calgary administered a 5-1 beatdown that sent the KeyBank Center crowd to an early exit. The Sabres deserved to get shut out, but Casey Nelson scored with 17.1 seconds left.
"From top to bottom, it was really ugly," Sabres coach Phil Housley said.
The Sabres had won four of six, but they weren't fooling the folks who'd long ago given up on this squad. When Jones tweeted his plans for the night, the replies included:
"Props to you for supporting your fellow local pro teams. Condolences for what you are likely to witness."
"Don't have too many expectations. You'll enjoy it more."
"I'm sorry dude."
"Be prepared for your eyes to bleed."
"Best to be intoxicated before entering there."
"Trust me, hockey is better than what you're about to see."
"Please please PLEASE don't judge the entire sport by what you are most likely about to witness."
"Don’t waste your time."
Despite the no-show by the home team – a phrase that has been uttered before – Jones said he had an awesome experience. But what would alternate captain Ryan O'Reilly say to Jones after he witnessed that as his first NHL game?
"I hope he's coming to another one, that's for sure," O'Reilly said. "That wasn't what we wanted. It's disappointing. We have a lot better than that."
Sabres left wing Zemgus Girgensons is a Bills backer. What would he say to Jones?
"He probably should come to another one," Girgensons said. "That's not a great one to see. Maybe he decides to come back for another one."
Judging by the seats that have emptied this season, "Maybe he decides to come back for another one" should replace "Hockey Heaven" as a Sabres catchphrase.
"You look at the games like Tampa, Boston and Toronto, they're easy to get up for," Housley said. "Calgary comes in here, which is a desperate team, and we didn't match that desperation. That's top to bottom.
"This is the learning part of this team is measuring your consistency game in and game out. You can say it was an off night. I disagree. We had a little bit too much cheat, not enough compete. We were losing puck battles all around, and that's what's going to happen. That's the result you're going to get."
The Sabres had a pulse-quickening victory over archrival Toronto on Monday. There was sure to be some letdown. It was a total letdown.
"They outworked us," Girgensons said. "They outplayed us. We just weren't ready, I guess. That's pretty much it. We weren't ready to go."
It was 2-0 after one period as Calgary vaulted to a 17-6 shot advantage. The Flames scored three times in the second period, with Housley giving a mercy hook to starting goaltender Chad Johnson after the fourth goal.
"We got what we deserved," said Johnson, who lost to his former team. "The bigger thing is that it's on home ice. That's more important to me. At the end of the day, I don't care who I'm playing. At the end of the day, I want to have a good effort at home.
"I think we all wanted to have a good effort at home. It didn't happen. That to me is more disappointing."
It was disappointing for nearly everyone in Buffalo who watched, whether it was their first game or their last.
"It's a good lesson for us, though," O'Reilly said. "What worked the day before isn't going to work today. You've got to find a new way to come out and have jump, and we just didn't bring it."
Story topics: Zay Jones