Don Granato knows the value of an early goal. ©2021, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres notes: Don Granato plans to play fast-paced, exciting hockey

BUFFALO – Historically, NHL teams that score first or hold the lead at the end of the first period go on to win the game.

The Sabres won only 15 of their 56 games last season, finishing dead last. Still, when they opened the scoring, they compiled a strong 8-6-5 record. When they led after 20 minutes, they went 4-3-4.

Sabres coach Don Granato brought up the value of an early goal or lead Wednesday when he was asked about why his teams play so aggressively. He loves to push the pace and showcase an entertaining style.

Many hockey coaches, of course, install conservative, defensive-oriented systems.

When last-place teams score first or lead after 20 minutes, Granato said their winning percentage is about the same as the league’s top clubs.

“So when you look at that, you say if some of the last-place teams in the league have a winning percentage .500 to .600 when they score the first goal of the game, why would you spend so much time on defense?” Granato said after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s season opener against the Montreal Canadiens. “Because you’re going to be down goals, and you can’t concede those games. And so I don’t want to be conservative.

“There’s lots of games and lots of winning depends on the ability to come back. And if you don’t know how to do that, and you only know how to defend, that’s a recipe for disaster, in my opinion. It’s always been my approach to it and it’ll continue to be that way for that reason.”

Granato, who began coaching in 1993, said he has confidence an up-tempo style can be successful because he has “done it for years and years and drilled it and practiced it and developed it.”

“Our sport is entertaining,” Granato said inside KeyBank Center. “We need to play it that way. We need to play with the passion, the energy.”

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, the Sabres’ slickest puck-mover, said Granato’s fast-paced style fits the team well.

“It’s kind of like the new type of hockey,” he said. “We like to play fast, we like to play with the puck.”

The Sabres announced on Wednesday that legendary play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret will call 20 home games this season, starting with Thursday’s opener at KeyBank Center.

Jeanneret, who plans to retire following the season, will also work Saturday afternoon’s home contest against the Arizona Coyotes.

The Rochester Americans on Wednesday named veteran forward Michael Mersch their captain.

Center Sean Malone, a West Seneca native, and defensemen Brandon Davidson, Ethan Prow and Jimmy Schuldt will serve as alternate captains.

Granato expects Sabres winger Drake Caggiula, who hobbled off the ice during Tuesday’s practice, to face the Canadiens.

Caggiula practiced at right wing Wednesday beside center Dylan Cozens and Anders Bjork.

The Rochester Americans on Wednesday named veteran forward Michael Mersch their captain.

Center Sean Malone, a West Seneca native, and defensemen Brandon Davidson, Ethan Prow and Jimmy Schuldt will serve as alternate captains.

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