In their first game of the new season, the NY Islanders set the tone early, going into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead. With things seemingly going their way in the first stanza, the Buffalo Sabres managed to even things up early into the third, with one Islander at the forefront of both Sabres goals.
In his first four seasons in the NHL, it's evident that Noah Dobson is much more proficient on the offensive end than defensively. Poor defense by the 23-year-old helped the Sabres get even on Saturday, beginning with a lack of physicality on Jordan Greenway's power move to pull Buffalo within one.
While defensive partner Adam Pelech was working his tail off to prevent Greenway from getting a shot off, a move to his backhand put him directly into Dobson's path just outside the crease. Instead of trying to dislodge the puck with his body, Dobson instead threw an ineffective poke check, allowing Greenway to tuck the puck into the goal.
Just 2:34 into the third, Dobson was caught out of position as the Sabres scored their second of the night. As Matt Martin was engaged with rookie Zach Benson in a board battle behind the net, Dobson left his position in front of his goalie to join. As the puck jumped over his stick, Casey Mittlestadt picked the puck up, beating Ilya Sorokin on his backhand to nod the game at two.
In one situation, Dobson was unwilling to engage physically, and in the other, found himself out of position in a place on the ice where the opposition had no opportunity to score.
It's the first game of the season, so there's the thought of giving him some time to get his feet under him. But on the other hand, this isn't a one-off for Dobson, as it's plagued him for most of his career.
Lane Lambert and his staff don't expect Dobson to become a shutdown defenseman overnight - but if he hopes to keep earning top-pairing minutes, the defensive aspect of his game needs to improve significantly. If he manages to put up 70+ points every year, the defensive lapses will become more forgivable. But until then, Dobson will have to find physicality and limit the lapses in judgment if he hopes to become one of the Isles' go-to defensemen.