The Buffalo Sabres faithful, feeling spurned by Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher, made it known early and often that they were displeased with the young Wisconsin native choosing the New Jersey Devils over their favorite team with a crescendo of boos every time Butcher touched the puck. That did not bother Butcher at all as he used his puck creativity to fuel the Devils to victory.
You seemed composed, like you were rarin’ to go out there:
BUTCHER: First pro game, I want to make a good first impression first, just playing with Santini really helped, just because I’m familiar with him (teammates in the 2012 USNTDP program in Ann Arbor), he’s a great player so he’s a stay at home guy, gives me a little more confidence to make plays and do the things I’m capable of doing.
So, I thought it was a good game overall for us, we had a great first period start and Buffalo came back and pushed very hard, but, we stuck with it and pulled out the win at the end there.
How was that pace for you, was there any intimidation at all for you?
No, not really, I think I just went out there and tried to play my game. I didn’t try and think about too much. I just tried to go out and do what got me here in the first place, so I think it’s definitely a high paced game, first game of the year, so like getting back into it, six defenseman rotation. I was talking to (Josh) Jacobs about it, and was just like, man, it’s good that we’re doing this now and get ready for training camp.
Can you break down what happened on the game tying goal?
Yeah, I just tried jumping up on the play, I was yelling at Kuj (Ryan Kujawinski) right behind him, he made a drop pass to me and I just fed it back to him and (he) goes in and scores a hat trick. He was hot tonight, so give him the puck (laughs)
It seemed like the boos (from jilted Sabres fans) fueled you out there, did you feel that, or did I see what I wanted to?
I mean, it was kind of humorous to me, I think, it’s just a great sports town, they know what’s going on and you know, I thought it was very funny and almost flattering at times. But no, it was good, like I said, I love playing in front of great crowds and we had a great crowd tonight,so, it was all fun.
You talk about this great sports town, how close were you to becoming a Buffalo Sabre?
Ya, really close, I mean it was really hard to make a decision, took a while, since I was a free agent, took me about 10-12 days to make a decision, so, yeah, it was very hard and like I said, it’s a great hockey town, it’s a great place to come and play here for your professional career.
You played both power play and penalty kill, is that something you’re comfortable with?
Ya, I think you need to adapt and you need to play all roles and be as versatile as you can because it’s pro hockey and there’s specialties and everything like that for different guys in different areas. Any time you can develop and get more reps in a certain area, whether it’s special teams or defensive zone draws or anything like that, but, it’s great it’s challenging.
Was it comfortable for you to play the left side tonight after playing two years on the right side at the University of Denver?
100%. When you’re paired with a guy like Santini it makes it easy, no matter what if I was playing the right and he’s playing the left, he plays really well. He makes my game easier. I got a couple of shifts with Kap (Michael Kapla) and I played the right side then, I was back and forth a little bit, but, it’s fine with me. I think when you go in you don’t necessarily have left and a right when you get to this type of level of hockey. You just play defense and read off of your partner.
You’ve mentioed twice now that playing with Santini is comfortable. What does he do to make it comfortable?
I just know his tendencies, played with him for two years and I know how he plays, I know what he likes to do, he’s a great communicator, tells me what he wants and what he needs from me and I do the same. We just gel really well together in that game I thought and hopefully I keep playing with him.
I noticed you talk a lot on the ice with your teammates and on the bench as well. Is that something that comes naturally to you?
For me it’s the more you communicate the better you are. I think, if I tell guys where I want them to be or where I’m going to go, it helps them with their game and helps me with mine. The more I talk I can do that sorta thing. It’s better all around for the team.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding you, but also surrounding first overall pick Nico Hischier. What did you think of his game out there tonight?
He’s unbelievable the way he stick lifts guys, gets the puck quick, makes plays. He came down, tried to do a wraparound quick, so fast, get around the net. Such a skillful player, it’s fun to be out there on the ice with him. I just give him the puck and let him create and do what he does.