Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Expletives at Sabres' practice. The Devils in town for a matinee.

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 10-9-2017

Saturday's 6-3 loss in Brooklyn against the NY Islanders was a weird one for the Buffalo Sabres in that both teams combined for four shorthanded goals. The big problem for Buffalo was that the Islanders scored both of theirs in a matter of :50 seconds in what ended up being a three-goal in 1:47 blitzkrieg. The barrage put NY up 4-0 early in the second period. It was the third shorthanded goal the Sabres have given up in two games while the NHL's #1 powerplay unit from last year is limping along scoring only one goal in nine powerplays.

"Two games, the power play's lost them both," said Buffalo's Jack Eichel to the media after the game.

"It's just our urgency," said Evander Kane.

Eichel and Kane provided all the offense against with Kane scoring two shorthanded goals himself, the second of which came on a strong individual effort while Eichel scored the other Sabres goal and set up Kane for his first shorty.

It's a situation that screams of players resting on their laurels and not putting in the effort when it comes to having the man advantage. "That's what killed us [on Saturday]," said Ryan O'Reilly at yesterday's practice. "Relaxing at certain times in the game."

Buffalo was only down 1-0 when Islanders captain John Tavares jumped on a casual pass by defenseman Nathan Beaulieu in the Buffalo zone. Beaulieu wheeled along the boards at the Sabres zone and sent a soft pass to the middle. Tavares smelled that coming and soon connect on the 236th goal of his career.

Less than a minute later on the same powerplay a soft pass by Sam Reinhart in the Islanders zone got lost in the feet of Eichel and the play went the other way. New York's Andrew Ladd picked it off and sent teammate Casey Cizikas down the left wall. Cizikas easily beat Victor Antipin on the play and blasted a drive past Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner before Beaulieu could get over.

The momentum was clearly in the Islanders favor but Buffalo coach Phil Housley didn't call a timeout and the tidal wave continued.

Buffalo still had :46 seconds left on the powerplay and they attempted to regroup without a timeout. After spending plenty of time in the Islanders zone a cross-ice pass by Kane was corralled by defenseman Matt Tennyson who tried to send a lazy dump along the boards. The Islanders Jason Chimera stole the puck and sent it the length of the ice just as the penalty ended. Josh Ho Sang gathered the puck in the Sabres corner and fed Josh Bailey who along with Chimera created a 2-on-1 in tight. Bailey buried the shot far side.

"Lackadaisical." "Soft." Lazy." It's the type of thing that a hungry team like the NY Islanders, who were embarrassed in a 5-0 loss to open the season, ate up and spit right back into the net.

Housley claimed that his team was ready for the Islanders but that they "didn't execute the game plan."

Maybe. Tavares' first goal came 1:50 into the game and if it wasn't for Lehner, the Islanders might have left the first period with another goal or two. But the Sabres did outshoot the Islanders 11-9.

Whether it was effort or execution, or lack of effort affecting execution, it carried over into practice on Sunday. Sabres assistant coach Davis Payne tired of their approach and according to the media watching, didn't mince words while voicing his displeasure.

“Let’s get (expletive) sharp!” And few seconds later, according to Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald Payne "let loose", saying, “Let’s get it (expletive) going!”

The Sabres have a matinee game against the New Jersey Devils today at 3 p.m. In addition to Payne trying to spark a competitive fire in his charges Housley mixed up the lines a little bit for yesterday's practice as he swapped centers on two lines. According to Jourdon LaBarber of sabres.com, they looked like this:

9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 25 Seth Griffith
67 Benoit Pouliot - 23 Sam Reinhart - 21 Kyle Okposo
22 Johan Larsson - 10 Jacob Josefson - 26 Matt Moulson

Jordan Nolan was the extra forward.

Reinhart had an abysmal minus-5 rating against the Islanders while only taking two shots and has looked disengaged thus far to the point that it almost looks as if he's moping around. He has zero points and is a minus-6 in two games. Not sure what a player like Benoit Pouliot will do for him but having a sniper like Okposo on his wing may help.

O'Reilly has one point thus far (an assist) and is a minus-3. He and Okposo had great chemistry last season but hadn't found it yet thus far this season. They've had both Pouliot and Zemgus Girgensons on the left side with neither player hitting the scoresheet.

Kane is off to a rollicking start with four points in three games. He and Eichel are the only Buffalo players on the plus side of plus/minus while three others who've played in both games--defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen, Beaulieu and Jack McCabe--are all even. Reinhart is at the bottom followed by Okposo and minus-5.

Housley was noncommittal when it came to who'd be starting in goal for the Sabres today. Lehner is the No. 1 but was pulled in the Islanders game after giving up four goals on 16 shots. Backup Chad Johnson came on in relief at the 7:00-mark of the second period and stopped 15 of 16 shots.

The Sabres will have their hands full this afternoon as they're only 1-4-1 vs. the Devils over the past two seasons. New Jersey only outscored Buffalo 14-10 in those six games but have added some firepower in 2017 first-overall pick Nico Hischier to go along with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmeri.

Defenseman Will Butcher, a free agent college signee whom the Sabres were in on made his NHL debut Saturday night and became the first Devil in franchise history to record three assists as a rookie. All of his points came on a Devils powerplay that went 3/4 against the Colorado Avalanche.

"I just pass the pucks and they do the rest," Butcher said to the post-game media (via Amy Moritz, The Buffalo News.) "On the power play, where those points happened, giving the puck to Hall and Palmieri with time and space, good things are always going to happen."

The Devils iced eight new faces including rookies Hischier, Butcher and Swedish import Jesper Bratt.

Today is Kids Day at KeyBank Center featuring a Party in the Plaza from 1-3 p.m. which is sure to be a blast for the kids who are off for Columbus Day.

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