Thursday, October 12, 2017

Housley mixes things up trying to find compete and chemistry

Published by, 10-11-2017

Buffalo Sabres had the unenviable task of hitting the morning talk show today for his first ever appearance on WGR550 as Sabres head coach. Things couldn't have gone much worse for his club in his first three games as they came away with a 0-2-1 record in a trio of games that exposed some serious flaws.

First and foremost, the Sabres have given up four shorthanded goals through three games, a total equal to that of the entire 2016-17 season. Housley told WGR hosts Howard Simon and Jeremy White that the No. 1 problem in this area comes to decisions with the puck. "When we're trying to get into position to score a goal," said the coach, " and there's a 50/50 (chance for) possession, I think we have to sense a little bit more danger and not stay in and say 'I hope (my) guy gets this puck because I'm gonna get it on the weak side and I'm going to have a glorious opportunity.' In essence it's getting turned over and now guys are getting behind us.

"We need to have a better recognition of that. We have to sense that danger."

In so many words, and where the conversation leaned towards much of the time, more compete and better decision-making seem to be a big part of the Sabres woes.

A lot of it seems to come from a Sabres club that's trying to create offense, which includes puck possession and creating shot opportunities, but are doing so the lazy way--by having someone else do the work or by cheating. When Housley dug in to the nuts and bolts of what he needs to see from his team, "We have to recongnize a few areas we need to correct," he said, "starting with our work ethic. It wasn't so much what teams were doing (to us,) it's what we were leaving them" in the form of turnovers.

After the 3-2 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the home opener, the Sabres played sloppy in every zone. That lead to turnovers which lead to a blitzkrieg of goals and the team pressing even more to try and create offense, which in-turn leads to more turnovers and more scoring opportunities coming back the other way.

It's a vicious cycle.

Fact is, turnovers happen in the NHL and bad goals against are scored, sometimes in rapid-fire succession. But the best teams gather their senses and put in the work to turn things around. It's something this edition of the Buffalo Sabres hasn't done.

"It's another thing we have to realize," said the coach about the lack of his team's resiliency. "When teams are pushing and we're under siege as a team, we've got to create our own push back and right now we're accepting too much of the push."

That has been a theme in Buffalo for a long time, actually dating back to the 2007-08 season when the Sabres iced a team of skilled players who were great while things were going well but wilted when the going got tough. About the only time they showed sustained resiliency was when Ted Nolan was coach, but with the sparse talent they iced on a nightly basis, perhaps there play was simply that of survival.

Even so, there should be a portion of that within players with skill as well. We're seeing that with the play of Evander Kane as he's been the only Sabres player to push back when the momentum was swinging away. Kane is off to a great start and twice in the past two games he's fought the opposition onslaught with an impressive individual efforts while halving a deficit.

In Brooklyn against the NY Islanders he scored two consecutive shorthanded goals as the answer to a three-goal Islanders barrage, the second of which was a strong individual effort after forcing a turnover and took on three Islanders players for a loose puck:

In Monday's matinee vs. the New Jersey Devils, he put forth a brilliant display of speed, will and skill on the powerplay as he cut the Devils lead to 2-1:

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