Thursday, October 19, 2017

Leaving Las Vegas...with some question marks...still.

Published by, 10-18-2017

Seven games into the 2017-18 the Buffalo Sabres have managed one win, a 3-1 victory over a depleted Anaheim Ducks squad that was missing Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, Hampus Lindholm, and
Sami Vatanen, among others. Last night they left the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Golden Knights and backup goalie Malcom Subban who, by the way, has four NHL starts to his credit and is sporting a 3.55 GAA and .859 Sv%. Yet he just finished back-to-back wins, his only career wins,against the team that waived him, the Boston Bruins, and the Buffalo Sabres.

The Buffalo dressing room should be asking themselves, "How did we lose this?" Or better yet, "What were we doing out there?"

Buffalo started out well as Ryan O'Reilly scored his first goal of the season on a weak goal by Subban but instead of turning up the heat, they only managed 13 shots for the remainder of the first period and through the entire second, a total of 33:36. Granted, the Sabres had four minor penalties in entire second period which in effect jumbled their lines throughout, but one would have thought that there's be a little more desperation for a team that had only one win all season.

Vegas scored a goal in the first period and two goals in the second (one on the powerplay) to take a 3-1 lead. Early in the third they tacked on another one to make it 4-1.

The one saving grace in this game was that the Sabres did come back as some of their big guns contributed. O'Reilly netted his second of the game on a 5-on-3 powerplay as Sam Reinhart provided the screen. Reinhart would score on a tip-in with 1:58 left in the third period the Sabres on the powerplay with their goalie pulled to bring Buffalo to within one. The Sabres would tie the score with 8.8 seconds left as Evander Kane swatted  the puck out of mid-air to tie the score at 4-4.

However, the Sabre couldn't get the job done in overtime as Jack Eichel made a costly mistake. Eichel had lost his stick and it ended up in the corner to the right of Buffalo goalie Chad Johnson. With the play moving out of the Buffalo zone on the stick of Vegas' David Perron, Eichel chose to go after his stick. Just like that Perron moved in and fired a shot past Johnson before Eichel could get back into the play.

Regardless of that play, the Sabres did not register a shot in the overtime session.

After the game WGR550 Radio's Paul Hamilton asked the players if the thought they had stole a point or lost the chance at two points. There were mixed emotions with one player deferring to Sabres head coach Phil Housley.

Housley, for his part, was not happy. "I think it's unacceptable how we approached the game," the coach noting lack of preparation and the number of penalties as being big contributors to derailing what they were tryin to build upon. "We have a chance to build on something, and I know this is a process, but the process was a little broken tonight. A lack of preparation and accountability and urgency to start the game the way we finished was lacking.

"We can't [continue] to be chasing games right now," said a frustrated Housley, "We have to be ready to start the game and have that aggression in the first period. We've had it at times, but we lacked it tonight."

Man, how many times have we in Sabreland heard something like that coming out of a frustrated coaches mouth. It's something that dates back to Lindy Ruff post Drury/Briere and something we heard Dan Bylsma over the course of the last two seasons.

The question is, "Who's responsible for the lack of preparation? Some would say the coach, others would say the players. One thing the Buffalo Sabres haven't seen since the loss of co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere is leadership. That's the thread that runs through the last decade.

A point is a point, and they'll take it. But if the Sabres want to entertain playoff thoughts, they better start getting the wins. With each loss it gets harder and harder.

The fanbase is beginning to panic. Housley's being called names after only seven games. O'Reilly's getting grief because of his contract and there are other contracts that are being called albatrosses like the one of Kyle Okposo. Some of the barbs being thrown at the team and individual players have merit, and one can even blame former GM Tim Murray as well.

If the Sabres had played with desperation throughout the game last night, there's a good chance they would have won and we'd be talking about a back-to-back wins. However, they couldn't get it done and it leaves plenty of question marks going forward.

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