Thursday, January 11, 2018

Quick notes plus, reports of blowups at today's practice

Published by, 1-10-2018

The Sabres announced today that they'll be wearing the Winter Classic-style jerseys three more times this season:

--Thursday, Feb. 8 against the New York Islanders
--Monday, Feb. 19 against the Washington Capitals
--Wednesday, April 4 against the Ottawa Senators (Fan Appreciation Night)

Sabres PR also noted that on they'll be giving away a Winter Classic themed jersey towel at the Feb. 19 game and on Fan Appreciation Night, select fans will receive the Winter Classic-style jerseys worn by the players that night in their annual "Jersey Off My Back" promotion.


Last night's 7-4 blowout loss to the Winnipeg Jets offered up some interesting stats.

Jack Eichel (2g, 1a,)  Ryan O'Reilly (1+2) and Kyle Okposo (3 assists) all had three points and paced the forwards in time on ice at 20:57, 20:04 and 20:05, respectively.

Eichel and O'Reilly lead the team with six shots on goal each while Okposo had three.

All three were on the ice when former Sabre Joel Armia scored an empty net goal in Buffalo's 7-4 loss placing a minus-1 in each plus/minus rating.

Eichel was on the ice for seven of the game's 11 goals:  three of Buffalo's four (with one on the powerplay) and four of Winnipeg's seven (three at even strength and the Armia empty-netter.)

Okposo was on the ice for six total goals:  three Sabres goals-for (two even-strength, one on the powerplay) and was on the ice for two even-strength goals against and the Armia goal.)

O'Reilly was on the ice for four goals total:  two even strength goals by Buffalo and one on the Sabres powerplay plus the empty-netter against.

At the end of the night Eichel was a minus-2, Okposo a minus-1 and O'Reilly was one of three Sabres players in the plus column at plus-1.

The others at plus-1 were Jake McCabe (18:49 TOI,) Jason Pominville (17:51) and Rasmus Ristolainen with a game-high 27:07 minutes played.

Buffalo's worst plus/minus last night belonged to the defense-pairing of Zach Bogosian and Nathan Beaulieu at minus-3 each. Bogosian skated a total of 18:05 was on the ice with Beaulieu for three goals against and was also on the ice for both Winnipeg powerplay goals.


Defenseman Brendan Guhle started off his first Sabres game of the season by taking a penalty on his second shift of the game which lead to goal by Winnipeg which opened the scoring. However, once he got acclimated, he was flying up and down the ice in a way that did not go unnoticed.

Sabres bench boss Phil Housley was on WGR550 Radio this morning talking with the hosts and you could tell in his voice that he was really excited about what the 20 yr. old Guhle brought to the table. "It was great the way he stepped out from behind our own net and just attacked the game, beating the forechecker, carrying the puck up ice with just his speed. When he was getting involved in the offensive zone his reads were real good.

"I liked the way he jumped in, got down low and had guys covering for him, but even when he got caught down low he could use his speed to get back and recover. That's a great aspect of his game.

Guhle skated 17:45 last night and put up zeros across the board (including plus/minus,) with the one penalty and had three shots on goal.


Housley ripped into his entire team after last night's loss and called his team out for lackadaisical play geared towards individual numbers. Here's how he put it to the gathered media last night:

"The thing for me – and it's very evident and I continue to talk about it – is our lack of respect and urgency playing defense. That's not only in the defensive zone. That starts in the offensive zone, sensing possession that's going to be in question, have a total urgency to get back. And we sit and wait at times. We're hoping that somebody's going to make a play.

"We don't get back, and then their D are ahead of us. That's where it starts, and then it gets back into our defensive zone. There's going to be times where you're going to have to sustain some defensive-zone pressure from other teams, but it's just having that urgency to kill a play, to suck it up and play solid defense."

Which is somewhat ironic considering that Housley, an offensive-minded defenseman who made it to the Hockey Hall of Fame because of his individual numbers, was never known for his defense either. In fact, during his first couple of seasons, Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman used him on the wing because his defense was so terrible.


WGR Sabres beat reporter Paul Hamilton said last night post-game that what Housley described was the same thing we've been seeing often over the course of the last five years or so.

Sorry, Paul. You're wrong.

It goes back farther than that, to Darcy Regier's core post Drury/Briere. It's something that happened quite often at home even with a tough coach like Lindy Ruff in charge. More often than not that group of talented individual players were more interested in fancy plays to put on a show for the home crowd and more often than not, they ended up losing, sometimes in a very ugly fashion like we saw last night.


The goalie during that time was Ryan Miller, a former Vezina Trophy winner who was booed and/or given a Bronx cheer on more than one occasion during the last stages of his Buffalo career. Miller was often left hung out to dry by the skaters in front of him and there were many times in-game where he'd come up big. But there were also times where he'd let in a softie or three.

Robin Lehner is similar in that respect as he's come up with some big saves only to let in some stoppable goals.

Last night was an awful game for him as he allowed three goals--two egregious softies and one that  real good goalie should have had--on 17 shots against. Fortunately for him (and unfortunately for the team,) the KeyBank Center crowd is so accustomed to performances like this (a 5-11-3 Sabres home record) that remained without emotionless while Chad Johnson relieved Lehner.

Housley, who's tried to act like nurturing mother through this dismal season, didn't mince words when it came to Lehner's performance. The first thing out of is mouth at last night's post-game presser was delivered with a furrowed brow and a deep sigh before saying, "Well, first of all, we're gonna need some saves, you know, early on in the game."



The Sabres scored on the powerplay. Yay!

Buffalo went into the game with the league's second worst powerplay at 12.4% then proceeded to go 1-3 on the night with the man advantage moving them to 12.9% on the year. The only team worse is the Columbus Blue Jackets (12.2%) who are presently second in the Metropolitan Division. Buffalo is second-last in the league.


The losses are starting to take their toll.

Word from today's practice via Paul Hamilton had Evander Kane and Justin Falk in an on-ice altercation before the coaches pulled Falk away. Also from the practice this morning, WKBW's Matthew Bove reports that Bogosian slammed hard into the boards and was helped off the ice favoring his left leg. Apparently he got tangled along the wall with Kane.

Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times reported that Falk "yelled at Kane, called him selfish and shoved him."

Housley's reaction thanks to those on the scene, "It's good to see some emotion. It was a battle practice and tempers flared up. It was more the heat of the battle."

And, from the Falk, via Hamilton, "To be quite honest I think it's healthy. We're pushing each other, we're honest with each other, we're up front with each other, there's no B.S. behind anything and that's just the way you have to have it."

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