Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres have lost six straight games at home, but they did more than lose this past weekend. They completely and totally embarrassed themselves.
Buffalo lost twice to the Philadelphia Flyers, played against one bad goalie and one good goalie and never scored a goal.
Coming into the weekend, the Flyers were the 24th-ranked team in NHL goals-against at 3.25. The Sabres were even better at 2.94, which was 18th.
Buffalo’s ineptness took them from 27th in league scoring to 29th, averaging 2.21 goals per-game. Only the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks are worse. Last season under head coach Ralph Krueger, the team was 21st in league scoring at 2.80 goals per-game.
Last year, Krueger's team was 25th in NHL points percentage at .493. This season, they're 28th at .395. They have slightly improved their team goals-against average this season. Last year, they were 22nd in the league, and this year they're 19th.
I think the worst part about Sunday was for the first 7:10 for the game, Buffalo spent pretty much the whole time in Philadelphia’s end. Goaltender Jonas Johansson hadn’t faced a shot or a scoring chance-against. The Sabres were superb at breaking up all the rushes, and quickly transitioned to get out of their own end with quick, crisp passing.
Buffalo got an early power play and with Jack Eichel back in the lineup, the chances were plentiful. Rasmus Dahlin got a great opportunity coming down the slot, but ripped it wide.
In the game, Eichel had three different chances with the extra man, but shot wide on all three.
There was a shift for Eric Staal’s line with Taylor Hall and Kyle Okposo, where Hall and Okposo got to the net and Staal got the puck there. They didn’t score, but that’s how this team should play all the time.
The problem was that in this game, as in most every other game they’ve played at home this season, they just stopped playing. Philadelphia got its first shot on Johansson 7:08 into the first period, and after that outshot Buffalo 25-5 into the second period. By the time that barrage was over, the Flyers had built a 2-0 lead and the game was over.
This team plays with no passion, no drive, no jam and no confidence. The player that showed the most anger and fire after the game was Dahlin, so I’m going to turn this article over to him.
“It all comes down to competing, work for each other, be a good teammate. Right now, we have nothing to lose, we have to work our balls off every game,” Dahlin said in his postgame Zoom conference call.
As you will read, the word "compete" was Dahlin’s theme through the whole interview.
“We have to somehow turn this around, but it all starts with competing," Dahlin said. "Someone has to step up and make a hit, but it all comes down to working for each other and start to compete.”
The 20-year-old seems to get it, so why do others not?
I can’t even fathom how ownership isn’t so embarrassed by what they witnessed this past weekend that Krueger wasn’t fired immediately after the final horn. This team is not getting what he’s selling at all, and if they haven’t remotely grasped it yet, they aren’t going to. Maybe he has players that can’t play his way, but he’s not going to change so it’s obvious it’s not working.
“I’m very embarrassed. This is not acceptable. This sucks, it’s the worst," Dahlin added.
“The team we have in the locker room can do something very special, but we have to find the competitiveness in our team. We will keep losing if no one is competing. We need to do all the gritty stuff, hit someone, a fight, I don’t know, but the team we have right now should not be losing like we are right now.”
Former Sabres captain Craig Rivet has been banging the table for two or three years that this team is not made up correctly. What Dahlin said is very true, but the Sabres are made up of small, soft players. Rasmus Ristolainen spent the whole game Sunday making big hits, but he’s the only one. When Will Borgen is out there, he will too.
Rivet has been saying all this time that if you want to win in this league, you need a few players that change the momentum of games, players that make your star players comfortable.
His favorite examples are Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, Will Carrier and Pat Maroon. These are also players that can contribute to your bottom-six, and play a decent game of hockey. The last thing this team needs is a one-dimensional goon like John Scott, who didn’t even understand the role.
I think we need to start listening to Craig. This team has none of that, and it just plays every game with little-to-no passion and little-to-no drive.
After the game, Eichel seemed to be out of answers, and I don’t blame him. He said he didn’t know what to say, and he’s trying to process this whole thing himself.
Eichel also said they’re in the right mindset, but they aren’t very connected as a group.
John Vogl asked a very pointed question that when he hears connected, is it coaching?
“No. The coach isn’t on the ice. We’re on the ice, so it’s moving the puck, executing. That’s the way I see it,” Eichel responded.
The Sabres have lost eight of their last 10 games. When you’re in a division as tough as the East, you have zero chance to make the playoffs after a prolonged losing skid like that.
I just don’t understand how this organization can’t see that this coach’s system does not fit his players.
Let’s get one thing straight - it’s not bad luck. Bad luck is slumping for a few games, not two seasons.
There are three players that aren’t in slumps: Victor Olofsson, Curtis Lazar and Sam Reinhart. The fact that everybody else has slumped the whole season has more to do than just luck. "Luck" is the buzz word in the analytics community and it just doesn’t apply here.
Krueger has a complete disconnect with his players. All you have to do is look at the standings the last two years and it will tell you that his system with these players does not work. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad system, it means it’s a bad system for these players, and he has said numerous times he’s not changing it.