OPINION: Sabres have another game of constant turnovers, seven goals-against

Buffalo was down 5-1 to Nashville before they knew what hit them

Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres just keep getting worse and worse, as they try to learn how to handle the pressure of a playoff race.

Buffalo was never even in their game Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators, and, once again, allowed seven goals.

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For the first 40 minutes, almost every time any Sabres skater touched the puck, they turned it over. Craig Anderson was forced to make multiple saves on outnumbered rushes, and finally couldn’t make the saves as the Preds pulled away.

Granato has been a broken record for two weeks now, and his conviction didn’t change on Tuesday. I asked him if there is more he can do as a head coach to change the tide.

"There is. You do more every day based on the situation, but we will get through this," said Granato during his postgame press conference. "I can stand here with no doubt and tell you we will get through this. I’ve been through much more difficult and challenging situations as a coach, and we will get through this."

So again, how can Granato do more to make this go away and not get any worse?

"They’re absolutely pressing, they’re playing with a lot of anxiety, and it’s the first time for lots of guys that they’ve been in the positions they’re at and feeling the pressure. They’re challenged to do simple things because of pressure, and it’s not system breakdowns. It’s pressure and feeling pressure, and fearing mistakes," Granato explained.

"Even tonight, you look at the younger guys - 'Quinner' [Jack Quinn], JJ [Peterka] and 'Cuzy' [Dylan Cozens] - they played fearless. They probably handled the puck better, they probably made plays better. They didn’t carry anxiety. The older players that feel more responsible and feel they should do more, and every possession they press. They try to make the perfect play, and you could see it before it happened at the start of the game.

“We had multiple opportunities to create a shot, and we forwent them. We weren’t even moving to set up a shot. We were looking for another pass, and it’s a false set of confidence.

“You have to have the ability to keep things simple, and that’s what we’re going to learn through this. You just need to get through the neutral zone. You don’t need to make a perfect play, you just need to get depth. You don’t need to make a play through sticks, it’ll be situational awareness. That’s what they have to learn. How to wear on the other team. We’re doing things that will wear on ourselves, so we have the attention. We know we have to pay attention to those types of details and we, as coaches, can present that to them. We will, and I, stand here with conviction, knowing that we will be better through this.”

So now can Granato see it and change it?

“You’re going to have doubt," Granato said. "Who wants to go in front of a crowd; they care, they have pride, and if we didn’t care, we’d probably be in less of a situation than this. They wouldn’t care, and this affects them. Everything affects them. The puck going in their net affects them, and they feel like they let people down. They’re not within themselves, they’re not focused. The position I’m in is a leadership position, so I can lead and you’ve got to help them get through it. You’ve got to give them the confidence that they’re going to get through it, and I can’t give them the confidence if I can’t give them the clarity. We will get the clarity. They’ll get it, because that’s how we got to where we were. I don’t know if this was preventable, but we are still a young team that when I watched film three months ago, I know they need to develop.

“Now, we’re fearing mistakes, and there’s a form of paralysis that comes with that.”

There’s nothing here that I don’ think is true. I think, for the most part, Granato is a good coach and has brought this team a long way in a short period of time. But in this case, he just keeps repeating himself, and I think he’s run out of answers.

He and his staff are learning from this too, and the next time this comes up, I hope he and his staff handle it better, because this is not working yet.

The Sabres have Wednesday off, will practice on Thursday, and then host Lindy Ruff and the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
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