An unsettling trend has followed the Buffalo Sabres from last season into this season through four games. The poor starts in games have carried over and is a cause for concern.
Of the four games to start this season, they were outplayed in the first period in three of them. The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche all dominated for most of the opening 20 minutes during their meetings with the Sabres.
They’re being outscored 4-2 and outshot 47-34 in the first period so far. The numbers would be worse if it wasn’t for a late power play at the end of the game last night. Prior to the man advantage in the final minutes of the period, the Sabres were being outshot 10-5 by the Avalanche.
“We deserved to be down 3-0, I mean we didn’t play well enough in the first period, it was bad, we can’t have that,” said forward Kyle Okposo after the game last night.
Colorado was coming off of a poor 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday and was challenged by their coach afterward.
The Sabres should not have been caught off guard by how hard their opponent came out to start the game. They saw a similar situation unfold opening night with the Bruins.
This early in the season there’s not really an excuse for it. You’re in your own building, have been off for two days and are riding the momentum of back to back wins.
Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who had perhaps his best game of the season, wasn’t in the mood to make excuses after the game, “our legs were heavy, we just didn’t execute and really there’s no excuse for it.” He went on to say, “we had a pretty nice schedule so there’s zero excuse for what happened tonight.”
The starts were a big talking point from last season that needed to be corrected. They were outscored 46-76 in the first period and outshot 831-881 during the 2017-18 campaign. They trailed after 20 minutes in 35 of their 82 games last season (43 percent of the games).
As I mentioned, we’re seeing the trend carry into this season. The most concerning part is that it’s happening at home. A place where you should be able to get off to a good start, especially with a fan base that is feeling good about this season.
You’d think it’s going to be more difficult to get off to great starts on the road. The Sabres are heading out West for a five-game road trip, so we’re about to find out.
It’s difficult to really place the blame on a specific area. Some blame falls on the coaching staff to make sure that their team is ready to play. Blame also falls on the players to have themselves ready to go when the puck drops.
“Every shift is important, how you prepare is important,” Housley said last night during his postgame press conference.
This is still a young team (26.6 average age) and has a few players on the roster who are trying to get acclimated to playing in the NHL on a nightly basis. Being prepared to play is part of learning to win in a league where no win comes easily.
Goaltender Carter Hutton echoed these sentiments last night saying, “it’s the grind of winning too, it’s not easy, it doesn’t just come, I think that’s something we have to learn and embrace that grind.”
The roster isn’t talented enough to continually dig themselves out of big holes to start games. They’re good enough to rebound from small deficits, but not a three-goal hole like last night.
They need to find a way to get this trend out of their game quickly or it’s going to be difficult to string wins together this season.