Through 11 games of the season, we’ve seen a variety of improvements for the Buffalo Sabres. The most impressive sign of a change may be the resilient attitude this hockey club has shown so far.
We’ve seen the bounce back and ability to battle through struggles on numerous occasions in this young season.
Adversity struck this team on opening night. They were badly outplayed by the Boston Bruins in a 4-0 loss in their home opener. The Sabres went on to win the next two games, instead of letting the disappointment carry over.
Out west they suffered two bad losses at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks. Instead of letting the road trip get away from them as we’ve seen in the past, they bounced back to pick up two wins against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.
“It shows a lot about the group we have, the resiliency we have,” said Jason Pominville after their victory over the Montreal Canadiens this past Thursday.
A game in which the Sabres gave up a goal early in the game and trailed three times. Yet, they continued to play their game and earned a big 4-3 win in the final minute.
Adversity struck again in Columbus over the weekend. A poor second period resulted in the Sabres falling behind by two goals going into the third period. Last season, that’s a game that likely results in a 6-2 decision in favor of the Blue Jackets.
Pominville echoed those very thoughts a few nights prior referring to the Habs game, “Last year we probably would have got in our shell and wouldn’t have had a pushback, a fight back, but now it’s a different team.”
This season, the Sabres erased the two-goal deficit the Jackets held in less than five minutes into the third period. Although they ended up losing in overtime, good teams find a way to get a point out of that game on the road like they did. Throughout the night they struggled with turnovers and were outplayed for the most part. Yet, they stuck with it and picked up an important point against a conference opponent.
Continually falling behind isn’t a consistent model to pick up wins, but showing the ability to get back in games early in the season helps build confidence. It gives the players belief that they’re never out of a game.
The fragility of the team has been an issue over the last few years. Things would spiral out of control quickly within a game if something bad happened. Then they would carry that over into future games and an eventual losing streak.
An influx of new faces in the offseason has contributed to a rejuvenated attitude throughout the team. “The vibe in the room has been great since even before training camp started,” said Pominville.
They’ve brought in veterans like Patrik Berglund, Carter Hutton, Vladimir Sobotka, Conor Sheary, and Jeff Skinner who have all experienced what it takes to win at the NHL level.
The message early in the season has been to not get too high or too low. Every game gives you the opportunity to rebound from a poor night or continue to build on success.
We’ve heard this rallying cry through the first month of the season from Phil Housley, Kyle Okposo, Jack Eichel, and Pominville again on Thursday night. “There’s going to ups and downs but you gotta stay even-keeled and I think we’re doing a pretty good job of that,” said the 35-year-old winger.
We’re approaching the quarter mark of the season in the next few weeks. That’s when early season trends transition towards concrete analysis of a team. The ability to show some resilience early on is a good sign for the future, but maintaining it will go a long way in getting the Sabres to where they want to be.