“We just gotta find a way to win hockey games, all the way through the lineup we just have to be better.” Young superstar Jack Eichel held nothing back in his post game interview following the Sabres loss Thursday night. Eichel, who ended with two assists on the night, added that the team can not be satisfied with playing hard or out shooting the opponent and that they need to start getting some results.
This start wasn’t expected from the Sabres, who were thought to be on the fringe of the playoffs this season, but this is nothing new to Sabres fans who have not seen playoff hockey in Buffalo since 2011. The slow start can be mostly attributed to the dreadful defensive play and lack of sustainable goalkeeping. The 18 goals that have been scored on them ranks the Sabres 30th in goals against this season, only ahead of the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Although they have had their struggles defensively, the most surprisingly disappointing play to begin this season lies with the lack of production of a few of their top end forwards. Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, and Sam Reinhart have produced 1 point between themselves and a -16 plus/minus in the first four games of the season. The absence of secondary scoring is hurting the Sabres early on and they must find a way to find some production outside of their first line if they want to stay in contention this season.
Everyone had high hopes for Sam Reinhart who was finally moved back into his original centre ice position, but he looked completely lost the first three games of the season which prompted Housley to move him back out to the wing. When Reinhart was drafted into 2014 NHL draft, everyone knew his pro’s and con’s. His pro’s included his A+ knowledge for the game, he always knew where to be and what play to make when he got the puck. The only knock on Sam was his lack of speed. Sam isn’t a great skater, and will never be a great skater, and with the way the NHL is developing into a faster league, this puts Reinhart at an extreme disadvantage. It also doesn’t help that Reinhart plays on the 3rd line without really any sort of offensive threat. Reinhart is too talented of a player to be kept off the score sheet much longer, it is a matter of time before he starts to play to his potential.
It is early, but with the way the Sabres are playing this team is starting to like like the ones of years past and not like the team that was sold to the fans as a potential playoff team this season. The Sabres do have the personnel that would allow them to go on a run and have sustainable success throughout, but must find a way to get some results soon before they dig themselves too big of a hole to get out of.
The Sabres continue their California road trip with a back-to-back this weekend against the Kings and Ducks, and as assistant captain Jack Eichel said, “we just have to find a way to get sick of losing.”