The Buffalo Sabres may be feeling good after earning their second win of the season against the rival Toronto Maple Leafs, but despite the 2-1 shootout victory there is still an underlying problem with Buffalo’s offense. They can’t finish.
The team is averaging nearly 30 shots per game, but just can’t put the puck into the back of the net. Is it chemistry? Bad luck? Both?
“I wouldn’t call it chemistry, and I wouldn’t call it bad luck,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “I think our execution could be better at certain times.”
That execution is what the rest of the team feels is the biggest reason for the low goal output. In four of their six games this season, Buffalo has scored just one goal. It doesn’t take an expert to see that that type of production won’t win many games.
Both Bylsma and Evander Kane, who scored his first goal with the Sabres on Wednesday night, said that playing tougher around opposing goaltenders is what the team needs to start doing in order to produce more goals.
“Now it’s also the mentality of going to the blue paint,” Bylsma said. “Not many first shots go in. We need to think about the second shot, not so much the first shot. That’s a mentality we have to develop.”
Kane added that pucks are right there for the taking at goaltenders’ feet, the team just has to be quicker at reaching them. He also added that, sometimes, it comes down to bounces going your way.
Those bounces Kane speaks of just haven’t been going the Sabres’ way through the first two weeks. From shots hitting random sticks on the way in to bouncing pucks leading to turnovers, it’s been frustrating at times. However, the team knows that it’s still early enough in the season that things will swing their way soon enough.
“So far we’ve had a little bit of trouble finding the back of the net,” Jack Eichel said. “I think we’re getting our chances, but we need to bear down a little bit more.
“Hopefully it’ll open the floodgates for us.”
Kane Finally Has His Moment
Evander Kane may have been with the Buffalo Sabres since February, but he never really felt he was truly part of the team until he was finally about to put on the Buffalo sweater for a practice in September.
The prime acquisition in the blockbuster deal with Winnipeg that sent defenseman Tyler Myers and forward Drew Stafford to the Jets was recovering from shoulder surgery when the deal went down. He came into the season with high expectations for himself, and fully expects to be a key contributor to the Sabres for years to come.
Unfortunately, the start of the season hasn’t been too kind to the former 30-goal scorer.
Kane had a goal disallowed in the team’s season opener against Ottawa after video review showed the Sabres were offside earlier in the play. He’s also had a number of chances to bury the puck, but just couldn’t put them away. It even led to an article saying that the deal was turning into “one of the more one-sided trades in NHL history.”
On Wednesday, all that changed. Kane scored his first marker with the Sabres with five minutes left in the third period to tie the game, and, ultimately, send it to overtime. It was a moment that took a big weight off his shoulders.
“It was nice that it wasn’t disallowed this time,” Kane said with a laugh. “It was a good feeling.”
Kane said that he was looking to go five-hole on Jonathan Bernier because everyone assumes he’s going elsewhere. What then happened was Bernier took the middle away, prompting Kane to choose a different target at a difficult angle.
Of course, with Kane’s goal at that angle the question was brought up whether or not Jack Eichel gave him tips on how to score when there is little room to shoot at. Kane quickly shot that idea down.
“No, no no,” Kane uttered. “He got his tip from me.”
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.