What Went Wrong? This Week in Sabres Hockey - 1/1/18 - 1/7/18

January 12, 2018


Would you like to feel worse about the team that already makes you sad? If so, then have I got a new weekly feature for you. The Sabres are bad and uninteresting again so it's been difficult to work up the desire to spend time writing about them like I had hoped to this season. 


But one thing I still really enjoy is going over game tape and reviewing what happened on different plays, so that's what we're going to do here. I'm going go through every goal scored against them in the previous week and try to explain what happened and how/if it could've been prevented. 


With that said, here is the first edition of "What Went Wrong? This Week in Sabres Hockey"

  •  Rangers First Goal

    • ​Benoit Pouliot is caught watching the puck (a common theme with this team) instead of keeping his head on a swivel and actually covering the man sneaking into the slot. 

  • Rangers Second Goal

    • This was a total team failure.

    • Girgensons stops moving his feet, Reinhart coasts in rather than skating stride for stride with the Hayes, and McCabe fails to lift the stick and swipe the puck away. 

  • Rangers Third Goal

    • 4v3 is almost impossible defend.

    • The Sabres are generally in good position by filling the shooting lanes.

    • However, Scandella had an opportunity to clear the puck but whiffs on it and makes it pretty easy for Miller to put in the rebound.

  •  Wild First Goal

    • ​Ristolainen isn't in the worst position, but given the context of the play around him he could've done a better job of covering Niederreiter. There are no other Wild players near the net so he had the freedom to be right on top of him so Nino would have no opportunity to get a shot off. 

  • Wild Second Goal

    • Talk about a lazy sequence.

    • Nolan calls for a change despite being 3 feet away from a puck carrier.

    • Then instead of turning on the Jets to attempt any semblance of a back-check he just coasts in behind him.

    • Larsson does the same faux back-check.

    • Beaulieu gives up after 1 hard stride.

    • They all leave Falk and Lehner out to dry.

  • Wild Third Goal

    • This was just a tough deflection that caused a bad rebound to a perfect location for the Wild. I don't really fault any of the Sabres for this goal.  

  • Wild Fourth Goal

    • Eichel could've done a better job of tying up Niederreiter, but the Wild are able to pull off two perfect passes leading to the goal.

  • Wild Fifth Goal

    • Bogosian doesn't do a  great job of getting in the passing lane, but the player that bares most of the blame is Jason Pominville. Once again he is caught watching the puck rather than getting him self in position covering the point man, and leave the slot wide open for Koivu.

  • Wild Sixth Goal

    • Eichel and Falk are a little sloppy on this play, but I primarily fault Reinhart for not sticking with Coyle with no other Wild players near the net.

    • There is an argument that his job is the over the slot to prevent a pass from getting to the defenseman, but he's not even in a good position to cover the pass to the slot here, and he should see that the puck is in the crease area now so he should stick with Coyle and prevent the only other Wild player near the net from getting the puck. Again a simple stick lift here prevents a goal.

  •  Jets First Goal

    • ​This goal is a result of the flaw in the Sabres PK. They've decided to focus on filling the shooting and passing lanes from the high percentage areas. I think this is the right decision, but it does leave the high point shot open, and lets a man hang out in front and screen the goalie with little opposition.

    • The Jets took advantage of this flaw and executed it perfectly. 

  • Jets Second Goal

    • I'm going to put the blame on Johnson here. He may have partially screened, but not enough to prevent him from making this save and directing the puck into the corner.

  • Jets Third Goal

    • Just like the first goal the Jets take advantage of the free screen in front, and Gorges is unable to get his stick in the shooting lane in time. 

  • Jets Fourth Goal

    • Bad rebound from Johnson, but Eichel needs to stick to Little in the slot and prevent the easy put-back

  •  Flyers First Goal

    • ​McCabe spends too much time worrying about his teammate and forgets to cover the passing lane to the 3rd man streaking in. 

    • Then Pominville doesn't get back quick enough to cover the fourth man flying into the zone for an easy shot from the slot.

  • Flyers Second Goal

    • Ristolainen gets caught directing his teammates and gives the flyers a split second of extra time to make the pass to the circle. 

    • On top of it Pouliot is in no mans land covering no one when he could've been preventing the easy pass to the circle. 

A common theme in watching the goals against the Sabres is the general lack of awareness. When you start playing hockey as a kid one of the first things you are taught in the defensive zone is to keep your head on a swivel. Know where the puck is and know where the players without the puck are so that you are ready to intercept a pass. On a few of the goals the opposing team made perfect passes, but far more of the goals could've been prevented by simply being aware of the guy streaking in behind you. 


The other issue that I simply can't stand is the lazy back-checking. I understand that guys get tired, but at the NHL level you can't be coasting back into the defensive zone. 


Now when it comes to their Penalty Kill I'm generally ok with their current set up as illustrated in the image below. Most teams are going with a 1-3-1 Power-Play, so what the Sabres are going for is covering the high percentage areas of the ice where most Power-Play goals come from. The slot and 2 circles with the idea that as soon as a shot is taken the weak side defenseman will immediately collapse to the net to prevent the man in front of the net from putting in the rebound. Where this leaves them vulnerable is a well place shot from the point or the high circle through a screen. However in most instances the PK is able to get a stick in the lane to deflect the puck into the glass, or even if the shot gets through it will most likely hit someone or the goaltender anyway, and the weak side defenseman will almost always be there ready to swipe the puck away before a rebound attempt can be made.

So in the videos above the Jets did a masterful job of exploiting this vulnerability, but in general I think the Sabres PK system is fine.


The Sabres continue to make simple mistakes on preventable goals and have no hope of winning games until they figure out how to improve their general awareness of what is happening on the ice around them.


Oh, and stop being lazy. 

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