Krueger: The players are 'all-in' with our principles

October 9, 2019

The Buffalo Sabres are off to a good start to the 2019-20 season through one week of action.

In three games played to this point, the Sabres are 2-0-1 with wins in the first two games over the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils. While Buffalo lost in overtime on Monday to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team has yet to lose in regulation through its first three games for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

In his first year as the head coach in Buffalo, Ralph Krueger has his team playing at a different level than in past years, especially in the first two wins over Pittsburgh and New Jersey. The players are more relentless in both ends of the ice, the team is pressing more, and the overall team appears to be more cohesive as a unit than in years past.

In the first three games, Buffalo is averaging 31.7 shots per-game, and have out-scored their opponents by a 13-7 total.

Leading the way for the Sabres with scoring is second-year defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who has scored a goal and picked up four assists in the opening three games. Right behind Dahlin in the scoring race is rookie winger Victor Olofsson and winger Sam Reinhart, who both have four points.

As for Olofsson, he's currently leading the way with three goals this season, while Reinhart, Jeff Skinner and Conor Sheary are in the mix with two goals each.

In goal, Carter Hutton got Buffalo its first two wins of the season and has posted a 1.50 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage. Linus Ullmark was stellar in Monday's overtime loss against the Blue Jackets, making 40 saves on 44 shots faced and kept Buffalo alive throughout the night.

The Sabres return to action on Wednesday night for the first of three straight home games at KeyBank Center, starting with their first divisional matchup of the season against the Montreal Canadiens

Krueger took the time on Wednesday to join Howard Simon and Jeremy White for his weekly appearance on WGR.

Here is some of what he had to say:


Krueger on the process of players learning the team principles:

"We really went to training camp in a heavy teaching process, where we were splitting sessions and half so we could teach between and after 30 minutes, go back on the ice. Now, we're just deepening the core principals and the concepts, and every game is an opportunity for us to learn from, and we'll be doing that right through the season. As a coach, you don't really know exactly which direction the group's going to need direction in or where we can improve on. It's just been so much fun working with the guys because of their involvement and interest to actually learn and grow, and yesterday we did some very good sessions where we can take things out of the Columbus game that should make us a better team tonight. That process will probably never end because we're always going to be looking for improvement, and that's out motto right now. Keep the picture small and get ready for Montreal tonight, and think of nothing else but trying to be better tonight than in last game." 


Krueger on the work being put into practice to prepare for games:

"We're doing most of the learning off the ice. It's video sessions that are quick, short and to the point. We have footage now that we can use and discuss, and we're making sure the players have a voice in the process so we can understand what they're thinking and how they're processing everything. They're used to the way we're doing it. The practices are short and sweet. Yesterday, we had 30 minutes, and we will be leaving out the pre-game skate today to gather energy because of the three [games] in six [days] we have at home. We want to keep our energy high for what the games will demand."


Krueger on the players' buy-in to the new principles:

"More than anything, they've really bought in to what we are, as coaches, working on and the way we want to go. The players are all-in on that, and that hasn't really been negotiable. It's been something that, through all the conversations in the summer with the players, I was able to feel what the good things were with the past to take with and where the opportunity was... All I can say is the players have been all-in."


Krueger on the start for Rasmus Dahlin:

"He's very coachable, and the skills that lie within him and the potential with him are exciting for all of us. We see the offensive ability that's there, and he, with his deception, will be somebody that will continue to excite. It's also what he's working on away from the puck and how he wants to participate in our team concept on the defense and how we need to keep the chances to a minimum to have a chance to win every night. We're excited about how hard he's working there... On both sides, he's been a pleasure to work with. What an exciting future he has."


Krueger on the NHL's influence over in Europe:

"It's like the World Cup of football if you look at how fans look up to that. NHL in Europe, at any time, is the maximum for a hockey fan. They all plan their trips over here to see teams play. The NHL's followed on a daily basis by all hockey fans in Europe. These [Global Series] games [in November] will be during the international break. All the leagues break in that exact weekend when we're there, and we will be the spotlight of all European hockey. It's a very big event, and it's Super Bowl-like for the actual hockey fans that are actually able to be a part of it."


Krueger on Casey Mittelstadt's development at center moving forward:

"The technique to be able to defend in your own end at the speed and the pace of the National Hockey League today is a lot of hard work for the centerman. It sounds like a broken record, but he's a very coachable young man who wants to get better every day. We all know how exciting his offensive upside is and we're going to continue to let that grow and find spaces where he can use it. Without the puck is where you need to be able to play. If you go on the road and you're up against the top line of the other team, how can you defend? He's doing really well in his development there, and it's more about our defensive concept. If we want a chance to win every night here in the National Hockey League, we're going to have to be able to defend every night. We aren't a team that wants to get into run-and-gun shootouts. We want to have some control over things, and that's where young players like Casey totally understand that need and are working hard at getting better."


You can listen to the entire interview below: