The Sabres really paid attention to detail in win over Detroit

February 9, 2019
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Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - If the Sabres want to be a consistently good team they need to do some of the things they did in Saturday’s win over Detroit.

Let’s start with Evan Rodrigues. He spent almost two minutes killing a penalty without a stick. It was actually a 6-on-4 because the Red Wings had pulled their goaltender, but he used his brains to cut off passing lanes and play with a desperation. He was dead tired, but he finally saw an opening to sprint to the bench and grab a stick. After he did that, he intercepted a pass and got the puck out.

Later on a penalty kill, Rodrigues hustled into the offensive zone and shielded the puck along the wall with his body killing off many precious seconds. Detroit started out of the zone, but Rodrigues kept his feet moving and stole the puck back at the blue line.

Another huge play was Conor Sheary stealing the puck from Justin Abdelkader. Again, it was speed and the desire to make a play that got him there. Sheary wasn’t done though. He showed patience and savvy to set Mike Green up to screen Jimmy Howard and get the Sabres out to a 1-0 lead.

Buffalo came out very deliberate and it didn’t produce a lot of offense, but I think it’s exactly what it needed to do. The players were careful in the first period, but in a good way. All five guys on the ice paid attention to detail. They paid attention to if there were open players and if there were, they were eliminated.

Phil Housley asked for the team to be tough to play against and I saw an improvement. Luke Glendening set up in front of Linus Ullmark and Marco Scandella showed up and cross checked him at least five times to get him out of there. I saw Zach Bogosian, Rasmus Ristolainen and Rasmus Dahlin also eliminating guys in front. If they’re on their backside, they can’t score.

Saturday they played together as five-man units. When mistakes were made, they helped each other and when he had to, Ullmark made huge saves.

Tage Thompson over passed the puck on a 2-on-1 and Detroit went the other way. Andreas Athanasiou was sprung on a clear cut breakaway, but Ullmark made the save.

Detroit was able to create a 2-on-1 while killing a penalty, but Ullmark was big. Jake McCabe sacrificed the body to block a third period shot. These are the details that good teams do to win hockey games.

The power play has scored five goals in four February games and secondary scoring is picking up.

Kyle Okposo has three goals in seven games, Rodrigues has 10 points in 12 games, Casey Mittelstadt has eight points in 12 games and Ristolainen has 11 points in 13 games.

Even Sheary has 10 points in 14 games.

Buffalo came back against Carolina a squeezed out a point. With Saturday’s victory the Sabres have picked up five of six points. You have to go back to mid-December for the last time that happened.

There’s no time to rest as Winnipeg was in Ottawa on Saturday and will be here for a 3:00 on Sunday. The Jets have struggled lately and if Buffalo does the little things well again, I think they’ll have a good chance to win.