The Sabres upped their passion for the game against the Blues

February 3, 2018

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - Phil Housley asked his team to start the game with the same passion that they finished the game with in Florida and in my mind, he got that.

The Sabres came out hitting a bigger team than them in St. Louis and showed the passion needed to win battles.

Yes, the Blues did have a few good chances in the first 40 minutes, but overall, the gap between the forwards and the defense was very good.

The other thing I saw, especially in the first period was a good net-front presence in front of Carter Hutton. Buffalo had guys planted in front and got three tips and one shot they blocked on their own.

Rasmus Ristolainen is getting his aggressiveness back and it’s showing in his play. I thought through 40 minutes, he was having his best game since before the All-Star break.

They started doing the little things that helped them win some 50/50 battles. I saw Benoit Pouliot comeback into the zone and break up a passing play that was headed directly in front of Robin Lehner.

I saw a little bit of desperation at times to block a shot or get into battle.

There was one habit that they didn’t break and that was passing up open shots through the circle to pass to covered guys. Not a one of those attempts worked. Phil Housley said he was very unhappy with the amount of shots they passed up. He wants them to have a much better shot mentality.

They worst play the Sabres had all night was an errant pass in his own zone by Evander Kane that allowed Brayden Schenn to be all alone in front. Robin Lehner made a huge save to help out his teammate. That was really about the time that this game got away from the Sabres for about 10 minutes. Lehner was at his absolute best making many big saves to keep his team at 0-0.

The Blues pressed hard and Lehner was there at every turn. Lehner has now made 120 saves on 123 shots in his last four games. That’s a .976 save percentage.

The Sabres finally got a power play and the passion came back in a hurry except for Ryan O’Reilly. Hutton made a save with O’Reilly standing right next to him. The puck was loose, but O’Reilly just stood there and didn’t go for the puck until after Hutton found it. On the sequence after that, O’Reilly was in front, but he wasn’t ready for a rebound that would’ve been a great chance.

Just 41 seconds after the Blues came back to full strength, O’Reilly lost the draw to Paul Stastny and Carl Gunnarsson’s shot made it through a bunch of bodies, hit the bar and went in. O’Reilly did win some key draws after that including the final one that led to a glorious chance for Rasmus Ristolainen that rang the crossbar just before the final horn. Overall. O’Reilly was fantastic on the draws winning 26-of-34 faceoffs, but he was clearly upset with himself after that segment of plays.

In the final minute, Sam Reinhart had a wide open net on a feed from Kane. He took the one-timer immediately when the puck hit his stick, but Hutton sprawled and made a toe- save that will be number one on Sports Center in both the United States and Canada.  

The Sabres were better tonight, but it the end, it’s five straight losses in this ice surface and the team is now 6-15-2 in this building.