After a four-game road trip, the Buffalo Sabres were hoping a return home would give them the spark they needed. Instead, the Sabres remain winless at KeyBank Center after another uninspired effort, falling to the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. Buffalo is now 1-5-2 on the season and 0-2-1 at home.
Five observations from Friday's loss:
So much for a fast start
*30 for 30 voice*
What if I told you the Sabres were outshot 17-5 in the first period...and were still winning after 20 minutes? That's what happened on Friday as the Sabres played catchup for nearly the entire first period.
Halfway through the second period shots are 30 (!) to 8. It's a small miracle that this is still a one-goal game. Buffalo looks lost.
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) October 21, 2017
After their last game in Las Vegas Sabres head coach Phil Housley ripped into his team, publicly voicing his displeasure about how they started the game. Apparently, his team didn't get the message, with an arguably worse start at home on Friday.
Luckily for Housley and the Sabres, Buffalo converted on two of their five shots.
That luck didn't extend into the second period where the sloppy play continued. During the middle frame, Buffalo was once again grossly outshot, with 12 fewer shots [eight] than Vancouver . Seriously, Buffalo was outshot 37-13 to a team that played last night. That can never, and should never happen.
Like Tuesday, the third period was Buffalo's most consistent but they couldn't climb themselves out of the hole they dug in the first 40 minutes. Buffalo needs to wake up or these struggles will continue.
Okposo rides the pine
For most of the second and third periods, Sabres assistant captain Kyle Okposo was glued to the bench. After the game, Okposo told reporters he needs to be better and understands why he's being benched.
In five games this season Okposo has failed to register a point and sports an incredibly unimpressive minus-seven plus/minus rating. Plus/minus is a flawed stat but Okposo needs to improve his play at both ends of the ice. As a leader and as one of the highest paid players on the team, he needs to be a difference maker.
For the first time in his NHL career, Williamsville native Justin Bailey found the back of the net in his hometown. Just one minute into the game Bailey converted on a gorgeous backhand pass from O'Reilly, scoring his second goal in three games.
Bailey is off to a fast start and is contributing at the rate many hoped he would after last season. Instead, Bailey was sent to Rochester during training camp, failing to make the Sabres opening night roster for the second straight year.
Playing on a line with O'Reilly and Okposo [in the first period] certainly doesn't hurt, especially for a player looking to prove his worth. If Bailey can continue to produce he won't be sent back to Rochester any time soon, especially with Buffalo's recent rash of injuries.
For the second time in the last three games, Sabres' backup goalie Chad Johnson played outstanding, making big save after big save. If it wasn't for Johnson, Friday could've very quickly turned into a blowout. Johnson finished the night with 37 saves.
The coaches challenge.....
Bettman says the offsides challenge is working exactly as the league hoped it would pic.twitter.com/OCF4JcEict
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) May 29, 2017
In May I sat in the press conference room at game one of the Stanley Cup Final and listened to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman tell reporters that the coaches challenge is going exactly how the league hoped. On Friday we saw another example of why the coaches challenge has been criticized so much by fans and reporters.
This was the goal from Daniel Sedin:
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 21, 2017
Housley challenged the goal, claiming that Canucks' forward Jake Virtanen was offside when he entered the zone. After a VERY lengthy review, the officials ruled that Virtanen was onside and the goal stood.
A few minutes later the league released this statement:
At 8:10 of the second period in the Canucks/Sabres game, Buffalo requested a Coach's Challenge to determine whether Vancouver was off-side prior to Daniel Sedin's goal.
After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff confirmed that Vancouver's Jake Virtanen had possession and control of the puck as he entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 83.1, "a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered 'off-side,' provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line."
At the end of the day, this wouldn't be a problem if the coaches challenge didn't exist. If the referees are going to take an extended look at a play they need to get the call right. In this case, I don't think they did. Fire the coaches challenge to the moon.