BUFFALO – On Saturday, hours after a dreadful 7-3 home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, coach Phil Housley refused to show the Sabres video of the debacle.
“I don’t think it was the right time,” Housley said inside KeyBank Center.
Following a day off, Housley said he plans to review the footage with his players Monday. So, no, Housley hasn’t trashed the footage of the loose defensive effort.
“I really wanted to get back to work today,” Housley said.
That’s why the Sabres spent about an hour on the ice Saturday morning. Housley believes the lack of quality practice time – in addition to a loaded schedule, they just had their bye week and the NHL All-Star break – has hurt his team.
“That’s where you create your core habits,” Housley said. “You can get a lot out of practice.”
Some terrible habits – they played little defense while committing a slew of costly turnovers Friday – have contributed to the Sabres’ fall from first overall to 10th in the Eastern Conference.
“The important thing was addressing what has made us successful, what are the areas of mistakes that we’re making?” Housley said. “If you watch the game by your own eyeball, it’s the concern of when the puck gets turned over, how we’re reacting to that.”
The Sabres are reacting very poorly. Some of their best players looked awful at times Friday.
Defenseman Zach Bogosian, whose turnover led to the only goal in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss in Dallas, was a minus-3. His ill-advised pinch Friday helped create a two-on-one the Blackhawks converted.
“It’s easy to sit here and point fingers and get down on each other,” Bogosian said. “I think the important thing is we stay up on each other, believe in each other, and that’s what we did today, we … got back to the basics.”
Meanwhile, winger Jeff Skinner recorded two assists and pumped a season-high 10 shots on goal and was still a minus-3.
“You go back to earlier in the season, we talked a lot about our checking detail and our identity, and I think we lost a little bit of that identity,” Housley said. ‘We’re going to get that back.”
The Sabres possibly started losing that identity during their 10-game winning streak in November. Winning, of course, can mask problems. They found new ways to triumph, earning nine one-goal victories, including seven in overtime or a shootout.
But they have little margin for error. The poor habits that have emerged keep wreaking havoc on them.
“The little details of our game have been slipping,” Sabres winger Kyle Okposo said. “I think it really changed the latter half of that 10-game win streak we had. I thought we were getting away with a lot of things but still winning games. Our play’s been very inconsistent since then. That’s when I think it changed.”
The Sabres haven’t handled the highs of winning or the lows of losing well, either, a sign of an inexperienced team.
“You’ve got to try and remain even-keel, and I don’t think we’ve done a good job of that,” Okposo said. “After a win, we’re just flying high and after a loss it’s not good. That’s not a mentality that really good hockey teams have.
“I think the really good teams, they don’t play well, they lose, their mentality is they’re going to win the next game. If they win, it’s like, ‘Eh, yeah, played well. We’re going to win the next game too.’ That’s the mentality of a really good hockey team. I just don’t think that we’ve had that this year, from everybody.”
Housley said the Sabres react the wrong way “when we’re in an adverse situation and something doesn’t go right.”
“I don’t think we’ve handled that very well,” Housley said. “We talked about it as a coaching staff with our leadership group how we have to change that moving forward.”