Housley: We 'lost the discipline in our gameplan' against Columbus

October 26, 2017
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After only trailing 1-0 through the first 35 minutes of play on Wednesday night, the Buffalo Sabres had a rough stretch of three minutes in which they gave up three goals to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 5-1 loss at Nationwide Arena.

The Sabres had played a solid 20 minutes of play, throwing 14 shots on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and winning a majority of the possession battles. After Ryan O'Reilly failed to score on a breakaway at the 12:41 mark, the tides changed in favor of Columbus as they out-shot the Sabres 23-18 and out-score them 4-1.

For Sabres head coach Phil Housley, he knew that his team's effort on Wednesday fell off the map after O'Reilly's missed opportunity.

"I think we just lost the discipline in our gameplan," Housley said with Howard Simon on WGR Thursday morning. "You look at the first period, I thought we were getting into a really good rhythm. Obviously they get the powerplay goal, but for the most part, we're playing a really solid game. Even in the second period when we started, we got right back to work. Just in that little span, I think we got away from our gameplan where our high forward got caught down too low and they came back as a result. They're a team that likes to have their [defense] involved in the play. They have guys like [Zach] Werenski, [Seth] Jones, and [Ryan] Murray that like to jump in the play. If that high forward gets caught, it's on that rush, and it's put a tremendous amount of pressure on our defense. They were finding the open man, and in this league you can't make those kind of mistakes if you expect to win.

"Sure we had that breakaway in the second period that would have been great if we had capitalized on it. It would've tied the score. We'd have been in a real good position and it would've boosted our confidence and momentum in that game, but we didn't get it. So how do you react to that? When you're facing that kind of adversity, you just gotta dig in a little deeper. It wasn't a result of Xs and Os, it was just our decisions. Those are choices that we have to try to erase, and we can't give the other team those opportunities when we have to."

The Sabres currently sit at 3-6-2 in the standings, but the struggles were much worse to start the 2017-18 season. The Sabres are still trying to adjust to Housley's system in Buffalo, which has been a process. Housley sees that his team is progressing as the season rolls along. He knows that if the team can correct some of the issues from Wednesday night in Columbus, the progressions will continue and the success will come.

"We just have to play good without the puck and make the right decisions. We've been building in a great direction, and it's gonna happen at times where we're going to lose two forwards and a third forward is going to have to do a good job of deflecting and controlling that rush against us. I think we've made great strides in that area."

One area of the team that went through some significant changes over the offseason was on the blue line. The Sabres overhauled the defensive group, with the hopes of being able to establish a group that can skate, move the puck and contribute to Housley's system.

One of those additions to the blue line was 24-year old, Victor Antipin. The Russian defenseman came over from the Kontinental Hockey League this offseason after putting up some career numbers with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. It is not an easy transition for Antipin, who came over not knowing much English at all, and joining a team that he has very little familiarity with.

Antipin was benched earlier in the season as he continues to adjust to life in Buffalo and the system with the Sabres. However, he has since played the last four games and is continuing to improve and get more comfortable in his own skin. On Tuesday night, Antipin registered his first career point after assisting on the game-winning goal against the Detroit Red Wings.

"It's tough for a guy with the language barrier, coming in to a new team and trying to learn new systems, new teammates, a new partner; just to get his feet wet and get comfortable. Sometimes, you can take a step back and watch the game from a different perspective and see that you do have more time, you may not be working hard enough to get back on the breakout, the details of the game. When he was implemented back in, I thought he had done a terrific job of getting back on the breakout, making that good first pass, defending harder, being more aggressive defensively. As a result, his game made a turn for the better. And he's just gotta continue to do that. He's got to use his speed, and his skating ability to break down forechecks and get back and make that good first pass to get up in the play. I thought's done a really good job since he's been back in the lineup."

Another offseason addition to the blue line that has impressed the Sabres head coach is Marco Scandella. The 27-year old missed the entire preseason after offseason surgery on his hip, but has since found himself on the top defensive pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen.

"Marco is a tremendous competitor. He's got a lot of pride in his game. To miss training camp, that's tough because it's a timing issue. Then when you're trying to come into play during the regular season, you're almost catching a moving train. He was slotted on the second pair just to ease him into the games and get caught up to speed. Now that he's been paired with [Ristolainen], I think that's a really dynamic defensive pair. You can see it in his play. He's taken in a lot of minutes, he's enjoyed the challenge of that role, which we brought him in here for.

"I just really like his work ethic and what he brings to our team. He's a really good defender, he closes quickly on guys, and he's not afraid to jump up in the play, which I really like. I think our mobility on our defensive corp is really good right now."

You can hear Housley's entire interview with Howard below: