Housley: It's time to start building some consistency

November 8, 2017
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It was one of the best overall performances for the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night as they grab a 3-1 win over the Washington Capitals at KeyBank Center.

The Sabres got two goals from Evander Kane in the win, along with a goal from Benoit Pouliot in the third period to put the Sabres head for good. The Sabres offense generated a good amount of scoring chances throughout the night, while the defense did a well shutting down the Capitals' high-powered offense and limiting their chances.

The 2017-18 season has gotten off to a rough start, to say the least. The record has been indicative of the Sabres' struggles, but it's the on-ice production that has been concerning. Buffalo has struggled to perform with any consistency in their game, and were not playing a complete game.

Tuesday night's performance against a Capitals was arguably the Sabres' best performance of the season. Sabres head coach Phil Housley was very pleased with his team's efforts against a Capitals team with plenty of offensive weapons.

"I thought it was a pretty complete game by our group," Housley said with Howard Simon and Jeremy White on Wednesday. "I know during the course of the season we've had some good stretches of play during games. Certainly last night was a full 60-minute effort by our guys. I think they realized that when they defend well and limit other teams, it gives you a good chance for success. That was the case last night.

"You saw a really solid effort last night, and now we have to build off of that and build that consistency, which we haven't had during that stretch."

Over the past several weeks, Housley has preached to his team to play a complete game. Offense, defense, special teams. He wants his team to play with an aggressive mindset while playing responsibly with and without the puck, plus focusing on the details of their game.

Housley knows that if his team can play on the same page and play more of a complete game, one thing will lead to another, which will hopefully lead to more big plays.

"When we were in the offensive zone when the puck was turned over, we had urgency to get back. Our back checks and re-loads out of the zone were really good, which takes away the other team's time and space to make plays up the ice. We protected  the middle of the ice really well, and we protected our goalie really well. When you do those things and play that way, you have the puck more. We were able to play in the offensive zone.

"It was a big win for our group, and it shows them how hard it is to win in this league. But if you do the right things, you get rewarded."

While the forwards have been scoring and contributing on offense, the defense has yet to find the back of the net this season. Last season, the Sabres' defensive group did not score a goal until November 17 and only scored 17 goals overall from the blue line.

Even though the defense has been overhauled from last season, the offensive struggles from the defense continues. However, Housley is not too concerned with the offensive production from the blue line, as long as they're doing their part to help the Sabres win games.

"It starts with defending. I have no problem winning 3-1 if they don't score a goal, but we have to continue to defending. Those things will take care of themselves... We have to defend, but they're a big part of our offense, whether it's off the rush or in the offensive zone. Because they're a big part of our attack, we have to get shots to the net and continue to find lanes, change angles and do it quicker so those pucks will find the net. When we have a good net-front presence, one of these days it will bounce off somebody, it's gonna hit a shin pad, or it might just go straight in if we got over top of the goalie. We have to continue to work on that, and they've done a better job of it. They've contributed more in the shot area in the last three or four games, so it'll break through but we have to continue to work at it."

Something else that hasn't changed from last year is injuries, especially on the back end. The Sabres are without players like Zach Bogosian, Nathan Beaulieu, Josh Gorges, Rasmus Ristolainen and Matt Tennyson, which has resulted in several call ups from the Rochester Americans. Players like Taylor Fedun and Zach Redmond have been contributing for the Sabres, even though they were expected to play most of the season in the AHL.

One of Buffalo's top prospects, Brendan Guhle, has not been called up yet this season, despite putting up some good numbers with the Amerks. The 20-year old got the chance to play in three games last season in Buffalo on emergency recall from the Western Hockey League, and showed some promise of being a very capable defender in the NHL. However, Housley wants Guhle's focus to be at the AHL level for the time being.

"I think he's in a good spot right now. He's getting an opportunity to develop and play a lot of minutes down there, which I think has brought his game to another level. Those decisions we'll leave up to [Jason Botterill], but I really like where he is right now. I think he's playing with a lot of confidence because of it. The American [Hockey] League is a very good league to develop. You've seen a lot of players that have come up and gone down, and have developed and are better for it. So we'll let Brendan continue to develop down in Rochester."

You can listen to Housley's entire interview with Howard and Jeremy below: