Will slow starts doom Sabres this season?

Phil Housley
FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2015, file photo, Nashville Predators assistant coach Phil Housley instructs players at NHL hockey training camp in Nashville, Tenn. The Buffalo Sabres hire Housley as their new coach, the club announced Thursday, June 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Slow starts were the identity of the Sabres a season ago, and even though it’s a new year with a new coach and philosophy, the preseason had a similar feeling.

With the exception of one game, Head Coach Phil Housley wasn’t too pleased with the Blue & Gold’s energy in the first period of their exhibition slate.

“I think just our starts in general haven’t been very good,” Housley told reporters following their 3-1 loss to the Islanders Friday night.  “I remember at Penn State where we came out and we were ready. So, we have to address that and that’s all about preparation.”

Housley was pressed again on the sluggish starts and how things unfolded on the ice last season.

“I don’t know what happened last year. I’m not concerned about that. I’m looking forward here. Those things, they’re going to change,” the head coach added.  “They have to. You look at all the games we’ve played in the preseason, we’ve only scored the first goal once, so you know how important those starts are.”

When scoring first Buffalo had a 21-12-8 overall record during the 2016-2017 season and 12-25-4 when opponents tallied the opening goal.

Sam Reinhart echoed similar sentiments about getting off to better starts in the locker room after the preseason finale loss.

“I don’t think it was good enough,” the centerman said.  “There were spurts. Right from the start it wasn’t good enough.  We have to demand more, we have to expect more of this group. We have to be ready for Thursday night.”

Reinhart is right.

The Sabres were 15-8-5 when leading after the first period, but combined to go 18-29-7 when tied or trailing after the first 20 minutes of action.

While the Blue & Gold mustered 20 wins when leading after two periods, when they trailed or tied after 40 minutes of action, they combined to go 13-35-7.

Those numbers will have to improve if Housley, Reinhart and the Sabres hope to snap a six year postseason drought.


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