There was a lot of understandable frustration following the Buffalo Sabres’ loss on Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, but the team needs to stick together more than ever right now.
Ever since Sam Reinhart was drafted second overall in 2014 by the Buffalo Sabres, he has faced a lot of pressure. There have been plenty of times when critics have wondered if he would ever live up to expectations.
However, any such doubts have been all but removed this season as Reinhart has taken his play to another level, while still having the promise to be even better. As evidence, he enters Saturday’s contest with the Detroit Red Wings just one point off last season’s career-high of 50, with 29 games still remaining.
Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, all anyone is really focused on at that moment, are comments he made following the Sabres’ 6-5 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. As reported by TSN, he said:
"“Too many mistakes. We can’t expect to win hockey games, 6-5, 7-6. We need more from our goalies and we need it from the start of hockey games. It’s frustrating.”"
In theory, Reinhart is right. The Sabres have allowed a shocking 17 goals in the first three games of their seven-game home stand.
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Regardless, the winger shouldn’t have said what he did. For a start, it’s the defensive play of the team as a whole which is letting the Sabres down, not just the performances of the goalies.
And even if Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark were more at fault, Reinhart still shouldn’t have pointedly blamed them. The duo were the main reason the Sabres won 10 straight games earlier this season, with all but one of the victories coming by a solitary goal.
As the saying goes, you win as a team and you lose as a team. Having said all that, Reinhart shouldn’t be castigated too much.
Consider that the Vancouver native’s comments came just minutes after the loss to the Hurricanes. He arguably hadn’t had enough time to calm down and collect his thoughts.
The comments were also a result of the frustration which comes from a terrible run of form by the Buffalo Sabres, which has seen them go just 9-14-5 in their last 28 games. With the team’s playoff challenge slipping away, they dropped a precious point on Thursday night.
In any event, Reinhart knew the optics looked bad and he attempted to repair the damage of Friday, when speaking again to the media. As reported by Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News, he said:
"“At first I was kind of rattled thinking that something I said was kind of taken the wrong way. Then I watched (the interview) again and it came off the wrong way, so that’s on me. That’s not what I meant at all. … I was trying to say we need more for our goalies. It doesn’t take a hockey genius to know those have been our two best guys all year. So I think that’s on me. I was lost in translation. I wasn’t trying to be hard on them at all. I was trying to be harder on the guys skating around the ice to come back and defend more.”"
To be fair we’ve all been there, slipping up and accidentally saying the wrong thing. The only difference is, most of us don’t do it in front of cameras and recorders.
Further, if you go back to Reinhart’s original comments on the Thursday night, it really would be just a case of changing one word to offer an entirely different context. Instead of saying “we need more from our goalies”, if he says “we need more for our goalies”, everyone would have accepted, and indeed agreed with, this.
As for the goalies themselves, Hutton is too old to be affected by any comments, while Ullmark backed up Reinhart by saying he’s been in a similar position himself previously. Again reported by Lysowski, he said:
"“I don’t know how many times I accidentally misspoke when I’ve done interviews here or back home. It’s tough, especially after a loss like that. You want to say one thing and it comes out the other way. We’re all good.”"
Of course, no matter how good Ullmark and Hutton might be with Reinhart, it still doesn’t change the fact the Sabres need to desperately get back on track. While the team is much improved on last season, the way the 2018-19 campaign is playing out would offer the narrative that they essentially threw away a playoff spot.
There have been plenty of times when the offense has bailed the team out, or the goalies have secured precious points. There have also been occasions when the goalies have been let down by the players in front of them, and vice versa.
Again, it comes down to the fact that you win as a team and you lose as a team. We now wait to see which outcome is more prevalent for the Buffalo Sabres during the remainder of the regular season.
What was your take on Reinhart’s comments? Further, what do you predict will be the Buffalo Sabres’ record for the rest of this home stand? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.