As practice leads to perfection, it seems repetition has led to consistency for the Buffalo Sabres.
That was the message Lindy Ruff tried to embed into the minds of the Sabres during their five-game road trip- repeatedly- to keep it simple and steady on the road.
“It’s something we’ve talked about. Our expectations are to be a real consistent team,” Ruff said. “The one thing that has lacked is being consistent. That kind of goes from player to player.”
That began to change Friday night against the Panthers. Buffalo left the Sunshine State with a 4-2 victory over Florida and a 4-3 overtime win Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“We played, what I felt was, more consistent road hockey,” Ruff said. “A little bit simpler game I thought.”
More importantly, the Sabres started to play together.
In the games against the Panthers and the Lightning, eight different skaters scored a goal for Buffalo. In all, there were 13 players that added a point on the weekend.
As a comparison, in the first two road games against the Canadiens and the Hurricanes, only three different players scored a goal, with seven players adding a point.
Contributions came from all four lines, including young players such as Andrej Sekera
"He has played good hockey,” Ruff said of Sekera, who is filling in for an injured Jaroslav Spacek. “For a young player he has obviously made some decisions that young defensemen will make, but he has stepped in and done a pretty good job for us.”
Injuries may be to blame in part for the lack of consistency for the Sabres, especially on the back end. Spacek has missed four games with a sprained shoulder, and Dmitri Kalinin is expected to be out at least four weeks with a MCL injury he suffered Wednesday against Carolina.
Yet even with the injuries, Ruff argued that Buffalo may have been its own worst enemy.
“We were beating ourselves. I think when you go on the road, if you’re going to try some of the plays we tried and give the puck away in situations we gave it away, you’re going to lose the hockey game. I thought we did a better job taking care of the puck and trusting our system [against the Panthers and Lightning].”
"I don’t think we were playing well as a team," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We weren’t playing our system well. I don’t think we were committed all at the same time. Those would be areas that we are trying to fix and it’s slowly coming. We’re going to need that. We’re a team that it’s not going to come easy [for]. It never does in this league. When you win and you work hard and go out for games like that it feels good and you know what it takes."
The Sabres are going to have to continue to prove themselves Thursday when they complete the road trip in Boston.
It’s going to be a big test," Campbell said. "There is no easy game. It’s always going to be tough. Its something that we want to extend the road trip and keep that going... You win one game and you want to get the next one. It’s very demanding for everybody in the room but it’s something that we’re trying to do and ask a lot of each other."
Above all, the Sabres just have to continue to be consistent.