Robin Lehner was undoubtedly calling out the entire Sabres team after Sunday’s loss to Vancouver. At one point, he seemingly singled out Jack Eichel.
The goaltender said Monday that wasn’t case.
“Everything from what I said yesterday is just to be aimed at us as a group,” Lehner said in KeyBank Center. “We all, starting with myself all the way through the lineup, have to take more responsibility. It's not certain lines. It's not certain people. It's literally all of us on a day-to-day basis have to do what we're paid to do and whatever the coaches want all of us to do.”
Team play versus individualism was a key topic as the Sabres held an optional skate before Tuesday’s game in Ottawa. Buffalo's basic blueprint is to get the puck into the offensive zone and grind teams down with forechecking and puck possession.
Some of Buffalo’s best moments come when Eichel creates plays by carrying the puck. It also led to a bad moment Sunday as he turned the puck over next to the net, leading to a 2-1 Canucks lead. Lehner seemed to pick out the moment following the game.
“We have a structure, but we don’t play it,” Lehner said Sunday. “If we’re going to chip it deep or do whatever we’re supposed to do, let’s do another deke, let’s do another play. Get out of our zone? No, let’s do the fancy thing.”
He insisted Monday it was a general statement.
“I didn’t name anyone,” he said. “I said a lot as we. It’s not about them. It’s not about Jack’s line. It’s not about me. It’s not about Rasmus Ristolainen. It’s about all of us as a team. It’s about doing the small things as I’m saying. It’s about me making an extra save.
“Jack is our best player. End of story. When he’s going, we’re all going. When he’s not going, we’ve got to have other guys going. We’ve got to help each other out. We’ve got to bail each other out.
“If he makes a mistake, if I make a mistake, we’ve got to bail each other out. I would never put anyone in the spotlight. That’s never what I said. At the end of the day, it was a team loss yesterday. It wasn’t a line loss. It wasn’t an individual loss. I think we were all flat, and that’s from everyone. That’s what it is.”
Eichel is aware his decision was costly. He’s also aware his style of play can create offense.
“Whether it's minute 1 or minute 60, I'm going to play the same exact way,” Eichel said. “A lot can go on in the course of a game and the course of a season, obviously the ups and downs in your mind, mentally and physically. I try to stick to the same routine every day, same game plan. We're all in the NHL for a reason. We all built our identity at a younger age. We're here. We do something very well, and that's why we play in the NHL. Whatever that is, just try to bring that to the rink every day.
“I'm a guy that needs to produce offensively. I need to play a 200-foot game and make a difference for this team. Whether it's in our own zone or setting somebody up or scoring a goal, that's what I'm looked at for. I'm a creative player. I take risks trying to make plays. That's how I've always been.
“There's definitely areas of my game I need to clean up. I need to get better in my own zone. I need to be more responsible. Maybe my timing coming out of our zone. There's obviously areas of my game I need to get better at. It's a work in progress with our whole team, and I'm the same way.”
Eichel said his focus now is on the Senators.
“We've got to stop blaming each other, blaming whatever we're blaming,” he said. “Just come to the rink every day, enjoy the fact that you play in the NHL. I don't know. For me, I think I'm more than past just getting worked up about it.
“I'm not going to change last night's outcome with my attitude today, so there's nothing I can do other than come to the rink today and try to get better at the things that I need to get better at, bring a positive attitude and prepare myself to play against Ottawa.”