Sabres Mailbag Extra: O'Reilly, Eichel and the need to do better - The Buffalo News

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Sabres Mailbag Extra: O'Reilly, Eichel and the need to do better

The Sabres have given up 12 goals in two games. They have lost all three games they've played. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of questions from fans for the Mailbag.

One resonated more than the others.

Question: Will things magically change if ROR, Kane, Eichel say, “We all need to do better and it starts with me” enough times? Magic number?

Answer: If there is a magic number, the Sabres haven't reached it yet. They've certainly tried.

Before we get into the overused line, let's take Evander Kane out of the equation. The left winger leads Buffalo with four goals and six points. He has two short-handed goals. He's atop the entire NHL with 26 shots. He's tied for the Sabres' lead in hits. He has the most takeaways.

He's been on the ice for too many goals against, but it's not his fault the season has started so poorly.

That leaves Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel. They are the guys mentioned most for the captaincy. They're the highest-paid players (or will be when Eichel's contract kicks in next season). They're supposed to carry the team.

Eichel has at least celebrated. He's been on the ice for five of Buffalo's seven goals. He's also been on the ice for seven of the opponents' tallies.

For someone who wants to be mentioned as an MVP candidate, he simply can't have outings like Monday's 6-2 loss to New Jersey.

Unprompted, he said it was a "must-win." Eichel then went out and had no shots – zero, none, nada. He attempted only one shot in his 19:58 of ice time, and he missed the net.

Edmonton's Connor McDavid had two games without a shot last season. Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby had four. It's going to happen to the best. But a blanking during a "must-win" is not good.

O'Reilly, meanwhile, is the king of self-flagellation. He gave himself another whipping Monday, a no-point night that left him with one assist and seven shots.

"In all three games, I've been invisible," the center said. "I haven't been creating, haven't been tough defensively. I'm just out there skating around. It's not good enough. I've got to regroup here."

Let's go back to O'Reilly's debut with Buffalo in October 2015.

"I felt I was pretty useless out there," O'Reilly said. "I just felt I skated around. I wasn’t where I should have been a lot of the time. Whether it was just overthinking or just out of position, I have to be much better for my linemates and for the team.”

Now here's February 2016.

"I’ve been very frustrated with myself the last few games," O'Reilly said. "The last handful of them, I don’t think I’ve been anywhere near where I want to be. I’ve been terrible in my own end. I haven’t been creating as much offense. I don’t know if it was just maybe lucky early on in the season, but I think I have a lot to learn going forward."

Here is February 2017.

“If we want to make the playoffs, I myself have to contribute every game for that,” O’Reilly said. “Last night I don’t think was good enough. It’s frustrating, but going forward I myself have to be a lot better.”

For good (bad?) measure, here was a conversation in April.

"As a leader, I really didn’t step up and hold guys accountable, be a voice, and it’s tough,” O’Reilly said. “We start to get things going, then we fall back into bad habits again and our old ways. A big piece of it is me. It is.”

It's become too common of a refrain for Buffalo fans. If the Sabres are going to become winners, O'Reilly needs to finally heed his own advice.

Sabres Mailbag: New team, same problems as fans ask inevitable questions

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