The Sabres have played just two games in Buffalo this season, and the natives are already restless. It’s hard to blame them.
The Sabres have won 43 of their last 125 home games. The abysmal record since the start of the 2013-14 season is the worst in the NHL.
Fans rolled with the punches for a while as part of the rebuild plan, but the honeymoon is over. Moral victories don’t count anymore, as evidenced by the boos that filled KeyBank Center after a 19-shot, no-goal second period Thursday. What mattered was the Sabres lost again, falling to 0-2 at home and 1-3-2 overall.
“We hear the boos,” defenseman Jake McCabe said Friday. “It’s never good to hear that from your hometown fans, and we need to be better at home especially. Our home record last year was very subpar, and we need to get that going this year.
“The expectation is to win, and we need to start winning now. The whole rebuild thing is in the past. Our expectations for ourselves and our fans’ expectations and all of Buffalo’s expectations are to win.”
The Sabres get their next chance at victory Saturday afternoon when Florida visits. Scoring would certainly help. The home games have been a 4-1 loss to Montreal in the opener and a 4-0 loss to Minnesota on Thursday.
“Last game there was absolutely no emotion,” forward Nicolas Deslauriers said. “We didn’t do anything for the fans to come on their feet.”
It’s been a recurring theme:
*In 2013-14, the Sabres scored 89 times in their 41 home games, an average of 2.2 goals per game. They went 13-21-7.
*In 2014-15, they scored 83 times in 41 home games, an average of 2.0. They went 14-22-5.
*In 2015-16, they scored 97 goals in 41 home games, an average of 2.4. They were 16-19-6 in front of the locals.
“I’d like to give them a goal to help them out,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “We have some disappointments in terms of expectations this year. I think we expect to win the game in Calgary. We should expect to win the game in Philadelphia. You’re looking at a different feeling if we do.”
Goaltender Robin Lehner watched two games from home this week with a stomach bug. He returned to practice Friday and will play in one of the weekend’s back-to-back games. He wants to see passion from start to finish.
“There’s a lot of games left,” Lehner said. “That’s the good thing going for us. We’ve got to buy in. We’ve got to buy into playing the game plan. It’s not 55 minutes buying into the game plan or 50 minutes. It’s 60 minutes or overtime.
“We’ve got to do what we’re saying we’re going to do. We have the ingredients to be able to play consistently and good hockey. I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to win every game because let’s be realistic. I feel we can be competitive in every game and keep it close, but that requires that we play a certain way. As long as we don’t do that, we can’t expect results.”
Though the shutout against Minnesota was dispiriting, the Sabres are taking the positives from the final 40 minutes. They outshot the Wild, 30-9.
“Our mentality has got to be going forward that this is how we’re going to play, and we’re going to play this way for the 238-odd periods we have left in this season,” Bylsma said.
“I feel like we’re there,” Lehner said. “That’s the frustrating part. We’re there. It’s close games, but it kind of gets stretched out. We’re in the game, then in five-minute segments we kind of lose the game.
“We’ve got to stay consistent to our game plan.”