Ralph Krueger was able to find the positives in a game where his team had nothing to show on the scoresheet.
Krueger, who was hired as the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres back in May, saw his team fall 3-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night in pre-season National Hockey League action at Scotiabank Arena.
For the new bench boss, the defeat was secondary to how the team executed their up-tempo game plan.
“We pushed hard early. We really played an aggressive pressure game,” he said post-game. “It did create some chances. I thought that Toronto had to make some adjustments for the pressure that we were giving.”
After controlling much of the play through two periods, outshooting the Maple Leafs 26-23, the Sabres still found themselves down 2-0. Krueger felt that they ran out of steam in the final frame.
“The energy seemed to go out of the sails a little bit in the third period, but we were quite pleased with the effort and intensity. With a goal, we might have had the energy to complete the game in a better way.”
Sabres forward Conor Sheary has been impressed with Krueger through the first week of training camp.
“I think he’s been really good. He’s a calming presence on the bench,” said the two-time Stanley Cup champion. “He doesn’t yell too much. He kind of shifts through lines and gets everyone in the game. His message is always consistent. So far, so good.”
The two Leaf goals came by way of their top line that featured Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Andreas Johnsson. The latter struck on the power play in the opening frame, and then Matthews buried his third of the pre-season in the second period off a few nice passes from his line mates
Sheary felt that the team did a good job limiting the trio’s chances for the most part.
“That whole line is pretty skilled and they’re tough to play against,” he said. “They control the puck really well and make a lot of plays.
“They got that one on the power play and then Matthews got that one in the second, so other than that I thought we limited them a little bit. I think it’s good for the younger guys to try and step up and try to defend those guys.”
Matt Read sealed the game for Toronto in the third, as Buffalo turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Read went blocker-side on Andrew Hammond to make it 3-0.
“We were obviously pushing,” said Krueger. “We were asking everyone to push, push, and gave the green light for risk, and one bounced in the other way. It was not because of a lack of effort or lack of trying.”
Krueger recognized that miscues are part of the process when so many new ideas are coming the player’s way.
“The scores are really secondary. We’re very pleased with the willingness to conform to what we’re doing. We’ve got a whole new coaching staff, we’ve got all kinds of new principles and concepts going on.”
“When I look at the first two periods and take the score out of the equation, we saw an effort in the direction that we want to see it. And we want to see Sabres hockey in the third game of our pre-season, so we’re pleased with that and we’re going to build on it tomorrow.”