Krueger: We created a system where we let players' genius execute

Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger joined Howard and Jeremy after Tuesday's overtime win over the Sharks

Howard & Jeremy | Weekdays 6a-10a
October 23, 2019 - 11:42 am

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

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The Buffalo Sabres have been able to keep up their hot start to the 2019-20 season, now at 8-1-1 after Tuesday's 4-3 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks at KeyBank Center.

With Buffalo's 17 points in the standings through the first 10 games, it has the team atop the overall NHL standings. In the Atlantic Division, Buffalo currently sits three points ahead of the Boston Bruins, five points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and six points ahead of the Florida Panthers.

Leading the way for the Sabres is their captain Jack Eichel, who currently sits tied for fifth in league scoring with 14 points (6+8) in 10 games. Eichel had an outstanding night against the Sharks on Tuesday with a four point night (2+2), which included the overtime winner with 1:47 to go in the extra five minutes.

Carter Hutton has also been very strong for the Sabres to start the 2019-20 campaign. Through six games, the veteran netminder is a perfect 6-0-0 with a 1.65 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage.

One person who has had a big influence on the Sabres' hot start to the year is first-year head coach Ralph Krueger. He joined Howard Simon and Jeremy White on Wednesday for his weekly appearance on WGR to discuss the team's early season success and what has his players clicking through the first 10 games.

Here is some of what he had to say:

 

Krueger on the team's league-best goal differential:

"That's an area of the game where there aren't many statistics. It's a time when you sacrifice the most for your teammates and for the team. The buy-in to playing without the puck and the speed that we have without the puck is every bit as high as with the puck right now, and that's something we're really excited about. Because playing team defense and with the pace we've been under, playing 10 games already in this short time, it's been our foundation. It's been the reason we've been in every game and the guys are understanding the value of that effort."

 

Krueger on the improved goaltending and defensive play:

"It's always critical, how many chances are you giving up and how much chaos is there around your net versus shots hitting your net where the goalie has to make the initial save. We've definitely worked hard at eliminating those second chances. If you look at the [Los Angeles Kings> game, where we were really on our heels for the second period and [Hutton> had to play an excellent period for us."

"Save percentage is a combination of the goalie's performance and the team's support of him."

 

Krueger on the creativity of Eichel, and Eichel saying he should shoot more:

"One of the things I've spoken about since the beginning is we created a system where we let players' genius roll and let their genius execute. We don't want them thinking too much. Jack, with his world class skill set, you want to give him some parameters defensively and we need structure in both directions but there are spaces within that where he needs to make the decision that he feels is right. But he's finding that way and just yesterday, within that game, he realized that he needed to take some more shots himself, scores two goals and really drives the net hard for the winner."

 

Krueger on the improvement being shown by Casey Mittelstadt:

"He's improving daily, with Casey, there's so much learning at that age to do. Second year in the league and the responsibility that you have as a centerman, both directions, taking care of things in your own end. There's a lot coming at him and we're teaching on a daily basis, and what's exciting about Casey is he works as hard as anybody in this group and not just on the ice but off the ice. He's processing really well and what an exciting future he has."

 

Krueger on the minutes and usage of Rasmus Dahlin:

"He's leading our first power play, which is important that he has good energy for that. Similar to Casey, there's a lot to learn away from the puck and a lot to learn defensively in this league and the challenge of defending every single day needs energy. We're just being mindful of that and we have an experienced [defensive> corps where everybody is chipping in, depending on their role. "

"Right now, his 5-on-5 role is important to support us offensively but also to take care of the pressure we have in our own defensive structure and he's doing a good job. People speak way too much about the minutes, we do what we think is best within a game."

"The minutes are definitely something that will fall in his favor as he develops and grows as a defenseman in the National Hockey League."

 

You can lsten to the entire interview below:

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