NHL: Buffalo Sabres Hit Halfway Point With More Concerns
An 18-18-5 record. Probably not where most fans thought the Sabres would be halfway through the season.
Buffalo is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. Once Derek Roy was ruled out for the season, many fans were expecting a collapse or a panic mode, but the Sabres scored 11 goals in the next two games and have earned nine out of 10 points since.
Despite going 4-0-1 in the past five games, the Sabres remain eight points out of a playoff spot. Buffalo was a Tyler Ennis stick away from going a perfect 5-0 in the past five games.
Technically, Buffalo has moved back to .500 for the first time since it was 1-1 to begin the season. If you count the five overtime losses, the team is really 18-23.
With three overtime wins and a perfect 4-0 record in shootouts, the Sabres have earned an extra seven points. Buffalo is on pace for 82 points this season, which will likely make it fall short of a playoff spot.
Last year, Montreal finished in eighth with 88 points. If that holds true this season, the Sabres would need 47 points through the final 41 games. To reach that mark, the Sabres would have to win 24 out of 41 games, or post a record of 22-16-3 to make that final playoff spot.
There is an alternative for the Sabres, though. The Bruins lead the Northeast Division by eight points. Rather than just going for the eighth spot, they can just go for a division win. However, it would be very difficult to pass both Montreal and Boston, but it would allow the Sabres to jump up to third in the Conference despite a sub-par first half.
There are four teams below Boston in the standings, but they all have more than 49 points. You might think I’m crazy for bringing up the idea of winning the division, but it’s possible.
The Sabres do have a game in hand on Montreal, and they play them two more times this season. Buffalo also has three games in hand on Atlanta, which is in seventh place with one more point than the Canadiens.
Buffalo has yet to play the Islanders, who are in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. There are still four meetings against them, along with a final one against New Jersey.
The Sabres are done with the trips to the west coast, but at the beginning of March there is a seven game road trip. Prior to that, there is a six-game homestand.
On another note, the Sabres haven’t had a 20-goal defenseman since Phil Housley tallied 21 in 1989-1990. Jordan Leopold has 10 through the first 41 games.
The number of backup goaltenders that the Sabres are playing is getting ridiculous. Thirteen of the Sabres' 18 wins have come against a backup goalie. When Buffalo faces an opposing starting goaltender, the Sabres are 5-14-2.
There is a large number of players that will become free agents at the end of this season. I think it’s perfect timing, especially since Terry Pegula is expected to buy the team before then. Here’s a look at who will become free agents:
Tim Connolly ($4.5 M) UFA, Craig Rivet ($3.5 M) UFA, Drew Stafford ($1.9 M) RFA, Steve Montador ($1.5 M) UFA, Mike Grier ($1.4 M) UFA, Rob Niedermayer ($1.2 M) UFA, Andrej Sekera ($one M) RFA, Chris Butler ($.850 M) RFA, Patrick Lalime ($.6 M) UFA.
The Sabers are on pace for:
-226 goals, just nine short of what they had last season.
-238 goals allowed, which is 31 more than last season.
-Three 20-goal scorers (Vanek, Leopold, and Stafford)
-Vanek scoring 60-plus points. He would be the only Sabre to have over 50.
What are your thoughts on the season so far? Where will the Sabres finish? Leave us a comment below.
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