The Buffalo Sabres are starting to play the same way they did last year in a season when they finished out of the playoffs with a 39-31-12 record. The way they are playing even goes back to the 2006-2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Sabres either come out flying around the ice and scoring goals like crazy or they look like a team that just woke up and decided that they were going to put on pads and try play hockey. You really don’t know what team will show up at the arena to play that night.
Right now the Sabres find themselves 2nd in the Northeast division and 4th in the Eastern Conference with their current record of 6-2-2 (14 points). If the season ended today, the Sabres would be in the playoffs, a spot where many hockey publications couldn’t even imagine them being in before the season. So right now as you read this I know that most of you are thinking, “Then what are you complaining about?”
What really gets me is how the team plays from night to night. Yes, their record right now is very good to start the season but an outsider to the team wouldn’t realize how bad they have looked recently.
In the beginning of the season, the Sabres came out like the team we knew and loved. They played as a complete team. Offense, defense, goaltending and special teams, the complete package. They started off the year hot and played like they wanted to win every game and of course their record showed. Through the first seven games of the year, the Sabres went 6-0-1.
Then we watch them start to slide. Maybe they were getting a little too full of themselves or thought the game would come easy. Never-the-less, they start to play terrible hockey. In their last three games, Buffalo has gone 0-2-1 and looks like a team that couldn’t even beat a college team, much less one with NHL talent.
They are playing the same way like last year. Just take away the quick start and you have that team. The up and down, rollercoaster style of play doesn’t let you make the playoffs. I have a feeling that the team will turn things around quickly though. They are a young team, but they just experienced this last season. Not to mention that head coach Lindy Ruff will not let this happen again.
There have been some very nice surprises so far this season also (other than the fast start). We all knew that Thomas Vanek was going to be good, but who would’ve thought that through 10 games this year, Vanek would be sitting with 9 goals and 3 assists (for a total of 12 points). At this ridiculous pace, Vanek would be netting almost 74 goals this season. No way can he keep this up, but Thomas is red hot so far this year!
Another pleasant surprise is the great play of Clark MacArthur, who has scored 5 goals himself to go along with 2 assists. The 23 year old winger is making great strides this year. Not to mention the Sabres might want to lock this kid up. He is only signed through the end of this year before he turns into a restricted free agent.
Injuries have also hurt the Sabres in the first month of the campaign. It is looking good right now though as the team starts to get healthy. In the Sabres last game (a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightening) center Paul Gaustad (thumb) and defenseman Hendrik Talliender both returned to the lineup. For the “Goose” it was the first game of the season. The news gets even better though. Playmaking center Tim Connolly (back) is expected back next week, while d-man Craig Rivet and center Jochen Hecht are back practicing with the team.
So for a month into the season, the Sabres are in good shape as they are towards the top of the division and are starting to get healthy again. It is just a matter of staying healthy, and playing competitive hockey every night and that should put this team back towards the top of the NHL and on their way to another playoff run.