While all the signs point to a great season, the Sabres have pulled this stunt before when they won the President's Trophy, but then failed to finish in the playoffs.
Last year's playoffs were also a wake up call to the Sabres, reminding them that there were holes within the team.
Right now the Sabres aren't playing their best hockey. When they do, they could be a scary team. But if certain things continue to happen as they are, the season could also be a massive disappointment. Not to be the pessimist, but given a few factors, the Sabres really need to pick it up or they will be in trouble later on.
The Sabres are very much a one-dimensional team in the aspect of scoring. With four lines of talented players (every line has a player worth $4 million too), only one is scoring. That would be the beastly combination of Vanek, Pominville and Adam.
This line is carrying the Sabres. Last game against the Florida Panthers, everyone seemed to point to the goaltending as an issue. However, look at who scored. Vanek and Pominville. There's three other lines on the team. Where are they?
Derek Roy has proven that without elite players, he can't score (or at least right now he can't). Without Tyler Ennis, the Sabres lack a puck-carrying talent, but that shouldn't affect all three other lines. Drew Stafford has the ability to step up, but hasn't shown it. Nathan Gerbe has the energy, but he is still yet to capture the scoring prowess that made him a Hobey Baker Finalist when he played for Boston College.
You can't depend on one line to score two or three goals per game. They should have at least one per game, but if they don't, the rest of the team has to be there to support them. Right now the division is this:
Vanek line: 17 goals
Rest of the team: 22 goals
See an issue there?
Right now there is a huge controversy in Buffalo over who should be the starting goalie. Ryan Miller has been receiving loads of criticism due to weak goals going in and costing the team, whereas young Jhonas Enroth has had two games and played well.
There isn't a clear-cut best goalie right now. I want to say it is Miller, because he plays against the lion's share of the best teams, but he isn't playing his best, especially of late. Enroth's two opponents this season have been a depleted Penguins roster (no Malkin or Crosby) and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who had one win entering the contest.
There's also the factor of the team in front. For whatever reason, the Sabres have looked more confident and aggressive against teams when Enroth is in net. The games where Miller starts the Sabres start hot, but then sit back and rely too heavily on defense. They don't look like they're playing to win so much as not to lose.
Most recently, the Florida Panthers ripped the Sabres for 18 shots in the third period of a comeback win for the mediocre Panthers. How can you place all of the blame on Miller when the team in front of him allowed the opponents to have a skate and shoot on him?
The Sabres need Ryan Miller to step up so the controversy can end. Jhonas Enroth is a great backup, and in a few years we may have a situation similar to Miller-Biron. However, I still don't think Enroth is ready to take a 55-game load. He certainly should play 25 or so games to give Miller rest and the best chance to play well consistently, but not many more.
All this issue is going to do is lead to doubt in the team, and that's the last thing the Sabres need right now.
When the Sabres made a big splash in free agency this offseason, the expectations for the team skyrocketed. Everyone was expecting a cup contender or winner.
Rome wasn't built in a day.
Right now frustrations are running high with everyone because the Sabres are clearly under-performing in many facets of the game.
If everybody just took a step back and realized that it's not going to reverse instantly, the team might have more success realizing that they are a good team, but they have a ways to go. Every game they've played has been proof of that, as every game has had tons of room for improvement.
If they'd just learn that every game has to be a growing experience the team should naturally have more success.
Last year the Sabres proved that they weren't a playoff hockey team. They had flaws within the team, and the Philadelphia Flyers, even without goaltending, were able to exploit the Sabres and run them out of the playoffs.
The year before it was the Boston Bruins who beat the third-seeded Sabres.
What has been proven is that the Sabres' regular season success hasn't translated into postseason success. In fact, their most successful recent run was as an underdog team.
Hopefully the Sabres don't repeat this, but with their recent struggles in the playoffs, it's just another reason the Sabres' success could come to a close.
This is the one thing that really irks me more than anything. The Sabres get up early, carry a lead into the third period, and then proceed to play without any sense of urgency.
They play hockey not to lose. They aren't playing to win. To any fan, it's just frustrating to see that. The Sabres play their best hockey when they play aggressively, offensively and don't fall into a shell.
Defensively they aren't over-the-top talented, where they can lock down in the defensive zone and get the puck. And Ryan Miller's play hasn't been spectacular where he can play brick wall goalie.
Overall, the strategy just doesn't work. The Sabres need to go for the kill. They need to drive to the best finish possible every game.