Going into this season, there was a lot to be excited about when it came to the Buffalo Sabres.
With the 2018 No. 1 overall pick in Rasmus Dahlin and guys like a healthy Jack Eichel, new speedster and scorer Jeff Skinner, and other players such as Sam Reinhart, Kyle Okposo, Jason Pominville, etc., there was reason for optimism. The team also now had stability in goal with the likes of Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark, which gave Sabres’ fans hope that this team could get into the playoffs this season.
To start the season, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that they would be in the postseason. They were scoring at an incredible rate, playing responsibly at both ends of the ice and were keeping up with both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division standings.
As of this writing, however, the team is certainly in a much different spot than they were in the beginning of the season. In fact, it is a spot that the team and its fans know well and that’s not in a playoff position.
The Sabres are currently four points out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and are in fifth place in their division. Considering their hot start, this is certainly a turn of events for this hockey club.
Believe it or not, one area they are struggling in is putting the puck in the net. Considering the players I mentioned above and the style this team plays, it should not be this way.
The club is currently 22nd in the league in goals scored as they have 130 goals in 46 games. While they are scoring close to three goals per game, that is something that needs to improve moving forward because when it comes to the second half of the season, every team is going to be focused on securing a playoff spot.
When it comes to scoring goals, no one on the Sabres is better than Jeff Skinner. As of this writing, Skinner, 26, already has 30 goals, which is outstanding.
Unfortunately for the Sabres, there is a significant drop off after their leading goal scorer. After Skinner, it’s guys like Eichel (15 goals), Sam Reinhart (10 goals), and Jasom Pominville (10 goals) who are putting the puck in the net.
After those guys, no other Sabre has more than seven goals. That’s a problem that needs to be rectified immediately as players like Okposo, Casey Mittelstadt, Conor Sheary, and others need to start providing depth scoring.
Because the team is having trouble scoring goals, the team’s power play has also suffered. The team is currently 21st in the league with the man advantage as they have converted close to just 18 percent of their opportunities.
With guys like Skinner, Eichel, Reinhart, Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen, Okposo, and Mittelstadt, this team’s power play should be much better than it is right now. This team has the skill up front and on the blue line to create offense and yet, when it comes to the power play, nothing seems to happen.
Lastly, this team needs to work on getting their goals-against down. They are currently 15th in the league in goals allowed as they have given up 136 goals in 46 games, which means that are allowing close to three goals per game.
Just a few paragraphs, I mentioned that the team has scored 130 goals. If you know how to do math and have read this piece carefully, than you should know that the Sabres are giving up more goals than they are scoring.
This needs to be fixed quickly. While both netminders have had pretty good seasons to this point, they both need to get their goals-against averages down and start making more big saves when the team needs them the most.
With the All-Star break right around the corner, the Sabres need to fix things fast or else they will miss the playoffs once again.
Photo: The Buffalo News