If we are looking at the playoff picture right now the Buffalo Sabres would not make the playoffs.
This is a story that the Sabres have been writing for the last several seasons. There is no doubt that they work hard and have a lot of talent, but in the end, they go through rough stretches that keeps them from making the postseason.
As of this writing, the team is 11 points out of the second Wild Card spot that is currently being held by the Montreal Canadiens. That’s a lot of ground to make up in the last month of the season especially when the two teams in front of you, the Philadelphia Flyers (72 points) and Columbus Blue Jackets (77 points), are lot closer to the second wild card spot than you are.
It did not have to be this way for the Sabres. They were one of the hottest teams in the NHL to start the season and appeared to be on their way to making the postseason come April.
Fast forward to today and things are a lot different. In fact, they are so different that it makes the beginning of the season seem like it never happened in the first place.
It does not help that the club is 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. During this stretch, they have blown several leads and have not played well in general, putting them in the tough position that they are currently in right now.
In these last 10 games the club has lost to the likes of the Toronto Maple Leafs (twice), Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Florida Panthers, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Considering that four of these teams are currently not in a playoff spot, that is a lot of points that the team gave away.
One reason why this team still does not win games on a consistent basis is because of their offense. Yes, the team has a lot of talent up front, but nevertheless, they are struggling to put the puck in the net.
he team is 21st in the league in scoring as they have scored 186 goals in 65 games. They are averaging close to three goals per game, but in today’s NHL, that’s not enough.
Guys like Jack Eichel (72 points), Jeff Skinner (58 points), and Sam Reinhart (58 points). These players have been the team’s most consistent forwards all season long and without them, the Sabres would probably be in an even worse spot than they are right now.
After these three players, the next guy closest to them in points is Rasmus Ristolainen (39 points). While that number is certainly respectable, it is still 19 points behind Reinhart.
The team’s power play has also been disappointing this season. The team is currently 17th in the league in that category as they have converted 19 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage.
While that percentage is not too bad, it should be a lot better. When your team has the likes of Eichel, Skinner, Reinhart, Ristolainen, Rasmus Dahlin, and Kyle Okposo who can all put up points, the power play should be one of the better ones in the league.
What has also been an issue for this team is their goaltending. Both of their goaltenders, Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark, have been outstanding at times and at other times, have not done enough to help their team win hockey games.
As of this writing Hutton, who was supposed to be the main man between the pipers for this hockey club, is 16-18-4 with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. These statistics are not bad, but like everything else with this hockey club, they need to be a lot better.
Ullmark has also struggled with consistency this season. In 28 starts, he is 14-10-4 with a 3.13 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage, and two shutouts. Again, not bad, but if this team wants to make the playoffs, he will need to be a lot better just like Hutton needs to be a lot better.
There is still a month left to play this season, but if the Sabres continue to play the way they are now, they will once again be on the golf course come April.
Photo: The Buffalo News