Thinking about Leafs/Sabres tonight, I decided to check on some statistics at random. Here are the results. This first section is for 5v5:
- Nicolas Deslauriers is the worst CF% player in the NHL who has played more than 20 games. Shawn Thornton is the only player worse than him who is at all close in time on ice.
- Ryan O’Reilly is the best Sabre for CF% at 53.68%, which is 88th for players who have played more than 20 games. That may not sound great, but that’s right were Evgeni Malkin is. Main difference is Malkin has a few teammates (some guy named Crosby for one) a bit higher up the list.
- Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta start in the D zone the most (both over 40%), while Jack Eichel leads the way for Buffalo with starts in the offensive zone, followed by Matt Moulson and Sam Reinhart.
- 52 goalies have played at least 10 games so far, with both Anders Nilsson and Robin Lehner in the top 12 in save percentage. However, the top 5 all have 2.00 GAA or lower, while both Sabres goalies are closer to 2.50.
- Kyle Okposo, Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Moulson, and Sam Reinhart are your Sabres with double digit power play points.
- Moulson (7) and Okposo (6) lead Buffalo in PP goals, though Eichel is at 5 in half of Okposo’s power play time.
- Ryan O’Reilly wins 63% of his power play faceoffs. He’s won more power play faceoffs alone than the rest of the team combined (78 for ROR, 77 for everyone else). It’s good to have a role.
- Giving up the body – Josh Gorges has blocked 21 shots on the penalty kill, 5 more than the next Sabre.
- Buffalo has a lone short-handed goal. Two teams have none, and all the rest have more. The Flames have 7.
- This might have something to do with that last one – the Sabres have been short-handed 129 times, the Flames? 170.
I’m not a stat-head, but these are things that jumped out at me as I clicked around at NHL.com and Puckalytics. What else would you like to see?
The difficulty with being a Buffalo sports fan, is knowing when to be excited. And then when you DO get excited, something happens at the worst time to dampen your enthusiasm (Eichel gets injured, or your favorite football player mows down a pedestrian, or the Bills get put in a position to have their destiny in their hands and then eff it up). BUT, right now, it feels like a good time to flex those positive feelings about the Buffalo Sabres.
Since Eichel has returned from his injury, Buffalo has been building some momentum. They are 5-3-2 in the last 10, goals are actually being scored, and they are edging slowly up the standings. Perhaps the best part is the fact that they’ve won some games at home, which is a nice change from last season. That the Sabres can be 4 points away from a playoff spot while scoring the least number of goals in the Eastern conference is a great sign for their chances to actually make the playoffs. If they can stay top 10 in the league in goals allowed and keep improving in goal scoring (and a healthy Jack/ROR/Ennis will help with this), we should be in the race at the end of the year and not wondering whether or not we tanked hard enough.
Is there a chance things could still go wrong? Sure, this is Buffalo. There’s always another level of suck possible. The Sabres, at least seem less likely to go there than in the past few years, and that’s worth celebrating.
It’s easy to dislike Team USA right now. John Tortorella is an opinionated dip, Patrick Kane’s on the team, all that. So it’s a good thing that Buffalo has an in with the actual fun team at the World Cup of Hockey: Team North America! Jack Eichel scored their first goal in a rout of Finland, on a too good to be true line of Eichel, McDavid and Auston Matthews. Who knows if they’ll struggle against stronger competition (they play Russia tonight) but they’re going to be fun to watch no matter what.
Tim Murray has it exactly right. You trade for the rights to a player who played with your hot young player, Jack Eichel. You’ve successfully negotiated with his agent in the past, as he also reps Eichel. You had an abundance of picks in the third round, which only produce NHL players (50 games or more in a career, so a low bar at that) at about a 30% clip. GMTM takes a small risk that he and Jack Eichel will be more persuasive than David Poile. No matter what happens, it’s worth it to give it a spin. Something else that might help is using all of that cap room to snag one of he biggest trade targets/free agents coming up. Since the exclusive negotiating period extends after July 1, Vesey seeing Buffalo making more savvy moves at the draft or in free agency could be the tipping point in his decision, no matter what he says now.
Tanking is done. Suffering is out the window. Your Buffalo Sabres are now at peak ‘put up or shut up’. Eichel is here and seems to be exactly as advertised. While there are guys yet to sign, there is room to maneuver, with a GM willing to do it. The draft is approaching, and that’s the perfect time to stop coasting on the goodwill generated by drafting a possible generational talent, and to make the moves that will put this team back in the playoffs where they belong.
Am I back blogging the Sabres for good? That remains to be seen, but I want be able to be excited again this year.