Don’t be surprised by the Sabres this year
Once again the Buffalo Sabres have put on an early showing that would lead fans to believe that they are legit. Unlike prior years, I don’t think we are being bamboozled and these victories are a true sign of what to expect this season.
During last year’s 10-game win streak, deeper analytics showed that it was more luck oppose to the idea we had finally gotten out of the tank era in Buffalo. But instead we saw that the Sabres were outshot by 7-out-of-10 of those opponents, only one of those victories was by more than a one goal margin and seven of those victories were also in overtime or the shootout — which sometimes is a coin flip.
Without doing in depth research of the victories this early in the season, this year’s team surely does check out on the eye test.
It appears that we have three good lines — the first, second and fourth — and our defensive depth has been on full display. Our top line features Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson. Olofsson’s start might be a surprise to any, but those who followed him in Rochester and Sweden in years past know he is deserving of the nickname Goalofsson — if he continues to play with Eichel and Reinhart he will score over 30 goals without a doubt.
Many people questioned taking Jeff Skinner off the top line, but with the signing of Marcus Johansson he will still have someone to feed him the biscuit. Vladimir Sobotka has been the victim of ridicule largely in part to the O’Reilly trade, but he is a guy who has no problem doing the dirty work while all the glory will go to his linemates — that could include blocking shots and playing more defensive minded or being a puck-getter on the forecheck to win battles.’
The Sabres can proudly say this year they have one of the best fourth lines in hockey. It’s unfortunate that the overpayed Kyle Okposo has been best suited for that role, and the first round hopeful Zemgus Girgensons is nothing more than a bottom six forward. But when you look at it, most bottom lines in the league don’t have the skill seen in the trio of Johan Larsson, Okposo and Girgensons.
The Sabres defense has shown a lot of dept thus far. The supposed bottom pair of Marco Scandella and Henri Jokiharju were heroes in victory over the Panthers. Everyone on defense has stepped up, but Rasmus Dahlin this year will truly show why everyone knew he’d be a No. 1 pick when he was 15 — he is near the top of the league in scoring and it’s not a fluke as he is the quarterback of the current top powerplay unit in the league and at times he looks to be the most skilled player on the team even with Eichel.
The only holes I see in this lineup are the lack of a third line presence and our goaltending is not the strongest in the league. The third line is yet to see someone emerge as the line carrier and the play of Casey Mittelstadt could see him fall out of favor by the end of the year for Dylan Cozens who is tearing up the WHL with 11 points in seven games played. I will continue to say it, the Sabres goaltending is good enough, but not good enough to win the Stanley Cup.
This is just a first reaction to the Sabres blazing start to the season. The Sabres have shown characteristics of a playoff team with their depth, but it is a long season and we will have to see if they can just stay consistent.