It has been a rough start for Buffalo Sabres hockey this season. Through nineteen games, Buffalo has a 4-13-2 record for a total of ten points. This record puts them in last place in the NHL. The Carolina Hurricanes are the next closest team to Buffalo but the Canes have two games in hand and are ahead of Buffalo by three points in the standings.
Aside from yesterday’s tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs, goals have been hard to come by for Buffalo. Buffalo averages 1.47 goals per game which is a worse average than last year’s historically bad statistic in this category.
After Saturday's debacle against the Sabres, it's extremely appropriate the Leafs have a float in Toronto's Santa Claus Parade today.
— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) November 16, 2014
Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons have provided some offense for the club in recent games. Girgensons and Ennis are tied for the lead on the Sabres with six goals each. Ennis is also tied for the lead in overall points with forward Drew Stafford – Stafford and Ennis each have twelve points on the season. Aside from Ennis, Stafford and Girgensons, no other player on the Sabres has a double-digit total in points.
The Sabres will need to improve their goal scoring if they want to get out of the NHL’s basement. The club did manage to score six goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Saturday night’s game but will they be able to build on this highest goal total of the season?
The Sabres will need to find a way to maintain their offensive touch to remain competitive in the match-ups the club will face this week. The Sabres will battle the San Jose Sharks and the New York Rangers at the First Niagara Center before traveling to the Verizon Center to face the Washington Capitals. Here is a look at the week ahead in Buffalo Sabres hockey.
Tuesday, November 18: Sabres vs Sharks
Despite the success that the Sharks have had in recent years, the Buffalo Sabres have fared well against San Jose. Buffalo defeated the Sharks earlier this year by a score of 2-1 which marked the Sabres’ first regulation win of the season. Buffalo currently has a seven game winning streak against San Jose but the Sabres will have to battle to keep this streak alive.
The Sharks currently sit in fifth place in the Pacific Division with a 10-8-2 record. Forward Joe Pavelski leads the Sharks in goals with eight while defenseman/forward Brent Burns and forward Joe Thorton are tied for the team lead in points with seventeen. Despite their fifth place status in the Pacific Division, the Sharks have scored the second most goals among teams in the Pacific Division with a total of fifty-six.
Goal scoring hasn’t been much of a problem with the Sharks this season but they have had some difficulties preventing opponents from lighting the lamp. The Sharks have allowed fifty-one goals so far this season which is the twenty-second most in the NHL. Thirty-seven of these goals have been allowed during five-on-five play.
San Jose’s penalty killing unit is the twelfth best in the NHL and the club has allowed just ten power play goals against on the year. Buffalo will need to find ways contain San Jose’s offense and make the most of it’s opportunities in order to continue it’s winning streak against the Sharks.
Friday, November 21: Sabres vs Rangers
In another tilt at First Niagara Center, the Sabres will square off against the New York Rangers. The Rangers currently rank third in the Metropolitan Division with a 7-6-4 record. This game will be the first meeting of the season between Buffalo and the Rangers. The Sabres have not defeated the Rangers since the 2012-2013 season so Buffalo should be hungry for a win against New York.
The success that the Rangers have found so far this season falls largely on the resurgence of forward Rick Nash. Nash has been on fire during the opening frame of the season. He currently is tied for the league lead in goals with Dallas Stars’ forward Tyler Seguin – each forward has twelve goals. Nash has also amassed seven assists which makes him the Rangers’ leading scorer with nineteen points. Aside from Nash, Derick Brassard and Martin St. Louis have also contributed to the Rangers’ offense.
Last year the Sabres went winless against the Rangers and were outscored seven to two in three games. Buffalo lost three games to New York last season in large part because of a failure to score on the power play. Buffalo’s power play unit went 0 for 5 against the Rangers last season.
The Sabres currently have the NHL’s worst power play in which the club has converted on only 7% of it’s opportunities. Buffalo will need to find a way to light the lamp with the man advantage against the Rangers to overcome their recent losing streak against New York.
Saturday, November 22: Sabres vs Capitals
Buffalo will travel to the Verizon Center after their game against the Rangers to face the Capitals on Saturday night. This game will be the Sabres first meeting of the regular season against Washington. The Sabres found success against the Capitals last year where the club managed a 2-0-1 record against Washington.
The Caps are currently in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division with a 7-7-3 record. Forwards Alexander Ovechkin, Joel Ward, and Marcus Johansson are currently tied for the lead in goals for Washington with eight. Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom are tied for the lead in overall points on the Capitals with sixteen each. Buffalo will need to find ways to neutralize the Caps’ top offensive threats to win this game.
The Caps have the third best power play in the NHL with a 25.9% conversion rate. Buffalo currently has the twenty-second best penalty kill unit in the NHL. The Sabres have killed 78.4% of their opponents’ power play opportunities but Buffalo has allowed twelve power play goals while on the road.
Buffalo will need to stay out of the penalty box because Washington has a knack for capitalizing at home on the power play. Washington has scored fourteen power play goals this season and nine of these goals have been scored at the Verizon Center.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW