Buffalo Sabres: The Week Ahead

The Buffalo Sabres 2014-15 campaign is just six games old.  The good news is there are 76 games remaining.  The bad news is there are 76 games remaining.  It has been a difficult start for Buffalo as they have struggled in just about every aspect of the game so far.  They have been able to string a couple of decent periods together but not all in the same game.  They are near or at the bottom of just about every statistical category which can make for a very long season.

“My Sons Pee-Wee Team Can Beat Your NHL Team”

Alright it isn’t quite time yet for that talk, but I think the thought is starting to stir in the minds of disappointed fans.  The Sabres had a difficult time finding the back of the net last season which unfortunately has carried over to this season.  In their six games (1-5-0), they have scored just eight times which equates to 1.2 per game.  On the flip side they allow 3.7 goals per game which is only a formula for winning the draft lottery not the Stanley Cup.  They are last in the NHL in shots per game and are first in shots allowed which also inches them closer to the number one overall pick in June.

The road doesn’t get easier as they head out west for a trio of games before returning back east for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Wednesday October 22nd @ Anaheim Ducks (5-1-0, 10pts, 1st in Pacific)

This will be the second meeting between these two teams this season.  The first game the Ducks handled the Sabres easily beating them 5-1.  William Karlsson led the way for Anaheim scoring two goals, with newly acquired Ryan Kesler adding one as well.  In their first meeting, Anaheim outshot the Sabres by a staggering 44-12.

(Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

The Ducks have scored the most goals in the NHL this season (21) and are sixth in the league in goals per game at 3.3.  Their special teams play is middle of the road as they rank 9th overall in powerplay percentage (25%) and are 15th in the league on the penalty kill.  The Sabres have yet to notch a special team goal on 22 attempts, but have don fairly well on the kill sitting 9th in the league.

Leading the way for the Ducks in points is Ryan Getzlaf with eight.  Battery mate Corey Perry leads the team in goals with five followed closely by Matt Beleskey with four.  It is going to be difficult for the Sabres to stop this offense again and can’t get into a goal battle since they have a difficult time scoring themselves.  Nine Ducks have registered goals already this season to Buffalo’s disappointing four.  The Sabres have three players with three goals and one player with just one.

Frederik Andersen has been great for Anaheim between the pipes, starting five of the Ducks first six games.  He hasn’t lost a game yet and has a goals against average of 1.38 which is good for seventh in the league although he has the most starts.

This will be the 30th meeting between these teams with Buffalo holding the advantage 15-11-3.

Thursday October 23rd @ Los Angeles Kings (4-1-1, 9pts, 2nd in Pacific)

So if facing the Ducks to start the road trip was bad, follow it up with the team that is only one point behind them.  The Sabres travel to Los Angeles to take on the champs.  This is the first of two meetings this year for the Sabres and the Kings with the second one in December.  This will be the 116th meeting between these teams with the Sabres holding the advantage 56-40-18-1.  Times are much different for these two franchises so the record is not very applicable to the direction that each team is going.

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

The Los Angeles Kings are only averaging 2.3 goals a game which is good for 23rd in the league.  That could be a recipe for disaster if they couldn’t hold things up on the defensive side, but they do rank 5th in the league in goals against.  The Kings are struggling a bit on special teams sitting close to the bottom on the powerplay, but are in the middle of the pack on the penalty kill.

Tyler Toffoli is leading the charge with seven points for LA, with Tanner Pearson leading the team with five goals.  Six different players have scored for the Kings with thirteen registering at least one point.

Jonathan Quick has been doing what he does best posting a 3-1-1 record with a goals against average of 1.86.  Quick’s backup Martin Jones has appeared in two games with a GAA of 0.75.

Saturday October 25th @ San Jose Sharks (4-1-1, 9pts, 2nd in Pacific)

It looks like the Western Conference is still tops in the NHL with the Eastern Conference starting to gain ground.  None of that really matters as the Sabres have yet another tough task taking on the Sharks to end their west coast trip.  Being able to notch at least one point on this trip will be a victory for Buffalo.  The Sabres have been able to have their way with the Sharks in their history, as the two teams have played 31 times with Buffalo winning 20 of them.

One of the things that is obviously a key to success in the NHL is having a differential in goals scored and goals allowed.  The Sharks are 8th in the league in goals scored (3.2) and are 12th in the league in goals against (2.3).  San Jose have scored 19 goals this season to the Sabres seven, and have spread out the scoring between 11 players.

Patrick Marleau takes yet another does of criticism from ex-teammate Jeremy Roenick.
Leading the charge this year for the Sharks, Patrick Marleau leads the team in goals and points so far.

Patrick Marleau is leading the way in goals with four followed by Tommy Wingels with three, and is leading the team in points with seven.

The Sharks have split goal tending duties 50/50 between Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock.  Both have posted goals against averages of 2.27 with Niemi have a 3-0-0 record to Stalock’s 1-1-1.

It is going to be an interesting trip west for the Sabres.  The cards are stacked against them which is the way it has been before the season even started.  Expectations for the team weren’t very high although some fans have had cautious optimism.  The season is long and anything can change at anytime.