Sabres Start Strong, Have 75 Games Left

It's easy to get excited about how the Buffalo Sabres have played this season and as Sabres fans we have every right to be excited.  The Sabres are off to a 5-1-1 start and their only loss came with backup Patrick Lalime between the pipes.  They are widely considered to be one of the surprise teams in the NHL at this point.

Now that I got that out of the way, I have to remind everyone that it is October.  Since the lockout the Sabres have notoriously been a good team at the start of the season.  Their 5-1-1 record marks the fourth time in the last five seasons they have won five or more games in their first seven.  The one exception was the 2006-2007 season when they lost Chris Drury and Daniel Briere after losing in the Eastern Conference Finals two seasons in a row.

In the last four seasons the Sabres have made the playoffs twice and missed the playoffs twice.  If we thow out the season when they started 3-4-0 and played on their heels all season, we still have three seasons of data to comb through.  I don't think anyone would compare this years team to the high-powered offensive teams that went to the Eastern Conference Finals which means we have last season to look at.

It might be hard to believe but last season the Sabres started out better than this years team.  The Sabres began the season 6-0-1 and scored 25 goals while allowing only 12.  This season the Sabres have scored 23 goals and have allowed their opponents to score 14 goals.

Does this mean the Sabres should expect to start losing like the team last year did?  I don't think that is necessarily true.  Although there are many similarites between this year and last year, there are plenty of differences as well.

The 2009-2010 version of the Buffalo Sabres is a much deeper team.  They are getting contributions from everyone on the ice and they are good at even strength. 

  Even PP SH
2009-2010 17 6 0
2008-2009 13 9 2

 

It's easier for a team to maintain their 5-on-5 play than it is to maintain a hot power play all season.  Last season the Sabres scored 13 goals at even strength and 11 goals on special teams (note: the 2 shorthanded goals last season were scored by Thomas Vanek).  This season te Sabres have been impressive at even strength scoring 17 of their 23 goals while the teams are even.

The scoring this season is more spread out as well.  Four players accounted for 18 of the teams 25 goals last season and this season the team has eight players that have scored at least two goals.  They are getting contributions from their bottom six as well this season.

  Top 6 Bottom 6 Defense
2009-2010 8 7 2
2008-2009 11 2 0

 

It's still too early to start thinking about the playoffs in October but this team is built better to play well for the long haul.  When this team was a playoff team they relied heavily on their third and fourth lines to contribute and that was something they didn't do the past two seasons.  If players like MIke Grier and Jochen Hecht continue to play well, this team could go a long way.

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