The month of October is officially complete and the Buffalo Sabres are once again off to a fast start. They are 8-2-1 after their first 11 games due in large part to outstanding goaltending. Last season they started their first 11 games with a 7-2-2 record and it was the power play that made them so good.
We keep hearing people say "this feels different" or some other variation of that phrase. I'm not exactly sure that it feels any different but if it does, the stats might help us decide why. The biggest difference between the 2008 and 2009 Sabres is their even strength play. Last season the Sabres struggled to get any goal production at even strength but this season they have been really good.
You can see the big difference in goals for and against while playing 5-on-5. This was an area that haunted the Sabres all last season. It is production from the entire fourth line and Mike Grier on the third line that has helped the Sabres until this point.
|PP Goals Against||5||3|
|SH Goals Against||2||0|
There is nothing that jumps off the page in the home versus road breakdown. It is typical for a team to score more goals at home and play a more defensive style on the road and the numbers show that to be true for Buffalo. The road numbers would be even better if the Islanders had not put five goals on the board on Saturday night.
A lot needs to go right in order to have an 8-2-1 record through the first 11 games. A lot has gone right for the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres have won games by scoring and they have won games with defense. If you are Lindy Ruff, you are just happy to see them winning.
We all know about Ryan Miller and how good he has been but there are other players that have looked good to start the season. It is nice to see Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville bounce back from their disappointing seasons. Neither player is setting the world on fire but their contributions have been a dramatic increase from their production last season.
Tyler Myers has been outstanding on the Sabres blue line and he has set himself up to be a fixture in the NHL and hopefully with the Sabres for a long time. Everyone hoped that Myers would play well enough to make the team but nobody expected him to have two goals, five points and a plus-7 rating.
Tim Connolly has played in every game thus far and that in itself is good news for the Sabres. It's even better that he is starting to produce. He leads the team with four goals and 10 points after what I would consider a slow start by him. His presence in the lineup will help the Sabres this season and will go a long way to prove our "It feels different" theory.
Clarke MacArthur has scored five goals, Mike Grier has added veteran leadership and has three goals. Things are going the Sabres way and much of it has to do with a total team effort and doing the little things.
Outside of the Sabres 5-0 loss on Saturday to the New York Islanders, there isn't much to talk about. It's difficult to say a player that has eight points in 11 games is a disappointment but Derek Roy has not scored a goal yet this season. Roy has scored at least 20 goals in each of his last three seasons but after 11 games e hasn't been able to find the back of the net. Roy has always been a streaky goal scorer, making this less of an issue but eventually it will start weighing on him. The team has been winning hockey games and that helps ease the burden but if there are more games like last Saturday it might become a bigger issue.
Andrej Sekera is a player that many Sabres fans feel can be a good one. Unfortunately, it feels like he has regressed over the last two seasons. He has only played in four games this season because of injury and he hasn't looked good when he has been on the ice. He is a minus-3 in four games which ties him with Chris Butler for the worst plus/minus rating on the team.
We have talked at length about the struggles of Patrick Lalime last season. In his brief appearances this season, it has been more of the same. It's frustrating to see him struggle so much because he has shown us he can be a good player in the league. Lalime will have to get more appearances before we can make a true judgment on how he will affect the team but for now he is a disappointment.
Because we had no idea what to expect from the Sabres this season, we could argue the whole season has been a surprise. However, when I think of a surprise this season, I think of the entire fourth line. There has been some mixing and matching because of injury but it has been mainly Patrick Kaleta, Paul Gaustad and Matt Ellis that have been playing fourth line minutes for the Sabres.
Kaleta, Gaustad and Ellis all have four points on the season with Kaleta and Gaustad scoring a pair of goals and Ellis adding one. Gaustad leads all forwards on the team with a plus-six rating and Kaleta follows him with a plus-5 rating. All three players are also among the team leaders in Corsi rating because they have done a great job with puck possesion. This is the line the Sabres turn to if they need a momentum change.
Player of the Month
#30 / Goalie / Buffalo Sabres
Jul 17, 1980
Monthly Stats: 10GP, 8-1-1 1.86GAA .936sv.% 1SO