Postseason droughts are the source of gigantic headaches for everyone associated with an organization. Once it's mathematically impossible for a squad to squeeze into eighth place, the healing process can begin. You'll eventually find yourself looking at the games where two points were there for the taking. But there's no reason to dwell on it because there's always next year.
Making the Eastern Conference Finals in two years and failing to reach the playoffs the next two, Buffalo didn't make many changes in the off-season. As discouraging as that may sound, it's the improvement on the ice which is necessary for a rebound.
The Sabres have traded their highly potent offense combined with defensive inadequacies for a strong effort that begins with defense first. Sounds a lot like the New Jersey Devils doesn't it? Ryan Miller is an elite goaltender much like Martin Brodeur and the shot-blocking and zone coverage are helping him immensely.
Buffalo scored 250 goals (sixth best in the East) last year and allowed 234 (also sixth). Prior to that, they notched 255 goals for third most in the Conference but conceded 242; the ninth highest. On average, they managed a little over three goals per game both seasons.
While Buffalo has scored 12 goals in their last three games, all victories, they hold 66 goals to their name through 24 games which is only better than three teams in the East. However, 55 goals allowed is second behind those Devils. None of the players are averaging a point per game and it's working fine.
It's not just New Jersey's book that the Sabres have taken a page out of. Like Detroit, shots are being taken constantly and the players are keeping control of the play by possessing the puck more. If you're going to learn from the gains of others, why not two clubs that know something about Stanley Cups?
Because of Buffalo's loyal fan base, there's no worries that this less exciting technique will discourage them from supporting regularly. An exciting on-ice product and playoff berths are terrific commodities to own but if you can't have both, it's not a mystery as to what is highly necessary.
Defense does in fact win championships.