The Buffalo Sabres have surprised everyone(including me) with their fast start. After five games they have not lost a game in regulation and have beaten the Canadiens (in a shootout) and the New York Rangers. There are plenty of reasons for the Sabres fast start but what are the biggest stories after five games? A quick glance at the League Leaders will explain some of the stories.
Biggest Stories in the first five games
- The goaltending has been outstanding in the early going. They have not allowed more than two goals in a game, although the Thrashers are credited with three because of the shootout. Ryan Miller has seemingly bounced back from his disappointing season and has the best goals against average in the league. He has received help from his back up as well. Patrick Lalime has been a huge upgrade over Jocelyn Thibault and he has been rewarded by getting two starts already. Miller is first in Goals Against Average and he is second in save percentage, behind his teammate Patrick Lalime. Lalime has the second best GAA behind Miller.
- Thomas Vanek is leading the league in goals with seven in only five games. Vanek has often been criticized for not producing in the early season but this season has been different. Lindy Ruff has rewarded Vanek by playing him on the penalty kill and Vanek has responded by scoring the first two shorthanded goals of his career. Vanek has been a streaky scorer during his career but if he continues to score at this pace he will certainly get 50 goals for the first time in his career.
- The penalty kill has been perfect. The Sabres have killed off all 24 power play opportunities they have afforded their opponents. The Sabres are a plus two on the penalty kill...that is unheard of in the NHL.
- Ales Kotalik may finally be living up to his offensive potential. Kotalik has four goals in five games, including two power play goals. Kotalik is another guy who has been criticized for not living up to his potential but maybe free agency is a motivation. Should the Sabres be trying to re-sign him? I certainly think so.
- The upgraded defense as looked good most of the season. They are definitely tougher than they have been in the past with the addition of Rivet. If you take the first period of the Atlanta game as a mulligan they have limited the opponents opportunities for scoring chances.