Three days off in November and December is a welcome blessing but three days off in March seems like an eternity. Since we have some time today with another off day I thought we'd take a look at a few things I've been thinking about.
Let's start with some talk about injuries. The recent rash of injuries that struck the Sabres defense has been well chronicled, even I have talked about it, but overall the Sabres have been pretty lucky. James Mirtle has an interesting post breaking down all the man games lost by each team and Buffalo is 20th in man games lost, ranking them in the lower half of the league. It's easy to use injuries as an excuse but teams like Pittsburgh and San Jose are firmly entrenched in a playoff spot despite suffering numerous injuries.
I'm sure many teams have suffered key injuries but over half the Sabres man games lost have been to key contributors. Everyone points to losing Drury, Briere and more recently Brian Campbell and they are right because of the lack of depth to step up for the guys who were injured. Here is a look at the Sabres key injuries...
- Max Afinogenov: 25 games (9G-16A-25P, 1PPG, -11)
- Tim Connolly: 24 games (7G-33A-40P, 3PPG, 1SHG, +4)
- Drew Stafford: 16 games (15-18-33, 1PPG, +1)
- Jaroslav Spacek: 15 games (9-22-31, 7PPG, +6)
- Henrik Tallinder: 11 games (1-15-16, +11)
- Jochen Hecht: 6 games (19-24-43, 2PPG, +4)
- Derek Roy: 4 games (29-37-66, 6PPG, 3SHG, +14)
- Daniel Paille: 2 games (18-16-34, 3SHG, +11)
As you can see above the Sabres have lost 103 man games to the key contributors of the team. I only broke down the numbers for the Sabres and I am in no way diminishing the injuries suffered by other teams.
Before the season started I wrote a post about the Sabres possible faceoff struggles.
I'll admit that they are not as bad as I thought they would be but it is still an area of concern. Paul Gaustad has been a pleasant surprise and leads the team in the faceoff category. They have also seen a huge improvement from Derek Roy but Jochen Hecht has been counted on as a center and has struggled with winning draws.
A look at the faceoff numbers this season...
- Paul Gaustad: 566W-478L 54.21%
- Derek Roy: 598W-592L 50.25%
- Tim Connolly: 222W-241L 47.95%
- Ales Kotalik: 83W-95L 45.60%
- Adam Mair: 134W-164L 44.97%
- Jochen Hecht: 333W-458L 42.10%
For all the talk about the Sabres offensive struggles, they are quietly the fourth highest scoring team in the NHL. Buffalo has scored 227 goals on the season behind only Ottawa (231), Montreal (230) and Detroit (229). Buffalo has four players with over 20 goals (Roy-29, Vanek-28, Pominville-24 and Kotalik-22) and Jochen Hecht (19) and Daniel Paille (18) could reach that mark by the end of the season.
In case you wondering...Jochen Hecht has never scored 20 goals in a season during his career.
A little bit of reassurance that Buffalo can make the playoffs. They have history on their side because they were in 11th place with 10 games left in 1999-2000 but managed to earn the eighth seed. Buffalo went 7-1-1 to finish out the season to earn the playoff berth. I don't anticipate Buffalo going 7-1-1 in their final nine but they may not have to.