Alright, before anyone jumps down my throat: I’m well aware that it’s only November, and that the Sabres are preparing to play their 22nd game of the season tomorrow against the Philadelphia Flyers. But with their recent success, including a six-game winning streak heading into Wednesday evening, it’s admittedly hard to keep the thought of ‘playoffs’ out of my mind.
Too early to start thinking this? Maybe. But let’s look at the numbers.
Through 21 games, the Sabres have gone 13-6-2 with 28 points. They hold the third spot in the Atlantic Division. The Maple Leafs is the best team in the conference with 30 points and a record of 15-5-0.
Here’s the current Eastern Conference playoff standings:
1. Columbus (12-6-2, 26 points)
2. NY Rangers (11-8-2, 24 points)
3. Washington (10-7-3, 23 points)
1. Toronto (15-6-0, 30 points)
2. Tampa Bay (14-6-1, 29 points)
3. Buffalo (13-6-2, 28 points)
1. Montreal (11-6-4, 26 points)
2. Boston (11-6-3, 25 points)
Just on the outside: Islanders (10—7-2, 22 points), Ottawa (9-9-3, 21 points) and Carolina (9-8-3, 21 points).
If the Sabres kept up their current pace, earning 67% of the potential points through 82 games, they’d end the season with over 100 points. Last season, the lowest playoff team in the Eastern Conference, New Jersey, finished with 97 points and a record of 44-29-9.
If the Sabres won half of their remaining games, excluding any overtime losses, they’d finish with 89 points. That could make the playoffs, or could end up just outside the playoff picture, depending on how other teams in the conference and division perform.
Alright, so maybe it IS realistically too early to think about the playoffs, at least in any concrete terms. There’s still a lot of hockey season to be played, and anything can happen, but then again, we are over a quarter of the way through the season. And with the Sabres’ recent success, it’s actually fun to think about the postseason for the first time in a while - especially since it’s now been seven seasons since Buffalo’s last playoff appearance.
Fun (or maybe not-so-fun) fact: more than half of the players on the current Sabres’ roster have never played in an NHL playoff game. Among those players: Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt, Jeff Skinner, Zach Bogosian, Jake McCabe and Linus Ullmark.
Of those who have seen NHL playoff action in their careers, only one player on the current Sabres roster has ever played a playoff game with Buffalo: Jason Pominville.
How are we feeling so far, Sabres fans? Any thoughts about playoffs yet, or are you cool to focus on the present and not think about the possibility of postseason action?