By my count, it’ll be 307 days between games for the Buffalo Sabres. It feels like an eternity since we last watched a game featuring the Sabres but we made it.
Another season of Sabres hockey is finally upon us. There’s a lot to be excited about with this club after the moves in the offseason. In my opinion, this is the best team they’ll put on the ice in at least two years.
With the season getting underway tomorrow, it’s time for my annual bold predictions piece. If you want to have a good laugh you can take a look back at my predictions from last season to see how I went 0 for 3. I will say that I deserve half a point for the second bold prediction in there.
Alright, let’s get to the fun.
Bold Prediction #1: Tage Thompson will score at 25-goals over 82 games pace
I’m fully onboard the Tage Thompson hype train this season. I liked how he played in limited action last year and he has picked up where he left off in training camp. It also appears that he’ll get the first shot as the other winger with Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall.
Thompson goal off feed from Hall. pic.twitter.com/aTh7I3EECk— Ben Mathewson (Optimistic Sabres Fan) (@Ben_Mathewson) January 10, 2021
I think Thompson has learned how to use his size playing in the AHL and is playing with confidence. He’ll need to score at least 17 goals in 56 games this season to meet the 25-goal pace for this prediction. If he can stick on that top-line he’ll have a good chance and he’ll get some power play time this year on the second unit.
Bold Prediction #2: Linus Ullmark will finish as a top-10 goalie in goals saved above expected in all situations
Goaltending is one of the biggest issues for me this season, but I can see a scenario unfold where Ullmark surprises some people. He took a step last season, but still had some struggles.
He finished the season ranked 15th in goals saved above expected at 5 on 5 among goalies to play at least 1,000 minutes, according to Evolving Hockey. Where he struggled was his performance while shorthanded. He finished as the seventh-worst goaltender in goals saved above expected on the penalty kill.
Throughout his career, Ullmark has struggled on the penalty kill. However, I feel with an improved penalty kill unit he may improve his performance. If he can improve in this area and take another step at 5 on 5, then the Sabres may get a better performance in goal than most of us think.
Bold Prediction #3: The Sabres will make the playoffs
This is the most optimistic I’ve been about a season in a few years. I still think it’s more likely that they don’t make the playoffs, but it’s not by much. The new division isn’t any more difficult than the Atlantic would have been.
The Sabres added some impact talent in Hall and Eric Staal. Rasmus Dahlin could also take that big step in year three. That would go a long way in the Sabres improving to being a team that can challenge for a playoff spot.
Micah McCurdy’s projections going into the season is a perfect example of how I feel. It’s likely they finish on the outside looking in, but they still have that potential to push into the top four in that division.
Point projections, very nearly up to date: pic.twitter.com/3DuJwHXagH— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) January 12, 2021
I’m excited to finally get back to watching Sabres hockey and hopefully we get a good team to talk about. It has been a while since we really had the chance to have a discussion about the playoffs late into the season.