If the Buffalo Sabres (6-3-0) were in any other division, the team might be a serious contender to make the playoffs after its strong start to the season. Yet, the team is in a division with perennial playoff teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Boston Bruins. The Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, and Montreal Canadiens are also teams on the rise.
Still, Buffalo Sabres has done enough through its first nine games of the season that one can imagine them at least battling for a playoff spot down the stretch. They have the young talent to contend on a nightly basis and finally seem to have some positive momentum. At the very least, Buffalo Sabres fans might be able to enjoy this season.
Buffalo’s Young Stars Finally Reaching Their Potential
The Sabres have had a plethora of top-10 first-round picks in the last decade, including first-overall picks Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power, as well as second-overall pick Jack Eichel. While Eichel’s tumultuous tenure in Buffalo Sabres finally came to an end last season, Dahlin and Power have officially arrived and could give the Sabres one of the best bluelines in the league for years to come.
Dahlin, the first overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, had a career-best 53 points last season. But he’s taken his offensive game to another level this year. The Swede had one goal and one assist in Buffalo’s 8-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Monday and now has 12 points in nine games. He’s also sixth in the league in average ice time. Those are Norris Trophy numbers.
Power is still a rookie, but the former University of Michigan rearguard has three points in nine games and is averaging more than 20 minutes per game against top competition.
On offense, Buffalo Sabres ranks second in goals per game at 4.11 and is 11th in shots at 33.1 per game. Tage Thompson had a six-point night against Detroit and is now tied for the team lead with Dahlin at 12 points. Dylan Cozens, the team’s first-round pick, 7th overall, in 2019, has six points and is looking like a future first-line center.
Struggling Atlantic Division Teams
Yes, Buffalo Sabres is in the best division in the league based on past performances and expectations. The Maple Leafs, Lightning, Panthers, and Bruins all expect to make the playoffs. That takes up three of the Atlantic Division spots and one of two available wild-card spots. But is there any chance one of those teams will miss the playoffs?
Boston has exceeded expectations – they’re 8-1-0 and first in the Atlantic Division – but the Lightning and Maple Leafs haven’t exactly started as expected. Toronto, in particular, has had their share of challenges and there’s already calls among fans and media to fire head coach Sheldon Keefe. It’s hard to imagine the Maple Leafs missing the playoffs, but they’ve been known to disappoint their fans. Early signs aren’t promising either; Toronto has lost to the Canadiens, Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, and Anaheim Ducks.
Finally, Buffalo Sabres has a Simple Rating System (a stat tracked by Hockey Reference) score of 1.68. Anything above zero is a good indicator that the team is playing well. They’ve been below zero in each of the last 11 seasons and missed the playoffs. They registered 0.15 and 0.26 when they last made the playoffs in 2010-11 and 2009-10.
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