I know, I know, Marco Scandella is the important part of this deal. The Sabres needed to upgrade their defense, and this is a solid step in that direction. BUT don’t discount the positive emotions that seeing Pominville back in town will have.
What a great time to be a fan, right? I happened to go to one of Pommer’s first games in that magical 2005-2006 season, and ended up waiting in line behind Jason’s mom. She had a huge bundle of Pominville sweaters, and she asked the cashier something like “the player’s family gets a discount, right?”. It was fun being there at the beginning of it all.
So yeah, he may no longer be a 30 goal guy, but for a little while, Buffalo sports fans were thinking about something cool. I’m all for it.
Thinking about Leafs/Sabres tonight, I decided to check on some statistics at random. Here are the results. This first section is for 5v5:
- Nicolas Deslauriers is the worst CF% player in the NHL who has played more than 20 games. Shawn Thornton is the only player worse than him who is at all close in time on ice.
- Ryan O’Reilly is the best Sabre for CF% at 53.68%, which is 88th for players who have played more than 20 games. That may not sound great, but that’s right were Evgeni Malkin is. Main difference is Malkin has a few teammates (some guy named Crosby for one) a bit higher up the list.
- Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta start in the D zone the most (both over 40%), while Jack Eichel leads the way for Buffalo with starts in the offensive zone, followed by Matt Moulson and Sam Reinhart.
- 52 goalies have played at least 10 games so far, with both Anders Nilsson and Robin Lehner in the top 12 in save percentage. However, the top 5 all have 2.00 GAA or lower, while both Sabres goalies are closer to 2.50.
- Kyle Okposo, Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Moulson, and Sam Reinhart are your Sabres with double digit power play points.
- Moulson (7) and Okposo (6) lead Buffalo in PP goals, though Eichel is at 5 in half of Okposo’s power play time.
- Ryan O’Reilly wins 63% of his power play faceoffs. He’s won more power play faceoffs alone than the rest of the team combined (78 for ROR, 77 for everyone else). It’s good to have a role.
- Giving up the body – Josh Gorges has blocked 21 shots on the penalty kill, 5 more than the next Sabre.
- Buffalo has a lone short-handed goal. Two teams have none, and all the rest have more. The Flames have 7.
- This might have something to do with that last one – the Sabres have been short-handed 129 times, the Flames? 170.
I’m not a stat-head, but these are things that jumped out at me as I clicked around at NHL.com and Puckalytics. What else would you like to see?
I turned on the World Junior Championship final game last night and watched overtime and the shootout, which had me on the edge of my seat. The USA managed to pull it out in the end, with Tyler Parsons stopping all 5 shots in the shootout, and Troy Terry was the hero again with the lone shootout score. Can’t wait for this tournament to come back to Buffalo next year!
The difficulty with being a Buffalo sports fan, is knowing when to be excited. And then when you DO get excited, something happens at the worst time to dampen your enthusiasm (Eichel gets injured, or your favorite football player mows down a pedestrian, or the Bills get put in a position to have their destiny in their hands and then eff it up). BUT, right now, it feels like a good time to flex those positive feelings about the Buffalo Sabres.
Since Eichel has returned from his injury, Buffalo has been building some momentum. They are 5-3-2 in the last 10, goals are actually being scored, and they are edging slowly up the standings. Perhaps the best part is the fact that they’ve won some games at home, which is a nice change from last season. That the Sabres can be 4 points away from a playoff spot while scoring the least number of goals in the Eastern conference is a great sign for their chances to actually make the playoffs. If they can stay top 10 in the league in goals allowed and keep improving in goal scoring (and a healthy Jack/ROR/Ennis will help with this), we should be in the race at the end of the year and not wondering whether or not we tanked hard enough.
Is there a chance things could still go wrong? Sure, this is Buffalo. There’s always another level of suck possible. The Sabres, at least seem less likely to go there than in the past few years, and that’s worth celebrating.
It sucks for Matt Moulson that because of the ending, nobody’s talking about him scoring twice.
The Sabres open their schedule tomorrow night, hosting Montreal, and announced their roster just before the deadline yesterday. Notable keeps are Derek Grant, Hudson Fasching and Casey Nelson, who have all had good camps. Though some of that may be the fact that both O’Reilly and Okposo are still hurting and questionable for tomorrow.
The other huge news of the day was Rasmus Ristolainen finally signing a new 6 year deal, with a $5.4 million cap hit. A very solid deal for a player who still has room to grow. I’d like to see him take a step defensively this year, while still managing 10+ goals/45+ points.
I’ve seen a bunch of talk about the Sabres being picked to finish last or nearly so in a few publications. I’m with the rest of you that it seems unlikely, but I can’t fault them too much. Most of our “FUCK YEAH PLAYOFFS” feelings come from the idea of all the young kids getting better and progressing at a steady rate. I’d like that to be true, but it just doesn’t happen. No one was more positive about Tyler Myers than me, starting out with 2 solid years, thinking he was going to keep progressing into superstar status. It hasn’t happened – he’s more Bouwmeester than Chara. I’m hyped, but I’m okay with people outside of Buffalo not buying in yet. Still, I kind of want to re-do Prediction Watch for this season so I can revisit it after the season.
(10/13 Update) Well THAT escalated quickly. I wrote this yesterday before Eichel’s high ankle sprain came to light. I don’t think it greatly affects the season, barring some weirdly lingering issue, but you have to laugh at the luck here. “Hey, at least we’ve got some great young players to watch!” “LOL NO sorry you don’t.”
It’s easy to dislike Team USA right now. John Tortorella is an opinionated dip, Patrick Kane’s on the team, all that. So it’s a good thing that Buffalo has an in with the actual fun team at the World Cup of Hockey: Team North America! Jack Eichel scored their first goal in a rout of Finland, on a too good to be true line of Eichel, McDavid and Auston Matthews. Who knows if they’ll struggle against stronger competition (they play Russia tonight) but they’re going to be fun to watch no matter what.