Time to relax for the tank stretch run

Perhaps you’ve heard that the Sabres are in a position to be drafting at the top of one of the richest draft classes since 2003.

Of all the tired Buffalo sports narratives in recent memory, the argument over the tank is making a strong run for the worst of them all. There’s been mudslinging from various members of the media, the fanbase is at odds over whether the team should be trying to win or pushing for the basement – how there are people who are against getting Connor McDavid is beyond me – and every night brings a new round of hand wringing from some contingent of fans.

The Sabres recent run of “good” play has seen them grab four points in their last four games despite being outshot and outplayed badly. This “surge” in the standing has brought them within three points of the Arizona Coyotes and four points of the Edmonton Oilers. It should be noted that the Sabres remain in 30th in the NHL standings heading into this weekend’s back-to-back games.

Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this entire twisted journey called the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres season is that there are so many people freaking out over things that are out of their control. Of course, all of this is out of all of our control, but for the sake of argument, consider anything related to the Sabres as something the fans and media controls.

The Sabres are bad. Historically bad. In fact, they’re worse in nearly every facet of the game compared to last year’s 30th place, historically bad team. Here’s a chart from Travis Yost from February 4th, the date the Sabres officially became the most outshot team in the analytics era.

Take a long look at that chart, even if you hate analytics. The green and red lines are last year’s Sabres and Leafs teams, both horrendously bad in terms of puck possession. That ugly black line is this year’s Sabres team. That’s how terrible the Sabres are. Continue reading

Murray active in second deadline season

The 2014-15 trade deadline was much different for Tim Murray than the 2013-14 deadline when he was just a few months into his new job.

Entering last year’s deadline, Murray was tasked with finding a home for pending UFA goaltender Ryan Miller, pending UFA Steve Ott along with other pieces. Most notably, Matt Moulson, who was also set to enter free agency. deadline

Last year’s deadline saw Murray make four separate deals and acquire a total of six players and four draft picks. He also claimed Cory Conacher on waivers on deadline day. Murray was not facing the same steep challenge at this year’s deadline. He did not have a franchise talent like Miller to deal, while sporting three pending UFAs who held varying levels of average value. The deadline closed with the Sabres having made four trades (again) while acquiring a goaltender, a prospect and four picks.

You certainly can’t give Murray a strong grade for this year’s deadline alone. None of the four deals he made were blockbusters and he wasn’t dealing from a position of power like in 2014. However, looking at the big picture, Murray has positioned himself very well to take the next big step in the rebuild of the Sabres franchise. Continue reading

Sabres trade bait powers team past Canucks

With precisely 20 games left on the schedule, the Sabres have worked their way deeper into the divide in the fanbase following a 6-3 triumph over the Vancouver Canucks.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice, Chris Stewart added a goal and an assist but most are left scratching their heads over where the tank stands and what to make of Buffalo’s recent string of hot play. neuvirth

The Sabres capitalized, once again, on substandard goaltending as Eddie Lack turned in a .783 SV% on a night in which he was only tested 23 times. Tonight’s win marked the third time this season the Sabres managed to shoot better than 20% in a game – the other two coming against San Jose and Calgary. Lack was strong early in the game, getting hung out on an early two-on-one and getting some unwanted assistance from Adam Clendening on Stewart’s breakaway. But he made a few impressive stops, including a dazzling glove save on Cody Hodgson in the second.

The wheels fell off for the Canucks in the third as Andrej Meszaros cleaned up a sloppy no-look pass from Nick Bonino and put the puck through a screen for Buffalo’s third, while Mitchell cleaned up some garbage in front to put the Sabres ahead for good. Brian Flynn’s security marker at 18:28 came after Lack misplayed a loose puck badly and Stewart found Flynn to cash on the empty net. Continue reading

Backups help contribute to Sabres inspiring run

Things are going well at One Seymour H Knox III Plaza these days. The Sabres have won 10 of their last 13 games and has done so with a mix of tremendous goaltending and scoring from their top line.

Tyler Ennis was just named the NHL’s first star of the week after picking up five points in three games while his linemates, Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson have helped to combine for 14 goals and 18 assists during this stretch. Their scoring accounts for nearly 50% of the goals that have been scored over this 13-game streak. Further, Jhonas Enroth has been a brick wall, picking up nine of the ten wins and posting a .920 save percentage or better in eight of the contests (once in a losing effort).

So, Buffalo’s surge can be credited to a number of factors. A scalding hot top line and equally impressive goaltending are the two biggest contributing factors, while additional continuity throughout the roster has likely helped to galvanize the lines and defensive pairings compared to the first month of the season. The sparing use of Brian Flynn and one-month absence of Nikita Zadorov clearly had a negative impact on the club compared to the team’s state with them as nightly fixtures.

One other factor that has likely helped to contribute to Buffalo’s recent run of impressive play is that their opponents have almost exclusively played their backup goaltenders in each Buffalo victory. In fact, since November 15, when the streak began, the Sabres have faced six starters compared to seven backups. The Sabres are 3-3 in games against those starters and undefeated against backups. Continue reading

Fury: The Untold Story of the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres

Ok. Not really.

The start of the season has gone about how you might expect it to and there is still a long way to go before the suffering is over. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back, take a deep breath and just relax. So I took some time to bring a little levity to the current state of the Sabres. Enjoy:Sabres Tank