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Can the Sabres make the Playoffs In this new division?


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Last year’s record - 

Bos - 70gp 44-14-12 100 pts

Wash - 69gp 41-20-8 90 pts

Philly -  69gp 41-21-7 89 pts

Pitt - 69gp - 40–23-6 86 pts

NYI - 68gp - 35-23-10 80 pts

NYR - 70gp - 37-28-5 79 pts

BUF - 69gp - 30-31-8 68 pts

NJD - 69gp - 28-29-12 68 pts

Off-season changes

BOS - added Craig Smith, lost Krug

WAS - add Justin Schultz and TVR, lost Holtby and Gudas

PHI - add Gustafsson, lost Niskanen 

PIT - add Zucker, Kapanen, Matheson, Lost Hornqvist, Bjugstad, Schultz, Murray

NYI - lost Boychuk and Devon Toews

NYR - add Lafreniere, lost Fast, M Staal and Lundqvist

BUF - add Staal, Hall and Eakin, lost MoJo, Sheary

NJD - add Andreas Johnsson, Kulikov, Ryan Murray, lost Joey Anderson
 

This is an interesting division.  2 aging teams in Pitt and Wash vs 2 mixed teams like Philly (young D) and Bos (young D) vs 4 younger teams in NYI, Buf, NJ, and NYR trying to break through.  Pittsburgh made huge changes for one more run.  Boston has arguably the best top line with excellent young D. Buffalo’s forward group is the most improved but we have the worst goaltending.  Most teams have real stars like Crosby, Malkin, Ovie, Kuznetsov, Eichel, Bergeron, Marchand, Pasta, Panarin, Barzal, and Provorov.  Top picks are everywhere including Hughes and Lafreniere.

Assuming 4 teams from each division make the playoffs, can the Sabres pass 3 teams in the standings to make the playoffs? I think we are better then the 3 NY metro teams,  but are we better then either Pennsylvania team? Right now, I think we are the 5th team in the division, but we could easily slip to 7th if the goaltending doesn’t hold up.  I do think we’ll be in every game we play this season, but this division is so tight, that kind of improvement might not actually translate into standings points.

Edited by GASabresIUFAN
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No, it would be shocking if we do. Top 4 teams finished in the top 10 in winning percentage last year. And the 5th finished in 11th place in winning percentage.

Having said that, it’s gonna be a much better team and a fun, wild ride. 

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So last year, Pitt, which would've been in 4th place in our division, finished 11 games over DeLuca .500, and the Sabres finished 9 under -- so that means an improvement of TWENTY wins in an 82-game season would've been required to make the playoffs.

Holy mackerel that is a steep hill to climb.

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I think it comes down to two things, goaltending and Krueger’s Player Usage. 
 

Hopefully the dominoes fall correctly so they can make a move for a goalie as TW outlined. 
 

The other issue, revolves around Ralph and what he does with His Players. 
Does He load up the top line Hall-Eichel-Reinhart, There by weakening the other forward lines. 
Or does he balance things out and have Reinhart play down the lineup? 

Hall-Eichel-xxx

Skinner-Staal-Cozens

Olofsson-Eakin-Reinhart 

Zemgus-Lazar/R2-Okposo

 

xxx- Thompson, Reider, Zemgus or Okposo  Yes Zemgus and Okposo are slow but they would provide defense and are good retrieving the puck in defensive zone. If they can move it to Hall or Eichel on a break out, goal scoring should increase. 

 

Lines 2 and 3 would get equal minutes and Reinhart would move to the Top Line for least minute of the period or in the third if trailing. 

Does he expect Risto and Montour to be the top pairing again, or does he continue to increase Dahlin’s Ice Time and have His pairing take over. 
 

Is it the personnel on the PK or is it coaching. They certainly tried to fix the former, but kept the same coaches.
 

Put Jack and Hall out in the last 30 secs of a PK,  play Dahlin with His Puck Moving ability on the PK more
 

Can they go on a 10 game winning streak for the third season in a row. This year with only 56 games that would be very beneficial and probably give them enough cushion to at least be very close to playoff spot at the end of the season. 
 

I think it comes down to goaltending and player deployment. 

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38 minutes ago, nfreeman said:

So last year, Pitt, which would've been in 4th place in our division, finished 11 games over DeLuca .500, and the Sabres finished 9 under -- so that means an improvement of TWENTY wins in an 82-game season would've been required to make the playoffs.

Holy mackerel that is a steep hill to climb.

The difference between good enough and not good enough is not significant. Adding a few players like Hall and Staal not only are good individual additions but they also elevate the players they are playing with. I'm hoping that with Staal as a 2C it will make Skinner a much more productive player. When you are a thinly talented team like the Sabres were last year the margin of error is very slim. A few inevitable injuries can have a major plummeting effect compared to a team with more depth that can better absorb the setbacks. I don't think it is unfair that this team will have more all around depth. 

In general, this year's team will be faster, more potent and the players who underperformed with their new coach last year, like Miller and Montour, should have a better grasp of his system.  Our PK last year was near the bottom in rankings. That was a focus this offseason with some additions. So hopefully there will be an upgrade with this specialty unit.

As it has often been stated one of the biggest question marks entering this season is its goaltending. However, I thought Ullmark played adequately as a #1 goalie for us. When he got hurt it was very damaging. If he can again play at the same level as he did last year with a better team in front of him his upward trajectory should continue. 

I'm not trying to be a blinded homer who overestimates his team. I certainly don't consider the Sabres to be an upper tier team. But I also think it is a fair-minded to believe that this team as it is currently constituted should be able to compete, if not qualify, for a playoff spot. 

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@JohnC -- your optimism as always is commendable.  I share much of it, but I think it's undeniable that goaltending needs to be substantially better than it was last year for the Sabres to have a chance in what @GASabresIUFAN's breakdown makes clear is a killer division. 

However I do think it's reasonably possible that Ullmark improves enough to get the job done and/or that @tom webster's nuggets about a trade for a goalie prove out, and I am certainly psyched to see Taylor Freaking Hall, healthy and in a contract year, on the wing of Eichel in his prime, plus Cozens and the other new forwards, plus Dahlin with another year of growth and the rest of the D in their 2nd year under RK.

It could happen.

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Another season with no playoffs will be so very painful.  Realistically if they get 5th, which means win NYS/NJ, it’s an nice move.  
 

Of course anything can happen maybe they do better.  

I’m really looking forward to watching NHL hockey.  I recall picking up Hockey Night in Canada in the 60’s on our rotary rooftop antenna when only 6 teams played.   Every player was really good, lots of characters  Watching the AHL Bisons at The Aud (pre renovation) was excellent hockey too.  

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7 minutes ago, nfreeman said:

@JohnC -- your optimism as always is commendable.  I share much of it, but I think it's undeniable that goaltending needs to be substantially better than it was last year for the Sabres to have a chance in what @GASabresIUFAN's breakdown makes clear is a killer division. 

However I do think it's reasonably possible that Ullmark improves enough to get the job done and/or that @tom webster's nuggets about a trade for a goalie prove out, and I am certainly psyched to see Taylor Freaking Hall, healthy and in a contract year, on the wing of Eichel in his prime, plus Cozens and the other new forwards, plus Dahlin with another year of growth and the rest of the D in their 2nd year under RK.

It could happen.

Yes it could, but someone in the top 4 is going to have to take a major step backwards.  Pittsburgh is the obvious choice but I like what they did this offseason.  Zucker and Kapanen for nice additions.  That said, we need to watch goal differential.  If we can keep that number positive, we’ll make the playoffs.  The key is the hope that the improved offense scores more (obviously) but also limits the opportunities against by holding the puck in the offensive zone.  I don’t know the fancy stats, but there were times we spent periods hemmed up in our own zone.  This has to change.

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12 minutes ago, nfreeman said:

@JohnC -- your optimism as always is commendable.  I share much of it, but I think it's undeniable that goaltending needs to be substantially better than it was last year for the Sabres to have a chance in what @GASabresIUFAN's breakdown makes clear is a killer division. 

However I do think it's reasonably possible that Ullmark improves enough to get the job done and/or that @tom webster's nuggets about a trade for a goalie prove out, and I am certainly psyched to see Taylor Freaking Hall, healthy and in a contract year, on the wing of Eichel in his prime, plus Cozens and the other new forwards, plus Dahlin with another year of growth and the rest of the D in their 2nd year under RK.

It could happen.

As you and most of the cohorts here point out the big question mark is the goaltending. I agree with that point to a large extent. But I also believe that if Ullmark can play at the same level that he did before getting hurt and with the added scoring upgrades this team should be in contention for a playoff spot. Last year, Hutton was a disaster. Was his precipitous decline due to his eye problems? I'm not sure how much it was a factor. Marty Biron who is a good evaluator of goalies has repeatedly stated that he is comfortable having Hutton as a backup as long as his games are limited. When Ullmark got hurt and his load was increased he faltered as Biron predicted he would with the added workload. And as Biron has stated in his evaluation of last year's team he felt that the biggest deficiency of the team was its lack of scoring. I'm hoping with the offseason additions that problem will be ameliorated. 

I'm not foolish enough to make a declarative statement that this team will be a playoff team. But I do believe that this team will be in contention for a playoff spot up to the end of the season. 

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15 minutes ago, GASabresIUFAN said:

Yes it could, but someone in the top 4 is going to have to take a major step backwards.  Pittsburgh is the obvious choice but I like what they did this offseason.  Zucker and Kapanen for nice additions.  That said, we need to watch goal differential.  If we can keep that number positive, we’ll make the playoffs.  The key is the hope that the improved offense scores more (obviously) but also limits the opportunities against by holding the puck in the offensive zone.  I don’t know the fancy stats, but there were times we spent periods hemmed up in our own zone.  This has to change.

I agree with every thing that you stated. Will any of the teams that have been ahead of us for the past number of years take a step back? I hope so. As you point out we will have a better opportunity to qualify if one of the teams with a history of being above us falters. And as you point out improved scoring is going to be a key issue for us to make to the post season. What I'm counting on is both Hall and Skinner regaining their scoring form. If they do our chances dramatically improve. 

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Last year the Sabres were horrible with penalty killing and not good in goaltending. Therefore those are areas #1 and #2 that must improve. If Stahl can actually contribute AND help Skinner regain some semblance of his former self if they actually are on a line together as expected, then yes the Sabres can make the playoffs. That is a lot of IFs. But that’s why they play the games. 

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As the two posters above have mentioned, there are simply too many variables that all have to click. Not to mention goaltending. Only advantage I can see is the short season playing to our advantage.

I do think this will be the best Sabres team we’ve seen since 2011 though, which for me is more than enough for right now. This season is going to be fun to watch. 

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47 minutes ago, LGR4GM said:

I'm not concerned with the goaltending because I trust Ullmark. 

The Sabres bought goals this offseason, did they buy enough?

They probably bought enough goals for our old division, but without better goaltending or finding ways to limit chances against Ullmark, I’m concerned that we aren’t good enough to finish 4th in this new division.  
 

Look at the starting goalies in this new division

Bos: Rask 41gp 26-8-6 .929 2.12

PHI: Hart 43gp 24-13-3 .923 2.41

PIT: Jarry 33gp 20-12-1 .921 2.43

WAS: Samsonov 26gp 16-6-2 .913 2.55

NYI: Varlamov 45gp 19-14-6 .914 2.62

BUF: Ullmark 34gp 17-14-3 .915 2.70

NJD: Blackwood 47gp 22-14-8 .915 2.77

NYR: Georgiev 34gp 17-14-2 .910 3.04

Arguably, our starter is good enough again for a 5th place finish, but again how do we break into the top 4?

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I think the Rangers will roll with Shesterkin to start, but GAs point stands: this is a division full of question marks in goal.

Rask skipped the bubble, Varlamov isnt a top tier goalie. None of the others have much of a track record.

i also think the Carter Hutton situation might be a bit overstated. Don’t get me wrong, I am concerned, I just don’t think backup goalie will matter as much as some think. if Ullmark takes a step.

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26 minutes ago, GASabresIUFAN said:

They probably bought enough goals for our old division, but without better goaltending or finding ways to limit chances against Ullmark, I’m concerned that we aren’t good enough to finish 4th in this new division.  
 

Look at the starting goalies in this new division

Bos: Rask 41gp 26-8-6 .929 2.12

PHI: Hart 43gp 24-13-3 .923 2.41

PIT: Jarry 33gp 20-12-1 .921 2.43

WAS: Samsonov 26gp 16-6-2 .913 2.55

NYI: Varlamov 45gp 19-14-6 .914 2.62

BUF: Ullmark 34gp 17-14-3 .915 2.70

NJD: Blackwood 47gp 22-14-8 .915 2.77

NYR: Georgiev 34gp 17-14-2 .910 3.04

Arguably, our starter is good enough again for a 5th place finish, but again how do we break into the top 4?

The Sabres were excellent at limiting chances. Ullmark has that sv% because we had the literal worst pk ever. Again, I'm not worried about goaltending. 

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8 minutes ago, LGR4GM said:

The Sabres were excellent at limiting chances. Ullmark has that sv% because we had the literal worst pk ever. Again, I'm not worried about goaltending. 

PK save %. 
Rask 886

Hart 849

Jarry 864

Samsonov 874

Varlamov 875

Ullmark 838

Blackwood 865

Georgiev 888

Your best PKer has to be your goaltender, Ullmark and Hutton were two of the reasons ours was such a failure. 

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Our pk was bad because it was a passive dumpster fire. At least these stats show that Ullmark is gonna be better because the pk tanked is sv%.

Ullmark is a good starting gt. We need to have an aggressive pk and we need to score more. 

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3 minutes ago, LGR4GM said:

 We need to have an aggressive pk and we need to score more. 

We need to add people like Toby Rieder and Cody Eakin and Eric Staal and Taylor Hall.

The goalie thing hangs out there, but you have to like the fact Adams actually targeted obvious areas of need in the off-season and pulled the trigger. 

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15 minutes ago, LGR4GM said:

Our pk was bad because it was a passive dumpster fire. At least these stats show that Ullmark is gonna be better because the pk tanked is sv%.

Ullmark is a good starting gt. We need to have an aggressive pk and we need to score more. 

I don't understand why Krueger didn't change his PK strategy after it struggled so much. There were at least three games and 6 pts lost due to horrible PKing. As you noted his passive and back off philosophy didn't work. What bothered me was his reluctance to change his approach. I'm hoping that he shows more flexibility and receptiveness to deviate from his philosophy when it is not working. 

I like you are higher on Ullmark than others are. I'm counting on him to continue with his upward trajectory. And the less Hutton plays the better he does play when called upon.  

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45 minutes ago, LGR4GM said:

Our pk was bad because it was a passive dumpster fire. At least these stats show that Ullmark is gonna be better because the pk tanked is sv%.

Ullmark is a good starting gt. We need to have an aggressive pk and we need to score more. 

And a backup goalie. 

And better dmen 

It's not enough to improve - we need to make the playoffs, anything short of that is an objective fail, and I think we need at least the tender to make that realistic. 

Considering the Division. 

- - - 

We have Hall for 56 games. Jack is unhappy. It is crucial we make it this season. That's really it, IMO. I think we *can* make it, I probably have more optimism than most in this regard (I think the forwards potentially stack up against pretty much anyone) - but I don't think it's very likely at all without further moves. Or, really, at least 1. 

I see us only being that move or 2 away - I don't think the schedule/opponents is going to be quite as tough as people think, I expect we'd hang around with the roster as is. To me though it's about achieving the goal at this point. 

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