Buffalo Sabres Game Day: Can The Sabres Run Amok On The Canucks?
The Buffalo Sabres face an undefeated foe on the back-end of a road trip – is there any chance for a W under these circumstances?
Before the 2016-17 regular season even started, we here at Sabre Noise had October pegged as a difficult challenge for the Buffalo Sabres.
With only three home games and a three-game Western Canada road trip, the first month of the season would have presented a tough challenge for a fully healthy Buffalo Sabres squad . . . and clearly, these Sabres are not fully healthy.
As a result, my prediction of a 3-3-2 record after October seems a bit optimistic now – but the Sabres, currently 1-1-1, can actually hit the halfway point of the season with a .500 record and 5 points should they earn a win in Vancouver tonight.
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Now, about that whole “winning” part . . . .
For starters, the Vancouver Canucks have opened the season as one of the NHL’s biggest surprises. The Canucks boast a perfect 3-0-0 record, and have managed to earn those 6 points with three consecutive come-from-behind victories. Better yet, the Canucks have yet to hold a lead in regulation this season, and have developed into a bit of a “grind it out and wait to strike” kind of team. Two overtime victories and a win in a shootout have the Canucks looking as if they might just insert themselves back into the playoff conversation, despite early predictions of doom and gloom.
The biggest surprise coming out of Vancouver is HOW the Canucks are winning. Through 3 games, Vancouver has only allowed 71 SOG, and leads the league in CF% (corsi/shot differential) at 58.04%. To put that in non-geek speak, the Canucks control the puck and suppress shots – they play defense, folks! Shocking, I know.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Sabres average 25.3 shots per game – the third-lowest total in the league. This doesn’t bode well for the Sabres – a shot-challenged team facing the best shot-suppressing team in the NHL? Good lord, Buffalo might be lucky to squeeze off 20 SOG tonight.
The good news is that nobody really expects the Canucks to enjoy success while playing this style of hockey for very long, so maybe tonight is the night that Vancouver allows the floodgates to open? Buffalo needs to double its efforts on offense and get more shots through to goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who should get the start in place of the injured Ryan Miller. The Sabres only threw 21 shots at Chad Johnson in Calgary on Tuesday, and even though they managed to score 3 times, that number is way too low . . . unless this team is okay with losing, in which case it’s way too many. Lay off the shots, boys!
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If the Buffalo Sabres want to knock Vancouver from the ranks of the unbeaten, they will need to continue to excel at special teams play and throw way more pucks at the net than they have been this season. Paging Sam Reinhart – time to go off, buddy!