Each week I’ll examine some of the continuing or freshly developing storylines coming out of Buffalo. Even though we’re only three days into the 2012-2013 season, there’s plenty of stories to talk about, and today I pose four questions for you to chew on and spit your responses back to me!
1. Can Ryan Miller keep it up?
Currently, Miller is the third-best goalie in the NHL, statistics-wise, right behind Craig Anderson (Ottawa) and Tuukka Rask (Boston) – more on those goalies and their teams in a moment. Miller’s numbers are solid, as he has only given up three goals for a 1.50 GAA, and has a save percentage of .953. Even better, Miller has made momentum stealing saves, the sort of saves that send the other team back to the bench, wondering what just happened. His teammates have the utmost confidence in him right now, especially since he showed against Toronto that he can still steal a game practically by himself. If Miller is able to maintain this level of superior play, Buffalo is going to have a deep playoff run ahead of them. Take a look for yourself!
2. Can the Sabres stay out of the penalty box?
Don’t look now, Sabres fans, but after two games the Buffalo Sabres are the most penalized team in the NHL. So far, the Sabres have committed 17 minor penalties, 3 major penalties, and one miscellaneous penalty, for an impressive (note: sarcasm) total of 59 minutes of penalties in only 120 minutes of playing time. The team is averaging 29.5 penalty minutes a game – unreal. Across the board, the Sabres lead or are tied for the lead in every single penalty-related area. that is not a recipe for continued success. The Sabres want to be tougher to play against . . . but there needs to be more disciplined toughness, or else this season is going to get ugly, in a hurry.
3. Do the Sabres have another line that can score?
After two games, the Sabres have netted seven goals and produced twelve assists. Of those, five goals and eight assists belong to the Thomas Vanek-Jason Pominville-Cody Hodgson line. Having a dominant line is great . . . as long as you have two or three other lines that can also be counted on to generate some offense on a reliable basis. The Buffalo Sabres need far more production from the likes of Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, and hopefully youngsters such as Marcus Foligno or Mikhail Grigorenko (should he be kept after his five day trial is up), especially if they keep handing man advantages to their opponents.
4. Will the Northeast Division be the Beast of the East? And Better Than the Rest in the West?
In case you hadn’t noticed, Buffalo, Ottawa, and Boston currently share records of 2-0. These teams boast the three best goalies in hockey right now, and make up three of the top four offenses in the NHL so far. It’s so early I feel ridiculous discussing these rankings . . . but both Boston and Ottawa made it into the playoffs last year, and we all know how badly Buffalo wants to move on from last year’s disappointment and join the fight for Lord Stanley’s Cup this season. The Northeast Division should be fun to watch, and could produce the eventual winner of . . . well, you know!
Please leave your thoughts on these storylines below, or Tweet me your ideas of what Sabres fans should be following @theaveragedick!