The Buffalo Sabres will be starting Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and they will also be without Connor Clifton in today’s matchup.
It’s never good when you’re down two goaltenders and a defenseman vs. arguably the league’s best team in the Colorado Avalanche. But if you’re the Buffalo Sabres, you see this impending matchup as an opportunity to pull off an upset and show the NHL you’re better than what you’ve played so far in your first eight games.
Actually, the Sabres have a huge opportunity here to beat the Avs when you look at their 5-on-5 analytics. It’s not all pretty, but the Blue and Gold are shooting at 9.0 percent at 5-on-5 compared to Colorado’s 6.5 percent. Their 0.908 save percentage in the category is also only a shade lower than the Avalanche’s 0.911.
Colorado has only scored 13 goals this season at 5-on-5, while they have six on the power play, and three shorthanded. Meanwhile, the Sabres have 18 in the same situation, and that number rests three goals above the league average.
While the Avalanche have only allowed 14 at 5-on-5, keep that lower save percentage in mind, along with their 97.6 PDO, which sits over two points under Buffalo’s 99.8. Knowing this, it’s important for the Sabres to do three things here: Take advantage of the 5-on-5 situation, stay out of the box, and don’t be sloppy on the power play.
Buffalo Sabres can win if they keep things at 5-on-5 for most of the contest
While the Avalanche have some advantages at 5-on-5, like creating high-danger chances (59 compared to Buffalo’s 55), the Sabres, for the most part, hold the edge here. The one massive advantage the Avs have is their tendency to shoot the puck, evidenced by their CF% of 55.5, which sits five points over the Sabres, so Luukkonen better be ready to anticipate a barrage.
Despite the way Buffalo and Colorado have started their respective seasons, this one has the makings of an early-season “trap game” when you look hard at the numbers. And it only helps that the Sabres will be sporting those famed black and red jerseys today.
(Analytics provided by Hockey-Reference)