The Buffalo Sabres have not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2010-11 season. After 12 long years in Western New York, are the Buffalo Sabres ready for the next step? Led by superstar Tage Thompson, the Sabres have carefully crafted a young core, that will be explosive for years to come. This upcoming season is an enormous one for the Sabres, is it finally their time to return to playoff hockey?
Now that the fruits of the Sabres labor are seeing the light of day, we now know, this is an incredible foundation. Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Alex Tuch, Devon Levi, Peyton Krebs, and others make this team so enticing to watch for in the future. Two of those players, Dahlin, and Power are former number one overall picks. Power and Dahlin have solidified what had been a revolving door at defenseman for Buffalo. As good as those two are, where Buffalo is going to dominate in the future is on offense.
This offensive core is deep, and incredibly young. A season after signing a big extension, Tage Thompson showed why he is worth that money. Thompson led the Sabres in points with 94, had a career-high 47 goals, and a career-high 47 assists. Aside from Thompson, the other young forwards on Buffalo also made big steps. Alex Tuch, Dylan Cozens, and Casey Middelstadt all put up career-high point tallies.
Buffalo is going to score in bunches, but without a question the biggest doubt for this team is goaltending. With eyes looking at Devon Levi in his first full season.
Like so many other bad habits in Buffalo, gone are the days of older, towards their end goaltenders. Buffalo will start the preseason with three legitimate options for Opening Night goalie. Devon Levi, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and Eric Comrie. One of those three will ultimately win the starting job, however in this modern NHL, goalie tandems are more common. Unless you are one of five teams with an elite netminder, you’ll play two goalies consistently. That is a great situation for Buffalo.
For Don Granato and Keyvn Adams, the preseason will decide who starts the majority of the early season games. If last season is any indication, Devon Levi started the must win game against the Florida Panthers at the end of the year. Do they go into the preseason leaning towards the Northeastern University product? Or is it finally UPL’s time to shine.
Both Levi and UPL had their moments last season. Them splitting time might be the most beneficial thing to both young goalies, and their hockey club.
Can Buffalo do it?
In a loaded Eastern Conference, the task is large for the Sabres. They have the offense. The young defense is great, plus the additions of Erik Johnson of Connor Clifton should help. With the goaltending being the real X-Factor in terms of success, Buffalo seems primed for a playoff run. With teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic, it looks like Buffalo’s best chance to get in is via the wild card. But we all remember what happened last season when a team from the Atlantic got into the playoffs through the wild card.