Sabres Must Improve Defensively to Make Postseason

Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

When it comes to making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a team needs to be able to put the puck in the net, have players that can score goals on a consistent basis, play well defensively, be good on special teams, and get good goaltending.

One team that really wants to make the postseason this year is the Buffalo Sabres. As of this writing (Tuesday, January 31), the team, who is 26-19-4 and has 56 points on the season, is one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who currently hold the second wild-card spot, and two points behind the Washington Capitals, who currently hold the first wild-card spot.

For the Buffalo Sabres, scoring goals is not a problem. The team is third in the league in goals scored, with 184 in 49 games (3.76 goals per game).

The team has four players with at least 20 goals. Tage Thompson (34), Alex Tuch (23), Victor Olofsson (23), and Jeff Skinner (20) have all that mark this season.

The Sabres also have a great power play. They are fourth in the league with the man advantage as they have converted on 25.9 percent of the opportunities they have been given so far.

With all of that said, however, this team does not play well defensively. They do not know how to keep the puck out of the net on a consistent basis, and if they do not improve in that facet of the game, they will more than likely miss the postseason once again.

The club is 22nd in the league in goals allowed this season, as they have given up 164 goals (3.35 goals against per game). That is a lot of goals allowed for a team that is within striking distance of a playoff spot.

The Sabres also give up a lot of shots on a nightly basis. They are 25th in the league, as they give up an average of 32.6 shots per game.

With the exception of goaltender Craig Anderson, this team has not gotten consistent goaltending this season. Anderson, 41, is 8-6-0-2 with a 2.73 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage, and one shutout.

Can a 41-year-old goaltender with a lot of miles in this league really be relied on to get this team into the playoffs? The Sabres might have to count on Andersen, considering that both Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (13-5-0-2 with a 3.26 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage) and Eric Comrie (5-8 with a 3.54 goals-against average and a .884 save percentage) have not been great this year.

The Sabres have also struggled to kill penalties this season. They are 28th in the league, as they have killed off just 73.7 percent of the penalties they have taken this year.

The Sabres may have a good enough offense to get into the playoffs, but if they do not get better on the other side of the puck, they will more than likely end up missing out on the playoffs once again.

Stanley Cup Aspirations Cue’ the Duck Boats Pod

The boys are back after a long break but have plenty to talk about as the playoffs are in full swing. We go series by series, looking at how teams have fared so far and who will come out on top. Thanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at www.insidetherink.com for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Stanley Cup Aspirations
  2. The Final Countdown
  3. Here Come the Playoffs
  4. Home Stretch
  5. Kevy Cooks

Patrick Hoffman

Patrick covers the NHL for Inside The Rink. He has previously covered the league for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave, WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

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