Faceoffs Coincide With Sabres Strong Start

Posted on November 6, 2009 by Dave Drews

The first six weeks of the season have been good to the Buffalo Sabres. After a 5-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday, the club redeemed itself with a shutout of its own back at home. Now 9-2-1 on the season, the Sabres are leading the Northeast and have at least a game in hand over every other team in that division.

While they had a strong start last year as well before falling off, at this point in the season they had already started coming back to earth. As of November 5th, 2008, the Buffalo Sabres were down to 8-3-1 after a 6-0-1 start, and had already had a three-game losing streak in those first 12 games. If the Sabres can make it to the end of the month still leading the division, their fans might just start believing that they’re real, and not just another early season apparition.

· Winning faceoffs is a key part of winning in the NHL. Obviously, the more your team has the puck the better your chances of winning. This is a part of the game that the Sabres have struggled in since the lock out. Even when Chris Drury was here, Buffalo has been barely over 50% for a season on average on faceoff wins. In the 2008-2009 season the team tied a decade low of 47.4%, making them third last in the league last season. So far this season the team is fourth in the league, winning over 52% thus far. Last night against the New York Islanders the Sabres won 39-47, helped by a 14 for 14 night by Derek Roy. Meanwhile, Paul Gaustad is leading the league with a 69.9% record, with a 76% success rate Wednesday night. It would be a big help to the team if Roy could pick up some slack in the faceoff circle, as the Sabres have pretty much relied on Gaustad since Chris Drury left the team.

· The Sabres called up Portland goalie Jhonas Enroth to fill in for an injured Patrick Lalime. Don’t look too hard for Enroth to see much ice time short of an emergency, as the goalie is not considered to be ready for NHL play yet. Ruff has been wary about using Lalime so far this year, giving him only one start. The chances of him trusting the team to a young goalie is slim-to-none, especially since Enroth has had a rough season so far with the Pirates; he is 3-7, with a 3.90 GAA. It’s been said over and over, so this thought is nothing new, but Ruff NEEDS to get some time for his number one to rest, especially in a month fraught with back to back games (four times in the next four weeks).

· Quote of the Week:
“The population of Pominville went up so he had the day off.” – Lindy Ruff on giving winger Jason Pominville the day off as his wife had their first child. Very witty Lindy.

· Ellis-Gaustad-Kaleta line update:
6 goals – 7 Assists – 13 points – plus-18

· Quick stat to ponder:
In all of last season, Ryan Miller had 5 shutouts. In the eleven games he’s played so far this year he already has 2.

· The Week Ahead
The Sabres will play three more times before next Friday’s game against the Calgary Flames. While Saturday’s opponents, the Boston Bruins, are in rough shape right now, the Flyers of Philadelphia could prove to be a bigger problem, as they have scored 5 or more points in their last three wins. Buffalo hasn’t had a lot of high scoring nights thus far this year, but if they hold back on Philly’s goals, they should be able to put them down. After those two Eastern opponents, the Edmonton Oilers make the trip to Buffalo for the only regular season matchup between the two teams this season. Edmonton is currently on a three game losing streak, and will play the Ottawa Senators the night before in Ottawa.

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4 Comments on Faceoffs Coincide With Sabres Strong Start

  1. Tim

    Just curious: What does “76 percent effort” mean, Dave? That’s a horrible choice of words. I think you mean he had a 76 percent success rate.

  2. Patrick Moran

    That’s completely on me, actually.

  3. Dave

    No, I worded it weird to begin with. Yes, that’s what I meant, though.

  4. Mike Mosher

    Good stuff Dave. Enjoying your articles so far!

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