Last Updated: 2017-10-03
We’ll return with the weekly NHL article this season, beginning in another day or so, but first we have several NHL season totals that we’ll look at, beginning with the Buffalo Sabres.
The Buffalo Sabres enter the 2017-18 season with high hopes and expectations. A new head coach in Phil Housley, along with a new general manager in Jason Botterill were the big off-ice moves. The Sabres didn’t really make any big spalshes on the ice, but instead are counting on several key players being healthy this season.
Jack Eichel was the biggest loss for the Sabres last year, as the second-year pro notched 57 points in 61 games. Many are predicting big things from Eichel this season and it’s easy to see why he could join the upper-echelon of players, as he’ll turn 21 later this month.
Newcomer Kyle Okposo missed 17 games and others, such as Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane missed at least 10 games.
But the Sabres will also need players like Kane to duplicate last year and it’s unknown if Kane can pot another 28 goals, although if he can put his off-ice problems behind him once and for all, he is a solid goal-scorer.
The Sabres are set up nicely down the middle, with Eichel, O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart, while the wingers aren’t quite as good, and they will have to replace Brian Gionta’s 15 goals and the 13 of Marcus Foligno, which might not be too big of a problem, considering the talent at center.
The defense is another story, as the Sabres allowed the most shots in the league last year and despite solid play from the goalie tandem of Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson, the Sabres still allowed 2.82 goals per game. Buffalo tied for fourth in save percentage, but tied for 20th in goals allowed just due to the high number of shots the goalies saw.
Rasmus Ristolainen is a rising star, although he’s more of an offensive defenseman than a defensive-mined one. His defense is getting better, which is often the case with young defenders, but he really doesn’t have a whole lot of help on the backend. The Sabres traded for Nathan Beaulieu from Montreal, and he’s an upgrade, but the likes of Justin Falk, Jake McCabe and Zach Bogosain aren’t going to put much fear into opponents.
Lehner had a solid season for the Sabres in his first season as a team’s No. 1 goalie, and Buffalo will need him to duplicate that effort, which might be easier said that done.
While a number of people are expecting big things from the Sabres, I’m not quite sold on their defense and will take the under 88.5 points.