The Sabres will need to repeat history to make the playoffs

January 28, 2020

It's been a while, but we've been here before. 

This will be a tough sell. Not necessarily even because the math is tough, but convincing Sabres fans that this team is capable of the type of run it would take to make the postseason, is an unfair ask. Almost nothing about this team at the moment makes me think they can do it. 

However, the math to making the playoffs is math we've seen, although it's been a while.

The Sabres have the longest active playoff drought in the NHL. The drought is going on it's ninth season. Smashing the previous team record of three seasons missing the playoffs in a row from 2001-2004.

The Sabres currently have 51 points in 49 games. That's the exact amount of points the 2011 Sabres had after 49 games. Both this year's team and that 2011 team also had a -7 goal differential after 49 games.

The 2011 Sabres team went 20-8-5 over their last 33 games, a total of 45 points. Good for fourth best in the NHL in that span. This time around it will be more challenging. On January 28th, 2011, the Sabres sat six points out of a playoff spot, but did finish the season with a five point cushion between themselves and the ninth place Carolina Hurricanes. This year's Sabres are ten points out at the moment.

The same point total the 2011 Sabres finished with, 96, may be enough for this year's team. That number, 96, is coincidentally the exact point pace of the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes as the two Wild Card teams. So, 20-8-5 is the magic record for the Sabres.

The biggest difference between the Sabres from eight years ago and this year's team, is goaltending. Ryan Miller was very capable of putting together three months of Vezina level goaltending. Miller wasn't quite to that level in the final three months of 2011, but he was very good. Miller had a .921 save percentage, an a record of 14-8-4 in that stretch.

Linus Ullmark looks to be capable of that type of production. What doesn't look to be possible is the tremendous play from the backup that Jhonas Enroth gave the Sabres once upon a time. The Sabres with Enroth went 7-0-1 in their final 33 games. Carter Hutton has lost his last eleven games and looks more like Patrick Lalime than Jhonas Enroth.

The Sabres weren't just stopping pucks in 2011, they did have the fifth most goals in the NHL in the final 33 games. There wasn't a Jack Eichel level star, but the depth scoring stepping up.

Are the current Sabres going to get scoring from ten players like that? I'd be surprised.

In all likelihood the Sabres are not going to make the playoffs this season and will extend the NHL's longest playoff drought to nine seasons. With the lack of scoring depth, especially down the middle, it's hard to see the scoring needed in the final 33 games to win at least 20 games. 

This current five game home stand is really the last stand for the Sabres. Three of the five games are against teams below the Sabres in the standings. Montreal has been a disaster the last month, Ottawa is one of the least talented teams in the league, and Detroit is possibly the worst team in a generation.

To make anyone believe that a torrid stretch of play is on the way, the Sabres will have to get at least eight or nine points in their next five games. Then maybe, people will believe that this team can do what the last Sabres team to make the playoffs did.