Can Buffalo Perform Better?

The Sabres currently sit third in the Eastern Conference, although they are not far behind New Jersey for second, who they trail by just a point. Buffalo is well on its way to the playoffs, but some people don’t expect them to go very far.

Is there room for improvement on the Sabres team? Normally, a team that finishes third in the Conference would seem to be a good bet to go deep into the playoffs. This year, people have their eyes focused on Washington, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey in the East.

So how can the Sabres improve their game to compete with the top-caliber teams? The new playing style that Lindy Ruff utilized has worked this season with the Sabres and some fans are now saying that the team is over-achieving.

Over-achieving or not, the Sabres are a contender for the cup. They are on their way to locking up a Northeast Division title, and have Ryan Miller to lead them through the postseason. Miller leads the league in save percentage and is second in goals against.

The Sabres have allowed the 3rd fewest goals in the league, much thanks to Ryan Miller and the defense. Buffalo is also 3rd in the league in penalty killing. They are also fourth in the league when scoring first. Although the Sabres have only scored 215 goals this season, they have a plus-26 goal differential, which is second in the Conference, only behind Washington (+77).

A home ice advantage in the first couple of rounds might be the only thing that could help the Sabres improve. Buffalo is 24-10-6 at HSBC arena, where the Sabres have had a winning home record in each of the past 22 years.

I can understand that fans might want the team to improve, especially come playoff time. The playoffs bring a much more intense style of gameplay. While some players might step up, others may crack under pressure.

As long as the Sabres play the way they have been all season, they shouldn’t have much of a problem in the first two rounds. Sure, they may have to up their intensity to compete with the tougher and more potent teams, but with a solid defense and a superb goaltender between the pipes, the Sabres could advance farther than most expect.

Other than that, there is not much room for improvement. Even with the injury bug that has bitten the Sabres recently, Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe should all be able to fill the gaps on offense. Over the next week, the Sabres could get Connolly and/or Vanek back, just in time for the playoffs.

If the Sabres do make it to the 2nd or 3rd round, there is a good chance they will end up facing at least one of these teams. Buffalo hasn’t performed well against them based on earlier meetings this season.

Here are a look at some of the tougher matchups Buffalo could have if they advance beyond the first round:

Pittsburgh won the season series 3-1 against Buffalo, but all four games were decided by one goal. The Sabres were in all of those games, and it would make for an exciting playoff matchup. Plus, who wouldn’t love to see Miller get back at Crosby?

The Capitals, who have been running away with the Eastern Conference, have defeated the Sabres three out of four times as well. The lone Buffalo win was a Ryan Miller shutout. The Sabres could have a tough time against the Capitals.

The Sabres have won two out of three meetings against the Devils this year, with one remaining. Despite the boring playing style of New Jersey, the Sabres found ways to win.

How far do you think the Sabres can go? Can Buffalo really perform better and step it up in the playoffs? Let us know what you think by commenting below.

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I founded Buffalo Hockey Central in 2008 and have poured hours and hours into this site. Luckily, we have a great team of writers and designers who have helped keep this up and running despite a ton of out-of-pocket costs. We do this because we enjoy it, and we're desperate to see the Sabres win the Cup someday, but they have to make the playoffs first.