With their loss to Winnipeg on Saturday, the Buffalo Sabres played their 41st game of this season. This officially marks the halfway point in the 2011-12 season. It’s time to take you all back in time to see how five of the many preseason predictions have panned out for the Sabres.
Right now we will play a little game of fact or fiction, Buffalo Sabres style.
Leino will help improve faceoffs
Ville Leino came into this season with the Sabres, being put back into a position that he hadn’t played in a long time. Although he’s missed a handful of games, Leino has taken 117 faceoffs and has only won 36.8% of them. To put that number into perspective, Paul Gaustad has taken 595 faceoffs, winning 56.3% of them. Leino’s faceoff number is atrocious but looking at the overall team, the Sabres are winning faceoffs at a 50.4% clip, compared to last season’s number which was at 47.7%. This falls into the sad-but-true category.
Goaltending will thrive with Enroth potentially breaking out
This thought was a preseason lock. Ryan Miller was expected to bounce back after having a mediocre 2010-11 season and rookie Jhonas Enroth was expected to see more playing time after his late season break out last year. Right now, Miller has 24 starts. In those 24 games, he has registered a 10-11-2 record while sporting a 3.05 GAA and a .901 save percentage. In 20 appearances (17 starts) for Enroth, he has an 8-7-3 record with a 2.46 GAA and a .923 save percentage. The potential is there but nothing has come together as of late.
Leino will thrive playing with goal-scorers in Buffalo
Although Leino missed some time due to a broken foot recently, his time in Buffalo has been unsuccessful to say the least. In 30 games this season, Leino has amassed 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) while recording a -7 rating.
The teams weakness will be the penalty kill
The Sabres headed into this season with a lot of potential positives but according to many, the penalty kill would not be one of those. Halfway into the season, I think it’s safe to say that is not correct. The Sabres currently rank 13th in the NHL with a 82.7% penalty kill percentage. At a point time, the Sabres penalty kill lead the NHL.
Buffalo will miss Tim Connolly
Tim Connolly has played in 29 games, registering 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists). Looking back at the Sabres centers, Derek Roy has 24 points (8 goals, 16 assists) and Luke Adam has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists). Connolly has a faceoff win percentage of 47.7% in 478 faceoffs taken. Out of the five Sabres who have taken more than 200 faceoffs, only one (Luke Adam at 43.5%) has a worse faceoff win percentage than Connolly. It’s safe to say that the Buffalo Sabres do not miss Tim Connolly.
At the time of this article, Buffalo sits in 11th place with a record of 18-18-5 and 41 points. They sit 5 points behind Pittsburgh for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Now that we’ve reviewed the first half of the Sabres 2011-12 season, it’s time to make some predictions about the second half. These predictions will be re-looked at when the regular season commences.
1. Ryan Miller will rebound in the second half of the season
2. Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek will set career highs in points scored
3. The Sabres will make the playoffs
4. Derek Roy will re-find his game or be traded
Only time will tell whether these things happen or not. After trudging through a very mediocre and somewhat painful first half, Sabres fans can only hope for some excitement on the ice in the next 41 games.