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Leaving points on the table

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The Western Canada roadie is in the books. On the face of it, the team’s record of 1-1-1 and three points is an improvement. Last season, they went 0-for-3, not even scraping a point out of the series.

But this team, this year, even without Jack Eichel and Evander Kane in the lineup, has higher goals. A point per game won’t get any team in the playoffs, especially in this era of three point games.

The game in Edmonton was a team win, with the offense on full display. A sign of what this team can do when it plays a full sixty minutes.

The game in Calgary, one in which the team had three leads including two in the third period, was one they let get away. Successful teams finish with their foot on the gas pedal.

Thursday night’s sleeper in Vancouver was also theirs for the taking. Playing thirty minutes of hockey like they did isn’t going to win many games.

Expectations are higher this year. And so far, in this mini four game sample set, they’re not being met. There seems to be a lack of puck protection and an abundancy of overpassing. Bogosian, Gorges and the defense have been a mess. And Robin Lehner has been hung out to dry time after time. Even with his inflated 3.01 GAA, he’s giving the team a chance to win, making some big saves. The defensive lapses on rebound coverage have been the main problem.

On the coaching side of it, one has to question Dan Bylsma’s one-man forecheck versus a two-man forecheck. This team has speed and can use it.

“We have to string along 60-minute games. We can’t have a period on and a period off. When you see we have it there one period, there’s no reason we don’t have our system all 60 minutes.” – Robin Lehner

Then there’s this worrisome and somewhat bizarre stat: in their four games, the Sabres have faced every team’s backup goaltender. Al Montoya, Jonas Gustavsson (part of game), Chad Johnson, and Jacob Markstrom. The Sabres have a history of making backups look like Vezina trophy winners.

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are several positives on which to build. Dmitry Kulikov has played a strong game, with some tape-to-tape passes out of the zone. Kyle Okposo and O’Reilly are creating chances, as is Matt Moulson, albeit they’re not putting them away. And the special teams are performing admirably.

The season is still very young. This team will likely put it all together. Bounces will go our way. Shots will get through. But, if we’re using 95 points as a measuring stick for success and expectation to climb into the postseason, over an 82 game season, that equates to 1.15 points per game. This team is already behind that pace. And one can’t help but wonder how many points it left in Western Canada.

 

 

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