Back-to-back victories for the Buffalo Sabres have increased their early playoff hopes ahead of three successive home fixtures to finish January.
After a disappointing 1-3 start to the season, a 4-3 victory at Washington on Sunday was much-needed prior to beating a struggling New York Rangers side 3-2 at the KeyBank Center on Tuesday.
The Rangers are the next team to visit Buffalo and back-to-back victories over David Quinn’s side would go a long way towards a positive start to the new 2020-21 NHL season.
Currently, Buffalo sits outside of the playoff places, down in the sixth spot out of eight in the East Division (Rangers are bottom). The top four from each of the three divisions will reach the knockout stages of the season.
However, the sportsbooks aren’t too confident the Sabres will finish in the top four again this season. PA online gambling books give Buffalo just a 33.8% chance of making the playoffs – only Arizona, San Jose, Ottawa and Detroit currently have a lower chance. What’s more, the Sabres have been given just a 2% chance of winning this season’s Stanley Cup.
Early signs are that scoring isn’t going to be an issue for Ralph Krueger’s side, with 21 goals in the opening seven matches of the new season.
Goals have come from all over the rink too, with Victor Olofsson leading the way with three goals. 12 different players have already got their name on the scoresheet this season, which is exciting to say the least.
Jack Eichel has continued from his impressive 2019-20 campaign already with seven assists in his first six appearances this month. And new signing Taylor Hall is next on the list, with five. The former Coyote also has a goal to his name.
It’s at the other end of the rink where the issues currently lie. Buffalo are allowing three goals against per game on average and have already used three different goaltenders.
Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton have started three each, whilst Jonas Johansson has been introduced during one game too, and has the lowest save percentage of the trio at 0.889%.
It’s not hard for us to suggest that General Manager Kevyn Adams and co need to go out and make a trade for a goaltender as early as possible in the season.
One player that has to stand out is 36-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights. The 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist and three-time Stanley Cup champion would be a perfect fit here in Buffalo.
And a deal for the future Hall of Famer should not be out of the question either. Towards the end of his stellar career, Fleury is only expected to split playing time with Robin Lehner throughout 2020-21. He could be a regular here in Buffalo. Lehner started the majority of their playoff games last season too.
What’s more, it was only a few months ago when it appeared Marc-Andre Fleury was headed out of Vegas with the handling of their goaltender situation. Buffalo should make a strong effort to acquire his services as soon as possible.