Two heads are not better than one.
The Sabres earned a 16-4-4 record since Pegula took over – the best record in the NHL over that span. Meanwhile, they finished in 7th place in the Eastern Conference at the end of the regular season.
Take your pick over those two regular season records going into the playoffs. Regular season success and playoff seeding doesn’t always translate to success in the playoffs, (see: Buffalo Sabres, 2009-10). A strong finish to the regular season, however, can be a great warm-up before skating on playoff ice (see: Buffalo Sabres, 2005-06).
By now, you should be leaning towards the 16-4-4 record.
It’s impossible to say how the Sabres will play against the Flyers in Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but all indications going in are very positive, and there are many of them. A short run-down:
- Thomas Vanek has learned to carry the team on his back.
- Nathan Gerbe is scoring clutch goals in important games.
- Tyler Ennis returned to the scoreboard just in time, putting his 20th puck in the net in game 82.
- The young defense went into veteran style lock-down mode in front of Jhonas Enroth, to help finish off the playoff push with authority.
- Ryan Miler is back from his injury, and looks sharp.
- Stafford, Pominville, Connolly and the other vets of the Old Core are playing strong, knowing full well this is likely their last charge towards Lord Stanley together.
- Youngster Mark Mancari has emerged as a dominant force along the end boards, a critical role player for playoff games that often must be won by sheer will power.
That’s a pretty long “short list,” actually. There are more positives about this team heading in, but at least the roster looks great – geared up and ready, from the grizzled vet right down to the upstart rookie.
No one wants to play a team with the best record in the NHL entering the playoffs – a team with an all-world goalie, and a four line 12-headed monster, that pours over the boards in droves and is able to score on any given shift. At least, that is how the offense has been down the stretch.
If there is any fault to this year’s version of the Blue and Gold in the post-season, it may be their young, green defense: the team’s goals for-goals against ratio was even for the greater part of the season, until the kids finally matured in front of Enroth. On March 18, the Sabres were mired at 203 goals for, and 202 against. Since then, however, the defense finally learned what it takes to pull together, and the stat showed proof of their success. At season’s end, the Sabres hosted a formidable improvement of 245 goals for and 229 against.
Again, it’s impossible to say how the Sabres will look in the first round, but they are certainly heading in the right direction. On one side, the Sabres have lacked depth and consistency in their roster. On the other, the Sabres have found consistency and have been a dominant team down the stretch. For fans, it is simply wait and see to find out which head takes the lead.
*Look for a full length, in-depth post on how the Sabres and Flyers match up on Monday.