The Buffalo Sabres have now suffered two humiliating defeats in a row. First it was a 6-1 blowout at the hands of Montreal on the road. Then they returned home to blow a 3-1 lead in regulation to the Florida Panthers. Now they will take on the red hot Ottawa Senators after getting a day off.
The Senators are currently third in the Northeast Division with 11 points and five wins in nine games. Buffalo has also played 9 games, but they have not fared nearly as well. The Sabres have only managed three wins for the season and added an overtime loss and have seven points as they sit last in the division.
Buffalo’s season will likely turn on their ability to find some secondary scoring. Buffalo needs to get to a place where they can put the puck in the net when Thomas Vanek isn’t on the ice. The lower lines have been generating chances at times, but they have not been able to finish when it counts.
At least Vanek has been consistent for the Sabres. He is currently leading the league in points and is producing at a Hart Trophy type of pace. He currently has 19 points in just eight games on the season. It would be unheard of for Vanek to continue this torrid pace, but he may need to if his teammates do not start providing some support.
Buffalo would also like to jumpstart the play of their goaltenders. Ryan Miller started the season red hot and looked to be back to his Vezina form from a few years ago. He has been underwhelming as of late and is not getting help from his teammates much of the time.
Ottawa is a team that could not be more different from the Sabres. They are not running their offense through one player. Instead they have a very balanced attack. Kyle Turris leads the team in points with eight in nine games played. He also leads the team in goals with four. 13 different players have scored for the Sens in their nine games.
Erik Karlsson seems not to be having any difficulty returning to form after winning the Norris Trophy in 2011-2012 as the NHL’s top defenseman. He has seven points in nine games. The Senators are also benefiting from the play of their young guns. Players like Jakob Silfverberg, Peter Wiercioch, Jim O’Brein, Colin Greening, Zack Smith, Mika Zibanejad and Mark Borowiecki have all contributed to the team’s success.
The single greatest factor for Ottawa’s success has been the play of Craig Anderson. The veteran netminder has been practically unbeatable all season long. In eight starts he has garnered mind-boggling numbers like a 1.12 goals against average and a .964 save percentage.
This is the first meeting between the two teams so far this season. Ottawa took the season series in 2011-2012 four games to two. Ottawa earned points in all six head to head games. Buffalo needs a win badly and now they need to do it by defeating a team that is rolling and one that had Buffalo’s number last season.