A home side look at the Buffalo Sabres
In what is becoming a bit of a continuing series at Eyes On The Prize, we contacted The Buffalo News' Mike Harrington to get his take on the Buffalo Sabres as they enter the second quarter of the 2010-11 season.
The Sabres (9-12-3) are coming off a Friday home win, over the Toronto Maple Leafs, and currently sit 11th in the Eastern Conference.
The Montreal Canadiens (14-8-1) return home after a humiliating 3-0 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.
Thhe two teams square off for the third time this season tonight at the Bell Centre, with the Canadiens taking the first two games.
Harrington offers his take on what he's seen thus far, and gives us his grades on the Sabres in 2010-11.
Mike Harrington's Buffalo Sabres Grading (1-10)
Note: Mr. Harringon's responses were answered before Friday night's game
1. Five on Five - 1.08 F/A (13th in NHL)
(7.0) -"They're plus-3 entering tonight, pretty interesting considering they're -13 overall.
"The biggest key is the defensemen are leading the NHL with 14 goals. Good thing too because the list of forwards in scoring slumps basically covers the whole team sans Roy and Vanek."
2. Power Play - 14% (25th in NHL)
(2.0) - "It's mostly been a trainwreck. 0 for 19 in the playoff series against Boston and not much better this year (26th overall, 28th at home at just 5 for 46! and 21st on the road).
Too much stagnation, not enough movement, not enough shots on the net, especially from the point. More than one goal in just two of 23 games. Just 5 for last 50 entering tonight."
3. Penalty Kill - 81.7% (21st in NHL)
(7.0) - "It's with Jason Pominville (40 of 44) and without him (30 of 43). Big difference. 12 for 12 the last three games."
4. Goaltending - 2.92 GA/G (22nd in NHL)
(5.0) - "Miller has dealt with knee-hip-groin injuries and numbers are way down (6-6-2, 2.63, .909).
"Jhonas Enroth has done good things up from Portland (2-2-1) while Patrick Lalime has been a disaster (0-4, 3.03, .891). Makes plenty of good saves but has given up a brutal goal in three of the four starts and lost all three by a goal.
"Miller has to start stealing games for them to get back into the race."
(6.0) - "Lindy Ruff took some serious heat for the start (3-9-2) but they've been better of late thanx to improved play of Tyler Myers and Vanek.
"He's tried line changes that haven't done much.
"Best move so far was pairing struggling Myers with Andrej Sekera. That's become the No. 1 pair and Myers is finding his game.
"Waited too long to bench captain Craig Rivet, who simply has lost much of his ability at age 36. They need a new captain. Your captain can't be in the press box."
Where do you see the Sabres over their next 20 games?
"They will creep into the race a little more. The hectic schedule (13 games in November) will slow down some. Then they have to survive two grueling road trips when the World Junior Championships are in Buffalo (Calgary-Edmonton followed by a home game against Boston followed by a trip to Colorado-San Jose-Phoenix).
"They'll be fighting for eighth place all year because the start left them in such a hole."
Are the Sabres a legit playoff Contender, Yes/No/Too early to tell?
"Too early to tell. You'd think any team with Miller is. But that's referring to the Miller of last year. The halfway mark at game 41 is the game in Phoenix. By then we'll see where the team is standings and injury wise."
We would like to thank Mike Harrington for taking time out of his busy schedule to give us his evaluation of the Sabres.
You can find his stories and columns on the Sabres at The Buffalo News and also check out their Sabres Edge blog, where he does a live game blog.
You can also follow him on Twitter.
Sabres talk at Die By The Blade