The Buffalo Sabres have the league’s leading scorer in Thomas Vanek, who has 11 goals and 23 points. They have additional scoring help from Jason Pominville, Tyler Ennis and youngster Cody Hodgson. In addition, the Sabres have one of the league’s premier netminders in Ryan Miller. Why then does the team currently sit deal last in the Northeast Division with a 5-8-1 record? There are plenty of problems the team needs to address to turn things around and Miller’s disappointing start is just the tip of the iceberg.
Problem number one is goaltending. Miller is 5-6-1 and the only positive stat is his 2.89 goals against average. While it may be true that he doesn’t get much help some nights (see Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators) he hasn’t done enough to keep his team in close games either. Buffalo has four one-goal losses and three two-goal losses and not taking points away from those close contests may come back to haunt them later. Backup Jhonas Enroth is 0-2 with a 4.73 GAA, so it’s not like Miller can have many nights off.
Problem number two is without a doubt the power play. The Sabres rank near the bottom of the league in power play percentage and have failed to convert in nine of their 14 games. They have one power play goal in 27 chances over the past seven games, which isn’t going to help them win or get Miller any support anytime soon.
The third problem for the team is a lack of secondary scoring. They may be getting a star turn from Vanek and some additional help from the rest of their top players, but they aren’t getting much from their defense or third and fourth line players. Nathan Gerbe has been a major disappointment with no points in 10 games, Tyler Myers has just one goal and is a dreadful minus-9 and rookie Mikhail Grigorenko hasn’t done much since the first week of play.
Problem number four: defense. Other than Christian Ehrhoff (one goal, six points) and Alexander Sulzer (three goals, four points), there isn’t much going on for the defense at the offensive end despite a middle-of-the-pack penalty kill this defense ranks almost dead last in the league in goals against. Only Ehrhoff and Sulzer have positive plus-minus numbers among the team’s defensemen and Myers’ rating is nearly the worst in the league (only the Los Angeles Kings’ Drew Doughty is worse).
The Sabres should have been a contender in the Eastern Conference this season, but these problems continue to hold them back. If they can improve on them in the next couple of weeks, they may be able to recover from their awful start to the 2013 season.