Monday, December 29, 2008

Can the Sabres Pick up the Pace

Two games after the holiday break, the Sabres sit in eighth place in the conference tied with the Carolina Hurricanes and three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Here is the Sabres schedule in the next month:

December 29th – vs. Washington

January 1st – at Toronto

January 3rd – at Boston

January 6th – vs. Ottawa

January 9th – vs. Rangers

January 10th – at Detroit

January 14th – at Chicago

January 15th – at Dallas

January 17th – vs. Carolina

January 19th – at Florida

January 21st – at Tampa Bay

January 27th – at Edmonton

January 28th – at Calgary

January 31st – at Phoenix

In the month of January, the Sabres play 10 of 14 on the road.  The first thing that stands out is the long road trip at the end of January.  The Sabres have not fared so well on the road this season, with an underwhelming record of 7-6-3.  They have two road trips,  the first being a three game road trip to the Midwest to play Detroit, Chicago, and Dallas.  The second comes at the end of the month with a Florida road trip followed by a West Coast swing.  The Sabres have allowed 43 goals and scored 46 away from home.  While that is not great, it is better than the 54 scored/59 allowed split they have at home.  This road trip could give the Sabres a chance to get away from the hype and expectations at home.  It could also give them a chance to get back to basics that they really need to do if they are going to stay in the playoff hunt. 

Using the Pythagorean expectation formula, the Sabres’ opponents winning percentage is barely over .500.  Therefore, the Sabres are expected to win about half of the games in the month of January.  This should get them a record of 7-5-2, due to the fact that about 14% of the games the Sabres have played this season have been overtime losses.  7-5-2 is a total of 16 points.  The Sabres only play the top three seeds of the conference and none of the rest of the top eight this month.  Therefore, making ground on the teams above them in the January could be difficult.   However, they play the 9-13 seeds though.  This means they need to win just to be able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack on the bottom. 

The Sabres lost their chance to make the playoffs last season in the month of January.  They lost their first seven games in the month, completing what was a 10 game losing streak.  They never were able to recover from the losing and eventually became the ninth seed in the conference.  This year the Sabres need to gain some momentum on the road and build a string of wins to make up some ground. 

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