Dan Byslma – Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
This is my first fanpost after a few comments. The way I see it, there have been a few major problems* with the 2016-2017 Sabres:
-Bad penalty killing.
So let’s play “what if”. What if the Sabres’ top 12 scoring forwards and top six scoring defensemen played all 82 games this year? What if that consistency gave each of those 18 players a 3% bump in scoring? What if Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson, and Zemgus Girgensons had produced at their historical levels? What if the Sabres’ penalty kill was league-average?
As it turns out, the Sabres, despite their horrible defense, spotty goaltending, and lack of depth, would be pretty damn good.
Jack Eichel and Evander Kane would both hit 35 goals (Jack would actually net 36). Five others (Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart, Matt Moulson, and Tyler Ennis) would top 20. All told, the team would score 275 goals in 82 games. By comparison, Pittsburgh is currently the highest-scoring team in the league, with 255 goals in 75 games, on pace for 279 over the full season.
Meanwhile, applying the 3% boost to Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson, and subtracting a few opponents’ PP goals, brings our goals against total down to 200. That’s roughly comparable to Anaheim, who is currently fourth (or 26th, depending on how you look at it) in the league in goals against. To continue to the comparison with the Penguins, they’ve already allowed 206 in 75 games.
That’s a lot of assumptions, but what I hope to suggest is that this team is not as bad as its on-ice record would suggest. We’ve been hit by a ton of bad luck this year.
Our two first-line wingers missed 12 and 11 games. Four defensemen have missed more than 10 games. That’s…