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Evaluating Buffalo’s slim playoff chances

Feb 9, 2012, 8:00 AM EDT

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders Getty Images

The Buffalo Sabres absolutely throttled the Boston Bruins last night, but as entertaining as the rivalry has become, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll see each other in the playoffs.

Still, the 6-0 win likely stirred that thought in some of us, so how about we break down Buffalo’s chances in a variety of ways?

The odds

Going by Sports Club Stats’ numbers, the Sabres are teetering on the edge of playoff irrelevance. The well-respected resource gives Buffalo just a 3.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, ranking them second-to-last in the East.

What they’ll need to do to beat those odds

According to Sports Club’s numbers, Buffalo will probably need a record of 18-8-3 (64.9 percent chance to make it), 18-7-4 (80.3 percent chance) or better for a good chance to play beyond 82 games. So the question is: can they earn 39-40 points in those 29 games?

Schedule

Schedules can often make or break these situations. Buffalo plays seven of its next eight games at home, including matches against fellow East contenders. Getting regulation wins in that span would improve their outlook, but surviving a flip-side stretch of seven of eight road games will be just as crucial.

Overall, the Sabres will play one more road game (15) than home contest (14), but the other big factor is that they have five back-to-back sets left. Looking at those numbers, one would say that Buffalo’s schedule is a wash – at best.

Positives

The most obvious plus is Ryan Miller‘s recent play. Much like his team, Miller is 4-0-1 in his last five games. Miller has allowed just five goals in those five games – including a shutout in a shootout loss.

On paper, Buffalo might be the most talented bubble team aside from the Tampa Bay Lightning, which could play out on the ice even if it hasn’t so far. Spending money to improve that situation could be key, too. Terry Pegula’s deep pockets could swing things against lower-budget teams like the Panthers and Islanders, if it comes down to a trade deadline deal.

(If he hasn’t soured on putting up big bucks after Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff‘s disappointments, that is.)

Conclusions

Buffalo made an impressive late run to the playoffs last season, but I’d say they hit the “snooze” button one too many times on this wake-up call. What do you think, though?

***

* – You can break down the East bubble teams into three different groups. (Note: ranks based on Sports Club’s numbers, not on current standings.)

Teams expected to make it
6) Toronto – 86 percent
7) Washington – 79.2 percent
8) Florida – 67 percent

Half-decent contenders
9) Ottawa – 40.1 percent
10) Winnipeg – 16.4 percent

Long shots
11) Montreal – 8.2 percent
12) Islanders – 5.4 percent
13) Tampa Bay – 5.3 percent
14) Buffalo – 3.2 percent

  1. pftbillsfan - Feb 9, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Leino maybe, Erhoff is amazing, maybe not the points we expected but the best d-man on our team.

  2. wez99 - Feb 9, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    As of late, both have improved majorly

  3. rabidbillsfan - Feb 9, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Umm, I think Buffalo’s chances are better than that. From a talent standpoint, they are better than 5 of the six teams above them, and on are on the same level as Tampa Bay. Buffalo is healthy for the first time all season and it has shown. Ennis scoring, Ehrhoff scoring, Myers and Leino assisting. Getting Vanek back will just be more jet fuel. Miller is having a He** of a month, going back since the beginning of january, excluding the hiccup in Detroit, his numbers are some of the tops in the leauge. Heck, even with that game his numbers are much better now than what they were at the beggining of the season. This is why Lindy should not be fired. He orchestrated this once again. Buffalo will sneak in, there’s no other way, but all it takes is a chance. y the end of the month, Buffalo will be 9th and 4-6 pts back of a Playoff spot.

    • boltsfan777 - Feb 9, 2012 at 11:55 AM

      If Buffalo has any powerplay at all, then it is a *better* team than Tampa Bay. The Bolts so-called powerplay is a liability and is a good time for a snack or bathroom break, since they give up a lot of short handed goals, and are lucky to control the puck through the neutral zone, much less get a shot off.

  4. whatswellydoing - Feb 9, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Not a Sabres fan, but I’d like to see them get in. I’ve got a fair amount of sympathy for them after the season their having.

  5. riles1008 - Feb 9, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    This is two years in a row a coach takes half a season to get his team to do anything. A coach who had one cup appearance, three conference appearances, one conference win, three division titles and one presidents trophy. IN 14 YEARS. Peter Laviolette was fired 2.5 years after winning a cup by Carolina. Look what he’s done since. Gimme a break the guy needs to go we need a fresh start. Unless we make and go DEEP into the playoffs I don’t see how he stays.

    • drewsylvania - Feb 9, 2012 at 2:14 PM

      They just had their best game while their coach wasn’t even behind the bench.

      • rabidbillsfan - Feb 9, 2012 at 2:23 PM

        Typical response from somebody who doesn’t have a clue. That was Lindy Ruffs game plan, he was at practice the days and hours prior, and he had constant contact with the bench throughout the night. Sean Paytons Saints blew the Doors of the Colts while he was in the Pressbox, does he need to be replaced too? Yes, Laviolette has had mild success since his departure from Carolina, but look at the Canes since. I would rather stick with what I know in Lindy Ruff and what I’m going to get, then change now. This team is built to win with Ruff, and they will continue to win with Ruff until the bottom falls out, and that bottom hasn’t fallen yet.

      • drewsylvania - Feb 9, 2012 at 2:29 PM

        Thanks for reading into my response and using that faulty conclusion to troll over it.

  6. bcisleman - Feb 9, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    Isles are a better team than the Sabres. Beat them twice and only lost in a SO because they were flat after a back to back and losing their best defenseman to injury. Isles will finish ahead of BUF and the other longshots. With some aggressive moves by Garth, they may actually make the playoffs.

    • bcisleman - Feb 9, 2012 at 6:20 PM

      BUF fans obviously don’t like my comment, but facts are facts.

  7. buffalomafia - Feb 9, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Rabidbillsfan- you mamaluke! Buffalo is a mediocre sports town!

    Sabres wont make playoffs with the underacheivers they have!

    Again other teams better than the Sabres clean house on coaches & GM!

    Pegula has no balls to fire anyone!

  8. ballsohardu - Feb 9, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    Ashame. Have great talent on that roster. Still need a #1 center. Idk what happened to them this year

  9. buffalomafia - Feb 9, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    The Islanders should be in playoffs easily especially with all that young talent!

    I agree with bcislefan

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