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Playoffs? Sabres Formula Simple But Not Easy

With the Buffalo Sabres facing the

perennial doormat

slightly underrated New York Islanders three times in the next five games, fans and media here are making various conjectures about what it would realistically take for the Sabres to make the postseason.

What’s the formula for this tenth place team, currently eight points out of eighth place, to climb the charts and grab a playoff spot?

For those of us blogging twitterphiles feeling unarmed sans the required journalism degree to venture into such a realm of analytical complexity, let’s leave this Mensa-level exercise for the professionals.

“It’s a long, long way until the playoffs—Buffalo still has 39 games on the regular-season schedule—but the Sabres won’t get there without beating the teams ahead of them.”

- Buffalo News sports reporter John Vogl, January 14, 2011.

“…the Sabres need to beat the teams below them if they want to improve their 10th-place spot. The schedule gives them an opportunity to extend their 5-1-1 streak.”

- Vogl, later that same day.


That’s pure gold, so on second thought, let’s take a slap shot at this and review some prevailing theories on what parts of their remaining schedule are most crucial for the Sabres to ace in their drive to make the playoffs.

Beat the teams ahead of them

The targets for Buffalo obviously are Montreal, Atlanta and Carolina.  The Sabres have eight games remaining against those three teams.  There’s a swing in March where they face all three of them within a week.  I think you know where we’re going with this.  But before you focus too much on it, think about the 62 points that’ll be available to the Sabres in games where they don’t face any of those teams.

Beat the teams below them

The Sabres have 14 games remaining against teams currently ranked 11th or lower in the East, while none of Buffalo’s three targeted teams identified above have more than 11.  That’s not much of an advantage when you consider that Buffalo already has racked up an underwhelming 12 points in 10 games against the cellar dwellers.  Think of Atlanta suffering a 9-3 pasting to Toronto the other night.  Some of the bad teams aren’t really that bad.

Beat every team above, below, left, right and to the center of them - or just beat them at least 56.4% of the time

This makes the most sense.  Simple and accurate, give or take a couple of points in the standings.  The eighth place Thrashers are on pace for 91 points.  Going 22-13-4 for a .564 winning percentage would get Buffalo there.  For what it’s worth, seven teams in the league have won at a .564 or better clip this season.

Well, that seems simple enough.  The only problem is that this doesn’t look like a Sabres team capable of such a long streak.  We’re talking about a team that hasn’t won three in a row all season. 

Even during the brief periods when they’ve racked up some points, like the current 5-1-1 streak alluded to by Vogl, they haven’t gained any ground.  It doesn’t help when teams like the Thrashers have already been awarded 7 points for games that they’ve lost.

A revered writer named Norman Cousins once mused that hope is independent of the apparatus of logic.  So, if Sabres fans dare to dream, the formulas are there.  Bring on the Islanders!

Twitter: @DaveDavisHockey

Filed in: NHL Teams, Buffalo Sabres, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: atlanta+thrashers, buffalo+news, carolina+hurricanes, john+vogl, montreal+canadiens, nhl+playoffs

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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