by PuckStopsHere on 03/23/09 at 03:39 AM ET
The Buffalo Sabres have been are a playoff bubble team for a couple years. If they were to make the playoffs, they would take one of the lower playoff seeds and if they were to miss the playoffs, they would be one of the top teams to miss the playoffs. For much of the season, they were well within the playoff race looking to improve on last season’s 90 point year that left them four points out of the playoffs. The hope was that the younger forwards Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville would take a step forward and bring the Sabres with them.
For the most part the Sabres have not taken a step forward. They haven’t taken a step backwards either. None of the young players truly had a breakout season. The Sabres remained a playoff bubble team. It took their loss of goaltending to close the door to the playoffs this season.
Ryan Miller is one of the better goalies in the NHL. He has never had a Vezina calibre season or anything, but he has consistently given the Buffalo Sabres above average goaltending. He was having another solid season this year posting a .919 saves percentage and a 2.50 GAA. That ended when he suffered a high ankle sprain in the later part of February. Miller has been on the injured list ever since.
Buffalo was left without adequate goaltending. Patrick Lalime was thrust into the position as starter. Lalime has a .900 saves percentage and a 3.10 GAA. In his 24 games played he has only five wins. That isn’t good enough. On trade deadline day, Buffalo traded a fourth round draft pick to Phoenix for Mikael Tellqvist. If it was possible to solve goaltending problems for the cheap price of a fourth round draft pick nobody would have goaltending problems. Since the trade, Tellqvist has a .902 saves percentage and a 3.30 GAA. This puts him in Lalime territory. Neither is good enough to replace Ryan Miller and keep the Sabres on track.
The Buffalo Sabres have now lost their last four games and sit five points out of the playoffs with only ten games left. It would take a minor miracle for the Sabres to make the playoffs this season. The final reason the Buffalo Sabres will be eliminated is that they lacked an adequate backup goalie to step in when Ryan Miller got hurt, but a more accurate reason is that they remain a playoff bubble team. They are not good enough to be a top playoff contender that would be able to survive a few bumps in the road on the way to a playoff berth. In a good season they would barely make the playoffs. If something happens to prevent a good season, they have no wiggle room and miss the playoffs.
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