After a disappointing end to their Canadian road trip, the Nashville Predators return home to take on the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres have had a bumpy season, both scoring and yielding lots of goals, and tonight should be an exciting game.
Tage Thompson, who has 31 goals—including three hat tricks—and 57 points in the 40 games the Sabres have played already this season, has been playing must-watch hockey for Sabres fans. Defender Rasmus Dahlin has 34 assists, and has added 13 goals of his own, while Alex Tuch has put together a 20G/25A season so far. Jeff Skinner and 21-year-old Dylan Cozens have also been very productive, making up the rest of the Sabres’ scoring core.
Points per game is a rough and imprecise metric of player evaluation, but when the number is high I think it can say something for the combination of player performance and coaching performance. It’s worth noting that the only one of the Sabres’ top five scorers to drop below a point per game is Cozens, with 39 points in 40 games, while Filip Forsberg has 38 in 41.
The dropoff in production after the top five is sharp, but Cozens isn’t the only very young player getting regular icetime. The Sabres’ eternal(?) rebuild rolls on. 20-year-old defender Owen Power, is playing top-pairing minutes and not doing horrendously. He’s limiting chances a little worse than the Sabres’ average, but some of that is likely a question of usage.
The Sabres have generated and converted on offense well this season, but they’ve had a rougher time at the other end of the ice. Their defense isn’t great even at even strength, and their goaltending has showed it. 41-year-old Craig Anderson has been by far the Sabres’s best goalie, with a .921 sv% on the season over 15 games, but he’s not a part of their long-term plan. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Eric Comrie, who’ve split the remainder of the games between them, have .891 and .883 sv%s respectively.
Some of this is due to the Sabres’ awful penalty kill. This is a game where the Preds have a chance to feast with the skater advantage, and we should probably expect to once again see a lot of special teams action. The Sabres’ power play looks bad on paper, but it’s had some definite success, so it’s important not to get sloppy.
How to Watch
The game airs at 7PM Central/8PM Eastern on Bally Sports South and 102.5 The Game.