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Sabres 10 Games In Jury Still Out

The Sabres have completed the first 10 games of their 82 game schedule, and I think it's harder to get a pulse on where this team is at now than it was prior to the season starting. We have seen some good from this team in their strong start overseas, and their dominant road victory at Florida. There have been some bad things, in particular the back to back losses to Tampa Bay. Where there is bad sometimes there is ugly, and the Sabres have been there too, surrendering two short handed goals in their home opening loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. So where do they stand one eighth of the way into their 2011-2012 season?

Ever the optimist I'll try and convince the rest of you off the ledge, it's not time to panic by a long-shot. Though the team has four regulation losses in its first ten contests, they are ranked 2nd in the Eastern Conference in goals against at 2.20/game and 6th in the Eastern Conference in goals for at 2.90/game. Those are impressive numbers, and if they finish the season with those tallies they should be near the top in the conference standings. The Sabres special teams have been excellent as well, specifically the penalty kill which ranks 3rd in the NHL at 91.9%. Ryan Miller has taken some heat over his start to the season, a start which has seen him let in a few bad goals at inopportune times (as if there were good times to let in goals). However, in 8 starts Miller has a 2.14 gaa and a 930% save percentage. If he finishes the season with those numbers, instead of questioning his abilities we'd be questioning whether or not he'll earn his second Vezina trophy. Additionally earning 6 ROW victories in 10 contests puts the Sabres on pace to earn close to 100pts, which would undoubtedly put this team in playoff position.

I'm not going to single out the individuals who have excelled and who have struggled thus far. At the end of the day, the lapses this team goes through are distributed evenly throughout the line-up. The Sabres biggest flaw thus far has been their inability to outwork opponents. Sure they are the more talented team most nights, but they have shifts where their opponents just seem to want the puck more than they do.

The early losses might be a good thing to light a fire for this team. They have a lot of players with big contracts, and skill to boot. However they aren't playing hungry. This team needed to be humbled by games like they just lost to Tampa and Florida. Lindy Ruff and his assistants have their work cut out for them getting this squad to do the little things right, and to put in the effort, but if Buffalo can pull together and play with some desperation I like where this team is headed. They've been winning despite their inconsistent play, imagine this team playing a full 60 minute game!

The next stretch of ten games starts Wednesday night against Philadelphia. The Flyers are also enduring some extreme ups and downs early on, so this will be a good test of the Sabres mettle. I'd like to see Mike Weber get in the lineup and provide a little more grit on the back end over M.A. Gragnani, and hopefully Jochen Hecht will be cleared to play in the later portion of the week.

-Brandon Hess
-Follow me on twitter @SabreHess

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