- After a sluggish first month, the Buffalo Sabres were third in the Atlantic Division.
- A massive November has seen the Sabres jump into the thick of the Stanley Cup odds.
- Is Buffalo’s hot play sustainable and are they worth your Stanley Cup money?
When you look at the NHL standings, a few things are as expected.
The Predators are tops in the Central, trailed closely by the Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets, two other 2018 playoff teams. To no one’s surprise, the stacked rosters of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs are battling it out at the top of the Atlantic Division.
Less predictably, the Buffalo Sabres have jumped the Boston Bruins for third in the Atlantic.
Is Buffalo’s surge for real? Has Jack Eichel’s crew finally arrived? Bovada’s latest Stanley Cup futures say yes.
2019 Stanley Cup Odds
|Team||2019 Stanley Cup odds at Bovada (Dec. 7)|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+385|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+385|
Entering the season, there was no love for the Sabres when it came to the Stanley Cup. Their odds hovered around +6000, and you can’t really blame the oddsmakers. Buffalo was the worst team in the NHL last season, hasn’t made the postseason since 2011, and hasn’t won a playoff series in over a decade.
After a so-so October, Buffalo’s average Stanley Cup odds were +5100, a modest jump from their odds to start the year.
But a fast start to November saw them rise to +2900. By the end of the month — a month which included a ten-game win streak — they settled in at +1600, which is where they stand now, despite starting December on a four-game slide.
Those are the sixth-best odds, tied with the Pacific-leading Calgary Flames.
The Sabres Have Improved in Almost All Areas
After Thursday’s action, just two teams in the NHL have 40 points: the Lightning (45) and the Leafs (41). The Sabres (38) are one of just four teams within two points of that mark.
Like their odds, the Sabres’ play drastically improved from October to November.
|6 (T-10th)||Wins||11 (3rd)|
|14 (T-11th)||Points||24 (T-2nd)|
|31 (T-23rd)||Goals For||55 (11th)|
|35 (14th)||Goals Against||47 (T-15th)|
|20.0 (17th)||PP%||16.7 (22nd)|
|78.9 (15th)||PK%||80.8 (T-10th)|
Buffalo’s opening month wasn’t much to write home about. Their six wins were tied for 10th-most in October. Their 14 points had them 11th in the Eastern Conference. The special teams numbers were average at best as well.
Since then, they have been anything but average.
The Lightning, Leafs and Sabres are first, second and third in wins since November 1st. Buffalo is tied with Toronto for the second-most points over that stretch.
Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner Leading the Offense
Jack Eichel doesn’t get enough publicity. Forever doomed to be the man selected behind Connor McDavid, Eichel has 49 goals and 72 assists in 128 games in the two seasons following his rookie year.
That’s just shy of a point-per-game pace.
Now, Eichel is fully realizing his potential and rightfully emerging from McDavid’s shadow.
|Since November 1st||Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points||Power Play Points|
Since November 1st, Eichel has the fourth-most assists in the NHL. If it wasn’t for his surprisingly low goal total, he’d be top five in scoring since then rather than 10th.
Right now, he’s on pace for just 19.8 goals. But his pace will pick up. He’s scored at least 24 goals in each season and, this year, his shooting percentage is a laughable 5.7%. That number will regress closer to his career average of 9.7%.
Larkin on Eichel – That Leaf game was a little taste of playoff Jack Eichel. People still don't understand how good he is. #Sabres
— WGR 550 (@WGR550) December 6, 2018
Skinner meanwhile, has been a goal-scoring machine.
Acquired in the off-season from Carolina, he has 20 goals in 29 games with the Sabres and 14 over his last 17 games. The only player that’s been better is the Jets’ Patrik Laine, the NHL’s goal-scoring leader.
|Player||Games Played||Goals||Power Play Goals||Shorthanded Goals||Points|
*Since November 1st
While Skinner’s shooting percentage is an unsustainable 22.7%, on the whole, there’s no reason to think the Sabres’ dynamic duo is going to slow down.
Are the Buffalo Sabres Worth Your Money?
Right now the Sabres are the third-best team in their division. With the injuries the Bruins have suffered, they should have the inside track on staying out of a Wild Card spot.
Buffalo has to stay healthy themselves, but if they can do that that, they’re likely earn a spot in the playoffs.
Once they get in, anything can happen.
Right now they’re worth a modest investment. Who knows? If they keep improving and other teams suffer some key injuries, it may be the best number you can get them at between now and May.