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Sabres Move Into Top Stanley Cup Contenders After Hot November

Sabres players celebrating a goal.
The Buffalo Sabres have the 6th-best odds to win the 2019 Stanley Cup after a torrid November. Photo by John Crouch/Icon Sportswire.
  • 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
Nashville Predators +650
Colorado Avalanche +1300
Winnipeg Jets +1300
Buffalo Sabres +1600
Calgary Flames +1600

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.

Since November 1st

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
Jack Eichel 17 3 19 22 5

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%.

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
Patrik Laine 15 18 7 0 19
Jeff Skinner 17 14 5 0 17
Brayden Point 19 14 8 0 24
Joe Pavelski 17 13 5 0 19
Cam Atkinson 16 13 4 2 20

*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.

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