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Is the sword good? The losing streak may have been a stretch off the season

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LAS VEGAS – It’s as if the time has come to consider whether the Buffalo Sabers are actually any good.

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We all remember that not-so-small sample size that saw last season finish 16-9-3 over their last 28 games, with wins against multiple marquee teams that included defeating Outdoor Toronto at the Heritage Classic.

With no pressure on the Sabers from the arrangement, the theory was that they could play freely and easily and competitors could not. fair enough. Absolutely reasonable. Then the season began and the Sabers put an impact on the theory by going 7-3.

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The UPL has a save percentage of 0.939 in its last three starts.

Not so fast. Then came an ugly eight-game losing streak that seemed to torpedo another campaign. This was followed by a 9-3-2 run in which the Sabers climbed the Atlantic Division ladder, from last place to fourth in just 15 days.

So we have three dominant stretches since March with a total of 32-15-5 — or 109 points for the full season. Obviously, you can’t get rid of the losing streak. It happened. But a lot of that has come with three defensemen battling injuries, and the Sabers played in Tampa Bay last month with four other players while Rasmus Dahlin sat out.

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The questions all this raises are simple: What if this eight-game slip was the actual deviation and true “small sample size”? What if the 52 games around that stretch is what this team really stands for?

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LAS VEGAS – An eight-game losing streak in November could have sent the Buffalo Sabers flying…

What if this really was a team with a Hart Trophy nominee (Taj Thompson), Norris Cup nominee (Dahlen), Calder Cup nominee (Owen Bauer), the NHL’s No. 1 offense and No. 2 power play? Dive into any territory you want, but all of these elements alone scream a finalist.

The Sabers capped off a 3-0 road trip with Monday night’s 3-2 nail-biting victory over the Vegas Golden Knights and just went home. Four points from a playoff. Goal difference plus 18 goals is better than the current seven teams in the playoffs. Development is happening as they planned it. There are still 50 games to play and we are now seeing if the schedule for the Qualifying competition has been accelerated.

Here are some takeaways from the trip:

1. There is a surprising dilemma in goal. We know 41-year-old Craig Anderson has been solid (7-4-1, 2.65/0.922 – including a 2-0-1, 1.99/0.942 in December). And now, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has put together a career-best three games, posting a . 939 save percentage and setting career highs in consecutive games with 39 against Colorado and 41 against Vegas. But the injured Eric Comrie, who signed as a free agent to be a starter, has skated with the team for the past five days. Maybe he needs a game or two of conditioning in Rochester, but he’ll be back soon. It seems unlikely that the Sabers will be able to carry three guards and it looks like Lokonen is destined for more time in the AHL.

Remember Luukkonen’s preseason goal: The Sabers wanted him to get a 50-55 start – no matter what league he was in. Whether that means all of the AHL or, as you might have guessed, a combination of 35-40 AHL games and 15-20 NHL games. He has nine with Buffalo so far. It will be interesting to see how many things he gets.

Notes: Short-handed swords get a massive Lokonen night in amazing condition over the Avalanche

If you want to rate a signing win for the Buffalo Sabers season, the selection should be easy. When you play sleight of hand with only five defensemen against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, you have to give the Sabers full marks for their 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

“He was great for us tonight and I think we have to set the record straight,” coach Don Granato said after the Vegas game. “Here’s a guy three weeks ago,[people]were ready to say, ‘He can’t do that.’ But I love our team. This is where you stand by your guys and then support them through the challenges. And he found ways to deal with adverse situations and adapt and improve.” .

2. Star Force. It seems impossible to imagine any scenario in which Thompson and Dahlen are not in Florida for the All-Star game in February, which will be the Supers’ first game since Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner went to San Jose in 2019. Thompson is in the rare air to battle Connor McDavid of Edmonton for the Rocket Richard Award for Most Goals (McDavid leads 28-26), and his current pace of 67 goals and 128 points has not been seen by the Sabers since Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny. Capturing pinball records in 1993. He’s scoring streak in four straight games.

Dahlen, meanwhile, has 10 goals and 37 points and is second to San Jose’s Erik Carlson in both categories. He is on pace to score 26 goals and 95 points, which would break Phil Housley’s franchise record for a defenseman of 81.

3. Defense depth is improving. General Manager Kevin Adams needs to keep working on the field, but it’s notable that the Sabers haven’t completely broken down in the face of more defensive injuries. Jacob Bryson and Henri Jokiharjo missed the entire trip; Ilya Lyubushkin missed the first two games. Owen Power went down just minutes before the game in Colorado and did not play in any of the three games due to a lower-body adjustment during the warm-up session.

It remains to be seen if the Sabers can get Bauer back for Friday’s game against Tampa Bay, but it might make sense for him to be suspended to give him another week before the Dec. 27 game in Columbus.

LAS VEGAS – An eight-game losing streak in November could have sent the Buffalo Sabers flying…

Dahlen and Matthias Samuelsson obviously carried the load for the ride, but there were much better contributions from Kale Clague, Lawrence Pilut and Casey Fitzgerald too. Pilut had a two-point night in Vegas, including his first goal in three years, while Fitzgerald pressed in to set Thompson’s tally in the second half. Samuelson, who played 31:11 in Denver the night the Sabers only featured five players, saw his team go 13-6-2 when he was on the ice. The Swords only went 3-10 when he was out for over a month with a knee injury. Relatively big difference.

4. JACK QUENNE AND JJ PETERKA STILL A LOT OF WORK IN WORK. The rookies struggle mightily on the road, having to deal with tougher encounters and opponents whose physical thrusts are bullied by the home crowd. Neither of them had a point on the trip, with Quinn having three shots on goal and Petrica only one. They only played one 33-second shift in the third period on Monday, with Quinn finishing the game with 9:45 of ice time and Petyrka in a season-low 9:27.

“I thought it was a tough night for them, but it was a great night for them just to absorb and learn,” Granato said. “Quinner and JJ were on and off. It happened. But it was still a game where they could get a lot out of it.”

Check it out: Peterka has 10 of his 15 points and five of his seven goals at home, while Quinn has all six of his goals and 11 of his 17 points at KeyBank Center.

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