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March 4, 2021, 4:13 PM ET [12 Comments]
Mark Pino
Buffalo Sabres Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

If it weren’t for bad luck the Buffalo Sabres would have no luck at all.

The Sabres enter Tuesday night’s games against the Islanders with a disgusting .375 winning percentage after posting an embarrassing 6-11-3 record in the first 20 games of the 2021 regular season.

Before you bang on the Sabres and their chronic offensive insufficiencies, take a moment to reconsider. The Sabres were forced to have to mandatorily shut down their operations and facilities for a nine day stretch in early February as a result of having eight of their players and their head coach test positive for the insidious COVID-19 virus.

Since returning to game action after postponing eight games due to COVID, the Sabres find themselves skating against the brutal and harsh Lake Erie head winds. Ralph Krueger’s team has lost eight of their ten games since its COVID-19 scare ended. With 15 points of a possible 40 points in the bank today, the Sabres are now facing off against the NY Islanders three times in the next four nights.

In 20 games played this season, the Sabres have scored just 46 goals for while giving up 60 goals against. Their minus-14 goal-differential is among the worst statistically speaking in the NHL today.

The problem with the Sabres is that they are no getting even strength scoring nor are their big guns providing primary, secondary and tertiary scoring.

The Sabres are owners of the #3 ranked power play in the NHL with a 30.7% conversion rate (39.1% on the road, 25.6% at home) will kill you with their power play and will allow you to live a long, prosperous, victorious life with their lack of even strength scoring. The Sabres have scored at least one power-play goal in 11 of their last 15 games, going 16-for-45 (35.6%) during that stretch.

Taylor Hall was signed by the Sabres to provide even strength and power play scoring. His $8M AAV on a one-year deal is looking rather lopsided at the twenty-game mile marker because Hall has scored just one goal this season. Hall has just 54 shots on goal in his 20 games played with the Sabres. Hall leads all Sabres with 33 missed shot opportunities that have sailed high and wide of the enemy net. He also 11 giveaways to boot.

It is alarming that Hall hasn’t found the back of the net since opening night and has accumulated only 12 points 96 PPP). Hall is a god-awful minus-14 rating. His one goal scored this season was scored on the power play. Don’t ask me how the 2018 NHL MVP has produced a disgusting 1.9% shooting percentage.

There has been reporting this week that the Sabres and Hall’s agent are interested in engaging in conversations about a possible contract extension for Hall to stay in Buffalo after the April 12 NHL trading deadline. Let’s call the contract talks “luke warm”.

Hall said Tuesday that he has interest in staying in Buffalo.

“I’m open to anything,” Hall said. “It’s not like I’ve had an amazing statistical year by any means so far this year. So just in saying that, I’ve enjoyed my time here, I’ve really liked the guys, the coaching staff, the way we’re treated as players.

“And like we said from the start, my agent and myself, we’re open to anything. I was never treating this as just a one-year thing. I was always coming into it open-minded. We’ll have to see what happens here, if there’s interest on their side, but, yeah, of course I’m interested.”
Great point, Hallsy. The Pegulas want to see positive ROI on their $8 million investment in you before they commit to you for $8M to $9M AAV on a four to five year contract.

The Sabres cannot officially begin contract talks with Hall until March 12. The 11-year veteran can become an unrestricted free agent again this summer. The onus is now on Hall to score many even strength goals and inspire his buddy Jack Eichel to do the same. Otherwise, long term contract talks are just chatter.
Sabres GM Kevyn Adams also has to be entertaining trade proposals for Hall as a rental player. Because there will only be 27 league days following the trade deadline, only $1.9 million will remain on Hall’s one year deal with the Sabres. The Sabres would be wise to speak with contenders to gauge what return Hall would deliver to the Sabres.

In my opinion, Hall belongs on Eichel’s wing not next to Eric Staal on the second line. Ralph Krueger would be wise to play Hall with Eichel as a means to get both of his high production offensive guys producing volume goals and assists at even strength.

Hall said Thursday that he doesn’t think his struggles are as bad as they appear on the nightly score sheet.

“I’ve watched my shifts, I’ve not watched my shifts after games, and when I do, there’s not a whole lot of difference in between when I’m playing really well and when I’m not,” Hall said of his game. “As for many hockey players, it’s just very subtle changes you have to make to your game to let your skill and all that show up.

“Obviously, I think there’s been a little bit of unluckiness to my game this year, just scoring. When you do see pucks go in the net, you get confidence. It really lets your whole game kind come out.”

Hall knows that he has more to give to his line mates, teammates. And coaches
“Can I be better defensively? Can I do some things that maybe lead to better scoring chances and dirtier scoring chances?” Hall said. “Probably, so that’s my focus and I think a lot of us have to think the same way.”

Ralph Krueger, said Thursday that he likes the chances that Hall is creating. Now, he wants to see the red light spinning after Hall scores.

“He definitely starts when things aren’t going well with a finger pointed at himself and not at anybody else,” Krueger said. “I find that in the conversations , he is very impressive, the way he’s working on it.”

Hall was one of the eight Sabres' players to test positive for COVID-19. He says that he is not feeling any symptoms today. I fully and completely expect Hall to pop off and go on a goal scoring rampage this week and continue it for the rest of the season.

Hall has scored 9 goals and 9 assists in his 19 games against the Islanders dating back to the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
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