Buffalo Sabres: 4 observations from the 2017-18 schedule

Mar 1, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (15) during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (15) during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

The release of the new schedule is usually an exciting time of year for Buffalo Sabres fans. We take a look their 2017-18 lineup and provide some insights.

The biggest week of the NHL offseason started on Wednesday night, with their annual awards show and the expansion draft. As Buffalo Sabres fans are now officially aware, they lost Will Carrier to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Thoughts will naturally turn towards the NHL draft, which takes place on Friday and Saturday in Chicago. Before then, however, all 30 teams watched the official unveiling of their schedules for the 2017-18 season on Thursday afternoon.

The release of any professional sports team’s schedule is usually one of the most exciting events on the calendar. It’s a time of high hopes and dreams of what might happen. (At least until the real action begins!)

This feeling is no different for Sabres fans, who are among the best and most loyal in the league. Adding to the intrigue is the genuine belief this team is poised to be more competitive in the coming season.

If the core players on the roster can be more consistent and avoid injury, the chances of a successful campaign only increase. With this in mind, we provide some observations on what lies ahead for new head coach Phil Housley and his team:

1) Eichel vs. McDavid 

In some respects, Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers fans may be feeling a bit cheated, when it comes to their teams’ budding rivalry. Or more specifically, the budding rivalry between Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid.

Since the duo were taken with the first two picks in the 2015 draft, the Sabres and Oilers have faced each other on four occasions. However, McDavid missed the first game in 2015-16 through injury, while Eichel was absent for the same reason, for the inaugural meeting the following season.

When the two players have faced each other it’s been a treat, with both games going to overtime. It’s obviously early days, but the NHL is hoping for their own equivalent of the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, or John Elway and Dan Marino.

So far, each player has been on the winning side once, although McDavid has performed better, with two goals and two assists, versus no goals and one assist for Eichel. Get ready for (hopefully) acts three and four, on November 24 in Buffalo and January 23 in Edmonton.

2) The Leafs 

Ask Sabres fans who their biggest rivalry is with, and you may get several responses. However, the one with the Leafs has arguably developed the most naturally over the years.

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With the distance between the two franchises, the opposing fan bases often make trips across the border. Of course, you normally get more Leafs fans in attendance at Sabres games than the other way around due to the cost of tickets, regardless of how they are obtained.

Now, the local rivalry has taken on added significance, after both teams decided to undergo a rebuild, but the Leafs returned to the playoffs more quickly than the Sabres. Interestingly, Buffalo held their own in the head-to-head meetings last season, (they actually led 14-13 in overall goals) but still lost three of the five games.

This season, the two sides will meet four times. However, in a strange scheduling quirk, the four meetings will be in the space of less than a month towards the end of the season, between March 5 and April 2.

3) Wear and tear of long road trips

Long road trips can often be taxing on the body, especially in a sport as physical as hockey. In many respects, they could make or break the Sabres’ challenge for a playoff spot.

The Sabres will have their first long road trip early on in the schedule, which might actually be a good thing, while the players are still relatively fresh. They will face four games out West between October 12-17, versus San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Las Vegas.

Buffalos’ second — and last — four-game road trip will come at the start of December. This time they will face Pittsburgh, Colorado, Chicago and St. Louis, between December 2-10.

Apart from that, the Sabres will face four three-game road trips. Interestingly, all of their lengthy road trips will be completed shortly after the half-way point of the regular season (game number 49), by which point we will probably know how realistic their chances are of returning to the playoffs, after a six-year absence.

4) Other notes

  • The Sabres will play 16 back-to-back games in 2017-18
  • The longest home stand will be six games, between March 10-23
  • The regular season will start at home on October 5, versus Montreal
  • Four of the final five games of the season will be away, including the finale in Florida

Next: What should the Sabres expect from Nathan Beaulieu?

What are your main takeaways from the release of the Sabres’ 2017-18 schedule? Which particular games are you looking forward to and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.