So here we are as hockey fans in late January. There are only a few short months of hockey left, and shortly we'll be able to tell if our teams are poised for a playoff run, or for golf season. It's this time of the year that teams must make a good run in order to establish prime playoff position.
The Sabres, for the past couple weeks, have not looked like the playoff team that the fans have loved all year. However, they got back on track last night with a 2-1 shootout win over the Devils, who are a point ahead of the Sabres and currently in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference. The win was encouraging to Sabres fans after the West Coast trip on which the team went 1-3-1, only gaining 3 points. Before the trip out West, coach Lindy Ruff said that the team's goal for the road swing was to get 10-12 points. Poor play on both sides of the puck, as well as an inability to play 60 minutes of hockey disabled the Sabres from doing so.
Last night, the Sabres didn't play overwhelmingly better. However, they got some pressure on Marty Brodeur and in the end, won the game. Two points against an Eastern Conference contender is nothing to sneeze at.
Adam Mair, newly placed on a line with Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy, scored his 2nd goal of the season in the first period for Buffalo's only goal. However, offense wasn't what won the game last night. Ryan Miller stood on his head once again for Buffalo, stopping 39 of 40 New Jersey shots. Miller's play has kept Buffalo in games for the whole year, and fans hope it can continue.
The need for a premier goal-scorer in Buffalo has never been more evident. Even if Miller can continue to play at a Vezina-winning level, the Sabres will find it hard to score consistently against the best teams and goalies in the Eastern Conference. That is, unless they can conjure up a deal for a stud free agent by March 3rd. Until then, even with last night's win, I'm not convinced that the Sabres are poised for a run deep into the playoffs.