I’ll be 100% honest here, I didn’t really have high hopes for the Sabres as they headed towards the West Coast. I didn’t really expect Buffalo to do too well, and kind of figured that the playoff hunt was going to get a lot more difficult come Monday.
HOLY $^#$ AM I GLAD TO BE WRONG!!!!
I mean, who honestly saw this coming? I wasn’t as shocked with the wins against the Ducks and the Sharks. I could have gone either way on those. However, last night, against the Canucks, the best team in the NHL, I really didn’t expect to see Buffalo come out on top. Buffalo played an extremely competitive game, and are one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
The one downside so far on this trip. Buffalo taking a nap against the Ducks in the 3rd period. 20 shots allowed in the 3rd? Unacceptable. However, Buffalo appears to have fixed this. That is a mere blemish and a memorable road trip.
Right now, Buffalo is 2 points out of being in a tie for 8th, with Winnipeg. Ironically, Buffalo’s final matchup with the Winnipeg Jets is on Monday night in Winnipeg.
One of the most frustrating things about the Sabres leading up to this years playoff race has been the fact that they weren’t in control of their destiny. Buffalo was going to need some help to get into the playoffs. However, after this past week, going 3-0 so far on this West Coast swing, Buffalo is starting to gain control of their fate.
Personally, I don’t want to see the Sabres make the playoffs due to having other teams lose. Let’s see Buffalo win to get into that 8th place seed, and start putting some distance between the other teams and them.
The Sabres have looked like a completely different team the past few weeks. They look confident, driven, and ready to play each and every night. Stafford appears to have found his game, and Leino is looking very good with his line mates of Kaleta and Gerbe. Hodgson looks decent, but I’d like to see him contribute more on the scoreboard. Buffalo is starting to look like a well balanced team. The big concern that a lot of fans have had this season, what happens when Vanek and Pominville can’t score. Both players have been fairly quiet on this trip.
No matter, the rest of the offense has awoken. And Ryan Miller... I don’t think I need to say anything else about that. The man is standing on his head to make saves, and making it look easy.
Let’s look forward to the rest of the season now for Buffalo. As I look at the schedule, I see a lot of games that Buffalo should win. Buffalo is playing 11 teams that are 3-4 points ahead of them or behind them in the standings. They are playing the Leaf’s twice, the Canadians twice, the Wild, the Capitals, Tampa Bay, the Hurricanes. This is exactly the type of schedule that the Sabres ordered! One doesn’t want to be playing all of the playoff caliber teams moving forward.
Who would Buffalo get in the first round? We all know they are looking at the daunting task of taking on the Rangers IF Buffalo manages to pull of the shocker to get into the playoffs. I know as well as you what people are saying about Buffalo’s chances in the playoffs.
Rangers are tough. As Kevin F. pointed out on his blog, the Rangers have won all 3 meetings this season. I remember a few seasons where Buffalo was matched up against teams that had destroyed them in the regular season. Buffalo was to lose to the Senators in the 2006 playoffs. 5 games later, Buffalo was advancing, and Ottawa’s golf season had started. How many times has Buffalo been matched up against the Flyers in the first round, and were supposed to lose, and didn’t? Forget the Sabres, every year someone pulls off an upset and beats a team they’re not supposed to. 2 years ago, we had the 7th and 8th place teams in the East battling for a shot to play for the Stanley Cup. Come the start of the playoffs, we all know it, it’s the start of a whole new season, and anything can happen.
Say Buffalo make the playoffs. Say they actually pull this off and get to play an extra few weeks of hockey. Buffalo right now, is one of the hottest teams in the league. The good teams make the playoffs, but it’s the teams that are on fire, that do damage, and pull off the upsets. Buffalo very well could do that.
This is all skepticism right now. Far to early to know what’s going to happen. However, right now, Buffalo’s only 2 points out of 8th place, with 17 games left to play, and not the hardest schedule in the world coming up. I’d say that Buffalo’s odds of making the playoffs are definitely looking up.