Thursday, February 9, 2012

So now what?

The Sabres are on a bit of a roll.

In their last five games they've gone 4-0-1 collecting nine of a possible 10 points. And their wins (as well as their 1-0 shootout loss) have come against some quality opponents.

They started this run with a 2-1 shootout win at New Jersey before the All-Star break then came out of the break with a win at Montreal. The New Jersey win snapped the longest road losing streak in franchise history (12 games) and was against a top-eight opponent in the Eastern Conference.

After their win against the Canadians, they came back home and dropped a goaltenders duel to the Eastern Conference-leading NY Rangers that went to the 10th shooter in the shootout.

They proceeded to come from behind to drop the NY Islanders 4-3 in a shootout and then lambasted their bitter rivals--Boston--at home last night 6-0. The Bruins are second in the conference behind the Rangers.

Ryan Miller is leading the charge in net giving up a mere five goals in five games including two shutouts. Last night five Sabres lit the lamp with three of them--Christian Ehrhoff (1 goal in eight games,) Tyler Ennis (first goal since returning from injury five games ago,) Drew Stafford (one goal in eight, two in his last 14)--getting off the schneid.

The rash of injuries seems to be subsiding (save for Lindy Ruff's three broken ribs in a freak accident at practice) and the team seems to be coming together.

But will it be enough to reach the playoffs?

As previously stated on another blog, nothing's impossible, but making the top-eight in the Eastern Conference is still improbable. Although not as dire as it once seemed. In late January they were said to have a 0.6% chance of making the playoffs. That went up to 3% a few games back and now it's at 3.2%.

Before their streak, the Sabres were 10 points out of a playoff spot. Now they are nine points out. They once had six teams to jump, now they have four.

The three-point game has been a big part of leveling the playing field amongst average to above average teams. While parity has made for some intense playoff races over the years, it also makes it incredibly difficult for a team like the Sabres to gain significant ground on the #8 seed which can be in flux constantly.

I guarantee that no Sabres fan could have predicted a 4-0-1 run in the last five games. In fact the "fail for nail" campaign, one which it was hoped by some that the team would drop to the bottom of the league for a top-five draft pick, was really gaining steam.

If the previous four games did nothing to start the "believe" campaign, last night's big win vs. the Bruins certainly should get things rolling.

As it stands, the team still has a rocky road, and the next two weeks will determine what they'll be doing at the February 27 trade-deadline.

Here's a look at where they stand right now beginning with eight place in the Eastern Conference:
  • Ottawa--61 pts.
  • Florida--59
  • Winnipeg--56
  • NY Islanders--52
  • Buffalo--52
  • Tampa Bay--51
  • Montreal--51
Beginning Friday the team plays Dallas, Tampa Bay and New Jersey at home. They travel to Philadelphia on February 16 then return home vs. Montreal on Friday February 17th.

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