Monday, March 19, 2012

Thx, Chicago and Carolina

Yesterday both Washington and Winnipeg played their game in hand on Buffalo. The Sabres were two points behind the Caps and even with the Jets although Winnipeg still holds the tiebreaker.

The Caps were hot before they hit the road for a real tough five game road trip. After a comeback shootout win on Long Island, the Caps headed to Winnipeg to take on one of the best home teams in hockey. The Jets held true to form taking that game 3-2. Off to Chicago yesterday where Washington took a beating in a 5-2 loss. It doesn't get any easier as they head into Detroit for the second of a back-to-back against the Wings on a two game losing streak.

As for the Jets, they're one of the best home teams in the league. They entered yesterday on a four-game home winning streak, playing their third game in a row vs. the Hurricanes. Winnipeg went into the third last night with a 3-2 lead but 'Canes center Eric Staal scored mid-way through the third and Chad LaRose scored with less that two minutes remaining.

Because of Chicago and Carolina the Sabres, who snared four of six points last week, remained tied with Winnipeg two points behind Washington with all playing the same amount of games.

As for the Sabres, they should be shaking their heads. A harbinger of things to come was last Monday when they gave up a goal to Montreal at home with five seconds remaining in the game. They promptly won two minutes into overtime to get two points, but they certainly made it hard upon themselves.

The next game vs. Colorado it was deja vu all over again as the Avalanche scored the game-tying goal with two seconds left. The game went to a shootout with the Sabres failing to score a goal in three rounds as they completed the loss of an important point.

A big game in Florida had the Sabres tie the game in the second and the team headed to the shootout. On four separate occasions Buffalo had the opportunity to win the extra point, but Jason Pominville, Cody Hodgson, Brad Boyes and Derek Roy failed to put the game away. After a Dmitri Kulikov goal, Drew Stafford failed and the Sabres effectively blew yet another point.

Woulda, shoulda, coulda. If's, but's, and's.

Bottom line, they head into the week still two points out of eighth place.

The race in the Eastern Conference is pretty much for eighth place as Florida and Ottawa effectively distanced themselves from Washington, Winnipeg and Buffalo, so essentially we'll look at only three teams heading into this week.

Here are the standings with 10 games remaining for each team:
  • 8th--Washington, 78 pts.
  • 9th--Winnipeg, 76 (owns regulation/overtime wins tie-breaker over Buffalo)
  • 10th--Buffalo, 76
The upcoming schedule for the week:
  • Washington--@Detroit, @Philadelphia, vs. Winnipeg, vs. Minnesota
  • Winnipeg--@Pittsburgh, @Washington, @Nashville
  • Buffalo--@Tampa Bay, vs. Montreal, @NY Rangers, vs. Minnesota

If this were a horse race, the jockey would see an opening here and give the horse a good whip sensing the opportunity to make a strong move.

Washington travels to Detroit to play a back-to-back versus the best home team in the NHL. Then they travel to Philadelphia against one of the hottest teams in hockey as the Flyers have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10.

Winnipeg leaves the comfort of home to hit the road for three games. Their first stop is in Pittsburgh to face a Penguins team that lost for the first time in 11 games yesterday (Philadelphia 3-2, SO.) They'll travel to Washington for a crucial match-up versus the Caps and then head to Nashville to take on the Preds who are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and are fourth in the Western Conference.

If the Sabres are to make their move, this week is tailor-made for their success. Although Tampa Bay is troublesome for the team, solid goaltending from Ryan Miller and a few goals could lead to two points. And although Montreal is a tough divisional foe, two points looks very achievable.

If they lay an egg against these two opponents, it'll be real tough to make the playoffs as they follow with a road game vs. NY Rangers.

Opportunity is staring the team right in the face and is welcoming them with open arms. Will they embrace it?

Stay tuned.

edit:  94 points is still the goal, which equates to a 9-1-0 record.

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