It was a real good weekend for the Sabres.
Two games, only one goal against, four of four points, a rise to 10th place in the standings.
That's the good news.
Unfortunately they have only five games left, they're four points back of the Rangers having played two more games and still only have a slim chance to make the playoffs. What's worse, they've gone from 27th in the league to 21st, which means they'd be picking 10th or 11th (dependent upon who wins the lottery) if the draft were today.
There's a vocal minority of fans who are booing this move up the standings. Their cry, "They even suck at sucking!" Their goal: Tank for a top-three pick.
They have a point. Why win now?
There were three opportunities throughout this shortened season to gain valuable points. Three times they went on four-game winless streaks.
The first one straddled the end of the Lindy Ruff era and the beginning of the Ron Rolston era. Four games, no points.
After a three-game winning streak, they proceeded to go four games without a win. Four games, this time two points.
With the team on the rise late in the month of March, they headed to the Sunshine State on a three-game winning streak, then proceeded to lose both games. They followed that up with two more losses at home. Four games, one point.
That pretty much sealed their fate for this season--out of the playoffs.
In addition, that pretty much brought to an end the era of Darcy Regier's "core."
I've often felt that Rolston's time behind the bench was more of an evaluation period to see who could do what moving forward. Regier pretty much conceded the season at the deadline when he moved captain Jason Pominville for picks and prospects. No "build for the future while adding for the present" like he did the previous year with the trade for Cody Hodgson.
The roster shuffle brought in more youngins from the trade deadline through this weekend including two young defenseman, Mark Pysyk and Chad Ruhwedel.
Pysyk, a 2010 first round pick (#23 overall,) was brought in after Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr were traded and Alexander Sulzer was lost for the season.
He is a defensive defenseman who plays a simple game. A first year pro, Pysyk has shown immense poise in his own end and seems to always be in position.
Not bad for a 21 yr. old.
When Tyler Myers went down with a season-ending injury, the Sabres did not bring up a young d-man from Rochester.
They signed one of the better prospects out of college in Ruhwedel.
"Rudy" spent three seasons with U-Mass Lowell and his team just lost in the Frozen Four. He sat down with his coach before deciding to make the jump to the NHL a mere two days later.
In a perfect storm for the first team All-American, the Sabres needed a defenseman, while he was looking to sign with a team that would give him a shot in the NHL immediately. With the Sabres down to five defenseman, in he went for the afternoon game vs. Philly.
At 5" 11" 188 lbs., "Rudy" is on the smaller side for a defenseman, but he seems to play much bigger. He has two games under his belt and has acquitted himself very well with an even plus/minus rating in 24 total minutes of ice time.
For some nice background on the 22 yr. old and his whirlwind weekend, visit Bill Hoppe.
In addition to the new bodies on defense, Luke Adam also got another shot with the big club.
He played in four games and scored a goal, but was a healthy scratch--in favor of John Scott-- the last two, which is not a good sign for him.
Scott has been playing really well for the team and has been earning his minutes. He played a season-high 10:43 vs Tampa yesterday.
He's doing a lot of things well on the ice in addition to his enforcer role. He seems to be skating real well (for him,) his positioning has been real sound, and he's leveling some players in the open ice.
This is not to say that he's a top-six or even a top-nine player, but he is showing signs that he might be able to stay in his enforcer role while playing fourth-line minutes.
Oh, and he's pretty funny too, adding a bit of levity to a bleak Sabres season by punkin' the youngins.
Scott was on a line with Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno over the weekend forming a pretty beefy line.
Interesting to note that Foligno centered the trio.
The Sabres have a lot of skill up the middle, but lack size (Adam was to have addressed that,) and Foligno at center certainly would address that.
In two games at center he's done very well on the dot winning 15 of 19 draws.
Obviously there's more to the center position than just faceoffs (just ask Paul Gaustad,) but it's an intriguing stat none the less.
Also, playing the center position forces a player to be fully engaged on the ice. At 21 Foligno has had his up moments where he's a power forward causing havoc in front of the net and along the boards and he's had his down moments where he doesn't move his feet.
Not sure what will happen, but in a year like this, why not see what he has at center?
I mean, they're already using a defenseman who's fresh out of college in their top-six.
What can it hurt at this point of the season?