Published by hockeybuzz.com, 3-3-2017
It's getting to the point where "what if?" is making it's way into the vernacular. For the Sabres some of them would include, "What if Jack Eichel wasn't injured? or "What if they'd managed to get a handful of points from teams like Boston?" or "What if they'd taken care of business at Colorado and Arizona last weekend?"
Homie ain't gonna play that game. The only one to play is, "What it is."
Simple fact is the Buffalo Sabres are outside a playoff spot with multiple team to jump and 18 games remaining in the regular season. Last night they defeated the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 to snag two points with the scoreboard tilting slightly in their favor as Boston lost while Florida and Toronto got loser points. The Sabres are five points out of the second wild card spot and seven points out of third place in the division.
GM Tim Murray visited the Sabres locker room yesterday to talk to his troops, something he rarely does. The NHL Trade Deadline came and went with no movement involving Buffalo. Everyone knew the names that could've been moved--Dmitry Kulikov, Cody Franson and Brian Gionta--but none were moved and, considering the Sabres were in a 0-3-1 rut, no one was brought in to bolster the club.
The trade deadline is a tough time for players, especially those with families, as uncertainty reigns supreme well into the late afternoon. With the team in the dressing room getting ready for the game Murray went in and talked to his team. After the meeting he went on air with WGR550 an talked about it. "This is our team," Murray said about his talk. "We're relatively healthy right now and we're going to play as hard as we can and get as many points as we can. D-day has gone by. This is our team. You're here. There's 19 games left and let's see what we can do."
And he reiterated his faith in his team, "It's late. It's getting down to the nitty gritty for sure and it's going to be tough and I still believe these players can get it done. Maybe it's false belief. I don't know. I told them I believe in them."
That resonated well amongst those gathered. According to media reports, Ryan O'Reilly said "it was something we needed to hear" while Eichel embraced the team unity aspect about "everyone caring for each other, and everyone gets better and moves forward."
Marcus Foligno said that "everyone in the organization is on the same page. That's what it was" then concluded "Being on the same page and hearing it from Tim was nice. You hear it from your general manager and everyone is going to listen and respect what he said to us."
It kinda makes you what if Murray....
Nope. Ain't gonna go there.
Murray's team responded with a good win that was closer than the score indicated. Buffalo played their usual Jekyll and Hyde game where sometimes they look like world-beaters and at other times they can't help but stumble over themselves. They had a great night on special teams with two powerplay goals and a shortie by Foligno who was set up by some hard work by O'Reilly. But they also gave up a short handed goal and allowed the Coyotes to tie the score twice before pulling away.
Evander Kane, "Mr. Five-on-Five," sent a laser past Arizona goalie Mike Smith to put the Sabres up 4-3 and Buffalo would add two empty net goals by Foligno and Sam Reinhart for the final score.
There's a big test for the Sabres coming on Saturday when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightining in a "four-point" game. Tampa is one point ahead of Buffalo in the standings with two games in hand and they'll make up one of those games tonight as they're in Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins.
The Sabres haven't fared well against the Bolts lately. They're 0-2 so far this season and went 1-3 vs. Tampa Bay last year. However, tomorrow night's game represent a prime opportunity for Buffalo as they're at home and Tampa's will be coming in for the second game of a back-to-back roadie.
Murray speech yesterday did some good, but how long it will last remains to be seen.