Published by hockeybuzz.com, 2-26-2018
The Boston Bruins are going to the playoffs.
The Buffalo Sabres are not.
Boston has made three trades to bolster their roster for a playoff run.
Buffalo has not made any trades.
The two Atlantic Division foes played yesterday evening in the final game of their four-game season series.
These are the games at this point that amount to the little stanley cups the Sabres find themselves playing for in the final 20 or so games left in a wretched season. It wasn't supposed to be this way for Buffalo, and least not to this extreme, but this is what it's come down to.
The Sabres have done surprisingly well this season against the Bruins and after their win yesterday finished the series by going 3-1-0 against he Bruins which included two wins in Boston. Former Bruin Chad Johnson is the architect of Buffalo's last two wins as he's allowed Boston only three goals while the Sabres scored four in each of those contests.
Buffalo came to play brought their collective lunch pail to the rink yesterday and weathered a tough second period where the Bruins had them pinned in their own zone for well over two minutes which included two forced icings late in the stanza, came out. Yet they were able to head into the second intermission with holding a 3-1 lead. At 3:22 of the third period, Marco Scandella scored to make it 4-1 and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over.
The Sabres powerplay was working last night and even though the stat sheet says they went 1-5, their first and last goals were scored just seconds after the Bruins killed off a penalty. Buffalo's Benoit Pouliot opened the scoring just :11 seconds after Brad Marchand finished serving his two minute minor and Scandella's tally was only :06 seconds after Kevin Millar returned from his tripping penalty.
At the end of the game there were a lot of smiles emanating from the Blue and Gold and the win over the Bruins will be a nice send off for a number of players who will probably be playing for another team after 3 pm EST today.
The big name on Buffalo's trade list is Evander Kane who's been held out the last two games in anticipation of him being moved today. Defenseman Josh Gorges was also a healthy scratch but one can never tell if it was to keep him safe or because he's been splitting time all season with Justin Falk. The 33 yr. old Gorges, like Kane, is pending unrestricted free agent who had played in 28 of Buffalo's 62 games this season.
Johnson is also a pending UFA who's been finding his groove lately going 4-2-0 in his last six starts while allowing 13 goals on 185 shots (.930 Sv%.) We're pretty sure one of him or starter Robin Lehner will be on the move today so his one-goal on 35 shots-against yesterday would be a nice way to end his season in Buffalo. The same would go for Pouliot as he tallied yesterday. Interest in the former fourth-overall pick (2005) and pending UFA has perked up a bit in depth-role. A playoff bound team looking to bolster their fourth line could use a player like Pouliot who has twelve goals on the season and can play the penalty kill. Both Johnson and Pouliot wouldn't be bad re-signs for the Sabres in the off season either should they end up being traded today.
Other Sabres' players of interest could include two-time Stanley Cup-winning depth forward Jordan Nolan, depth forward Jacob Josefson (another former first rounder) and possibly Falk, all of whom are pending UFA's.
But of those seven UFA's, Kane, Johnson and Pouliot are the most likely to be gone after today with an outside chance that Gorges could be moved to a playoff-bound team looking for defensive depth.
The mantra when it comes to returns has been pretty consistent for a while. In the case of Kane a high pick (preferably a first rounder) and a mid-upper level prospect would seem to be a fair price with the Sabres retaining salary if necessary while also taking on a large NHL salary in return. Should all those factors come into player, the amount of money Buffalo is willing to eat in the process could mean a low-round draft pick added into the equation.
For the likes of Pouliot, a low-round pick (5th-7th rounder) may be apropos while a backup goalie like Johnson may fetch a fourth-rounder. If the Sabres could get a sixth or seventh round pick for Gorges, I think they'd be very happy.
Such is the trade deadline where speculation becomes realization and those on the selling side of the equation are left looking at futures while the buyers are looking towards the playoffs.
We in Sabreland know the routine.