Week 10: Three and Oh NO!

Congrats, Enzo!  Named 1st star of the week by NHL.com.  Photo from The Buffalo News

Congrats, Enzo! Named 1st star of the week by NHL.com. Photo from The Buffalo News

They’ve gone and done it. They’re once again out of a top three pick, and we’re only 10 games away from the halfway point of the season. A win on Monday night against the struggling Ottawa Senators would jump the Sabres up to 22nd, only four points out of a playoff spot. Those of us who had embraced the tank and consoled ourselves with dreams of McDavid or Eichel are now holding a cold iron shell of what a potentially awful season could result in.

Week 10 had the potential to bury the Sabres. It started on Tuesday night, when Buffalo faced the reigning Stanley Cup champs, the LA Kings. The Kings have had some struggles, but they’re floating around a low playoff spot, which is their most comfortable position. Buffalo had just come off of two tough losses – one merciless 5-0 rout at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the other, a disappointing loss to the Florida Panthers, in which the Sabres gave up the game winning goal in the waning seconds of the third period. The table was set for the Kings to come into Buffalo and put together a solid win. The problem was, as it has been as of late, that no one told goalie Jhonas Enroth that. Enroth and the Sabres stuck it out against the Kings, taking a 0-0 game into the third, when Tyler Ennis would score his eighth of the year and the only goal of the game. Enroth stopped all 34 shots that the Kings unleashed on him, for his first shutout in over 18 months. Despite only producing 16 shots, the power play was able to beat Jonathan Quick to secure the victory. The power play has notably been a focus for Sabres practices, and it seems that the extra work is paying off.

enroth rinkroyalty

Enroth stood tall to earn his first shutout in nearly two years. Photo from rinkroyalty.com

Thursday night, the surging Calgary Flames came to town. Calgary was predicted to be joining Buffalo in the Mission for McDavid race to the bottom, but the Flames have put together a solid season so far, and by all rights, should have had a fairly easy game against the Sabres. The Flames were able to overcome two different one goal deficits, and even took the lead early in the third, but Zemgus Girgensons, who leads the team with nine goals, tied the game at three. Minutes later, Matt Moulson put the Sabres up for good. The Flames threw everything but the kitchen sink at Enroth, who faced 45 shots on the night, but he was strong on the power play, making 7 of 8 saves, and the offense capitalized on the few scoring chances they were able to get.

A good team win against Calgary. Photo from canada.com

A good team win against Calgary. Photo from canada.com

Saturday, the Florida Panthers came to visit the First Niagara Center. The Panthers came into Buffalo following a win in Detroit the night before and had won five straight games against the Sabres. Their confidence seemed to diminish when Cody Hodgson (who had watched the Flames game from the press box, a punishment for his poor play) opened the scoring just past the two minute mark, and Marcus Foligno added another tally before the end of the first period. The Panthers came out of the locker room strong and scored at 1:08 in the second and another just a few minutes later. The Panthers took the lead early in the third, again scoring seemingly out of the gate, but at 8:27, captain Brian Gionta scored to tie the game. Just 29 seconds into the overtime period, rookie Nikita Zadorov set up on the back door of Florida’s Montoya and banged home a pass from Ennis for the win. The shots were fairly even in the game – an occurrence that Buffalo has not seen often, but it was nice to see them get a good possession game going.

Hodgson's trip to the press box paid off as he scores on Saturday night.  Photo from buffalohockeybeat.com

Hodgson’s trip to the press box paid off as he scores on Saturday night. Photo from buffalohockeybeat.com

Buffalo has a tough week ahead, with a pair of back-to-back games. The first set is winnable if the Sabres can continue to play to their strengths the way they have been. Monday, the Sabres face the Ottawa Senators, who are only three points better than Buffalo and have not been playing well. They’ll next play the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Winnipeg is playing well lately, and if the playoffs were to start today, they’d hold the 8th spot in the West. The last time these two teams met, the Jets pulled out a 2-1 win, but their record on the road is almost twice as good as their home record. The Sabres may be able to take the first two games this week.

Colorado's young captain would like to see a better effort from the floundering team. Photo from NHL.com

Colorado’s young captain would like to see a better effort from the floundering team. Photo from NHL.com

The weekend is a bit more formidable. Saturday, the Sabres will face the Colorado Avalanche. Colorado has been spiraling downward for most of the season and are only one point better than the Sabres at the time I’m writing this. The Avs have only four road wins on the season, and it seems like the Sabres could pull out a win, but I don’t think they do. Colorado is loaded with talent, and they just haven’t gelled, but the leadership on the team may be looking to make an example of an Eastern Conference opponent. Sunday, the Sabres travel to Boston to face the Bruins. In their first meeting, the Bruins made the Sabres look foolish. The Sabres saved some face in their last meeting on October 30th, giving it a good go but losing 3-2 in overtime. The Bruins have been suffering from injury woes for some time, but many of their players have begun to return to the ice. A re-energized Boston team is capable of almost anything, and that includes reminding Buffalo of their weaknesses and the fact that the Bruins have routinely dominated the Sabres. Buffalo could come out of this week 3-1, but I think it is more likely they’ll end up 2-2.

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One Comment on “Week 10: Three and Oh NO!”

  1. erikwollschlager December 20, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    Reblogged this on ewollschlager and commented:

    Playoffs or McDavid?

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