Sabres fans can breathe again. There’s a sense of relief and optimism in the air after a pair of clean victories this weekend.
The start to the season was ugly. There was enough evidence to say that the offensive win over Edmonton was just a fluke. There were blown leads and neither goaltender looked good enough to steal a game.
Even the word ‘tank’ surfaced in social media.
After winning just one of the first six games and blowing a three-goal, third-period lead, many were concerned about the quality of the team without Jack Eichel and Evander Kane.
We even posted an article debating whether or not the Sabres were in for a long year or could recover from the brutal start. Nearly half of those who voted said the season was toast. Some fans questioned head coach Dan Byslma after the 4-0 loss to Minnesota after he said that it was one of Buffalo’s most complete games this so far.
Alas, the mood surrounding the team took a positive turn this weekend.
Anders Nilsson earned a shutout in a 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday and Robin Lehner stopped 37 shots in a 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. Kyle Okposo found the net three times this weekend and Sam Reinhart finally got his first goal of the year.
“It’s the weekend we wanted. Taking it one game at a time, scoring early goals and closing the door. That’s the way we wanted to play. We know we didn’t need to sell the farm but we knew we had to be better. To respond like this is good but we can’t change. The next game remains the most important one.” – Ryan O’Reilly
The two wins were much-needed. The Sabres were in the basement of the league, but with four points in two days, they’re now only a few out of a playoff spot.
It’s early, but the pair of wins proved what the Sabres can do even without two of their top six forwards, and it’s something they need to continue to build on.
“We want to be a team that can stack some wins together,” Brian Gionta said. “It’s a team that is growing.”
The defense has looked better over the last couple of games, and it has assisted with the goaltending as well. The offensive contributions have been spread out, too.
The Sabres are doing well on special teams and rank in the top 10 in both the power play and penalty kill, something that hasn’t happened in a long time.
Nicolas Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching were injured in the last two games, but it’s still no reason to worry. The Sabres need to take these two games and keep the momentum rolling.
The Sabres are now 3-3-2 and have a busy month ahead that includes 14 games, half of which are against division opponents. The first test for Buffalo will be on Tuesday against Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild. Dubnyk has recorded three consecutive shutouts, one of which was against the Sabres last week.
As the calendar flips to November, the Sabres are one month closer to getting Eichel and Kane back in the lineup. This team has a lot to prove if they’re playoff worthy. Now is the time to do it.