If the Sabres finally want to get back to the playoffs, this may be their best chance in recent years.
Coming into the season, I expected the Sabres to be a fringe playoff team that could battle for one of the final Wild Card spots. Based on what I’ve seen from this team over the first two and a half months, that expectation really hasn’t changed too much.
The one thing that has changed is the fact that the Atlantic Division is performing horribly so far with the exception of the Boston Bruins. Only two teams (Boston and Tampa Bay) have recorded more wins than losses so far this season.
And although the Lightning currently sit in 6th in the Atlantic, they have multiple games in hand on every team in the division. By comparison, the Sabres are in second and at the moment still have the fourth-worst odds to win the Atlantic.
Winning the division would be a big achievement, but catching Boston seems nearly impossible right now. The Bruins have been playing extremely well, especially on home ice, where they are 12-1-5. The Bruins have 48 points but could’ve had even more if they won any of the four shootouts that they’ve had.
Boston may not be caught in the division, but the two spots below them are there for the taking. The Sabres are in the 2nd one, but there is only a four-point gap between them and the 6th-placed Lightning.
Can the Sabres hold down a top spot in the Atlantic?
While the Wild Card can still remain a possibility, it’s a fallback option. We’ve seen stretches of good hockey from Buffalo and stretches of awful hockey.
Well it's pretty obvious how @Jackeichel15's grabbed points in 15 straight games… 😳 pic.twitter.com/BdJM9zDnMv
— NHL (@NHL) December 13, 2019
They’re likely to end up somewhere in the middle as a relatively inconsistent team. That might end up working out fine if they can keep this up.
Right now, they have a five-game point streak and points in nine of their last 10 games.
Still, they’ve lost 18 games and won just 16. They just happen to lead the league in losses in overtime/shootout with 7. So they’re managing to get points despite losing games.
I still don’t believe the Sabres are that good of a team, but when over half the league makes the playoffs, you don’t have to be. And with the division as weak as it has been, Buffalo can take advantage and win those divisional matchups.
It’s hard not to imagine Tampa Bay and Toronto moving up the ladder, but Buffalo could not only make the playoffs this season, but they could also even get home-ice advantage. Either way, they need to keep racking up points as they have done lately. We’re a few weeks away from the halfway point of the season and I’d certainly take the fact that Buffalo could be 2nd in the division.