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Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

Sabres aren't good for my sanity



"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in". Those words, uttered by Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part Three explain exactly how I feel about the Buffalo Sabres.

Saturday's game against Winnipeg was a microcosm of the season and the latest example of just how crazy this team can make its fans.

Trailing 3-1 after two periods and showing very little signs of life, I was ready to write off the game. What made it even more depressing was the fact that two former Sabres, Drew Stafford and Joel Armia, had scored for the Jets.

But the Sabres dominated the third period, scored three goals, had a highlight reel thundering hit by Jake McCabe on Patrick Laine, and rallied for the all important two points. Actually any win is important when you look at the Sabres current spot in the Atlantic Division.

The win over Winnipeg capped a week where the Sabres went to New York and beat the Rangers(currently 4th in the league standings) and managed to get a point out of Chicago from the Blackhawks(# 2 in NHL in points). 

I didn't see that coming after those back to back losses to Boston.  Those were two huge games and it couldn't have gone much worse. They left me feeling like the season was over for all intents and purposes. Kind of like how I felt in week two of the NFL season after the Bills were beaten by the Jets to drop to 0-2.

This is just par for the course for the Sabres though.  During those nightmare days when Jack Eichel was injured, the Sabres had a stretch in November where they lost six straight games and scored a total of six goals. 

It appeared the Sabres would bury themselves before Eichel would get back but somehow they beat Pittsburgh in a shootout and followed that up with a victory over Calgary.

In mid December, Buffalo dropped four in a row which featured back to back shootout losses at Carolina and Florida.  The next two defeats came on home ice to the Hurricanes and Islanders with the Sabres managing a whopping two goals!

But they managed to beat Detroit to end the skid and inject a little hope back in the season.

They still don't score enough at even strength, their group of defensemen needs a serious overhaul and there are too many nights where the Sabres appear to be sleepwalking in the first period. But then there are games or parts of games where you think they shouldn't have a problem competing for third place in the division and the corresponding playoff spot.

Ryan O'Reilly is a tremendous player and is already one of my all time favorite Sabres to watch because of the many assets he brings to the ice.  O'Reilly has 10 points in his last 11 games.

Sam Reinhart's  goal production pace is down from last season but his play making ability is shining through. Reinhart has nine points in his last nine games.

Evander Kane is playing like the player Tim Murray expected to get when he swung the blockbuster deal with Winnipeg.  Kane, who didn't score a goal in his first 12 games of the season, has nine in his last 16 games.

Marcus Foligno, who is getting top six time, has three goals in five games.  Even Zemgus Girgensons is showing signs of life.  The native of Latvia has looked lost in Dan Bylsma's system and had just two goals in 32 games.  Girgensons now has three goals in his last seven games.

But the big factor is, of course, the presence of Eichel.  In the 21 games he missed due to the high ankle sprain, the Sabres totaled 19 points.  If you project that out over a full 82 game season it comes to 74 points.

In the 18 games since Eichel returned to the ice, Buffalo has 20 points.  Over a full season that projects to 91 points.  Yes, other players have been in and out of the lineup but Eichel's presence makes all the difference.

Now we need to see some consistency.  Hopefully the Sabres team we saw in the third period against Winnipeg, that aggressive, hard skating, energy filled group, shows up more often than not.


01/09/2017 11:05AM
Sabres aren't good for my sanity
Please enter your comments below.
01/09/2017 1:01PM
On the cusp...
This team is frustrating to watch, however, I am definitely excited by the fire that ROR and Eichel bring to this team. The Sabres may not be a playoff team this season, but I am really looking forward to the trade deadline, free agency, and the dropping of dead weight from this roster so that they will be a legitimate playoff contender in the seasons that lie ahead.
01/09/2017 2:01PM
Something about the Bills
I'm hearing the Bills and Rams were feeling good about the prospects of Buffalo interim coach Anthony Lynn". - Peter King, 1/8/17. This just makes me more and more angry. Why are the Pegulas and Whaley conducting this search? Would they really let a two hour interview with a STRANGER supersede the experience of watching and admiring the work of Lynn over the course of two years? Hire the man.
01/09/2017 3:50PM
Shilltime 550
the Sabres lack elite talent. Although William Carrier, Bailey and Baptiste all have potential, none are sure things, which is troubling considering Buffalo’s goal-scoring woes. who can they even trade at this point to get elite talent? Who wants themto make playoffs when they aren't close to being a top team and need depth and have no true goaltender? Keep hearing about Murray and so forth but has more to show me.
01/09/2017 5:57PM
There are teams always at the top. Then...
teams that are always at the middle or bottom. Sabres and Bills are always in the middle. You should have gone insane a long time ago Simon. Youre used to these middle teams. I think now were all insane and just perfecting the insanity
01/09/2017 8:14PM
re: Shilltime 550
The Sabres have plenty of elite talent, they just need time to develop. You don't just "go get" most of your high end talent. You draft it and develop it, which takes time. The Sabres will be a very good team.. just not a mere 2 out of their rebuild. Patience.
01/10/2017 8:44AM
Sabres aren't good ......
The talent is there,they just need more time playing together.Eichel & Reinhart are still very young(20 & 21) and will improve with a little more NHL experience.They show a heck of a lot more promise than the Bills that's for sure.
01/10/2017 9:10AM
Number 1 D, Number 1 C
Not something a lot of teams have. A franchise d-man and a franchise center. We have to at least be grateful for that, and they are both under the age of 23. I'll echo the sentiments of everyone else on here. Fix the defense surrounding cast, drop the dead weight up, and continue building confidence in Lehner/Nilsson. The two Swedes together project nicely and although I don't "love" Lehner, if he can get the job done, I don't care. P.S.S ROR & Reinhart are so unbelievable underrated it's scary.
01/10/2017 9:23AM
They left me feeling like the season was over.....
You're a real die-hard Howard. The seasons not even half over yet and your ready to write them off. Half season to go, if you've been paying attention at all, anything can happen in sports.
01/10/2017 10:34AM
Re: Shilltime 550
I am not sure what you mean by saying the Sabres lacks elite talent. Sure the 3 prospects you listed have good potential but you complete passed by the elite that is on the team like Eichel, Reinhart, O’Reilly, Okposo, Ristolainen, and I would argue McCabe is showing signs of being an elite defender with his play this year. Kane has even been showing signs of being the elite forward we traded for 2 years ago. For prospects I think you overlooked some high end to elite talent like Guhle, who in his emergency call up at the age of 19 as defender was great and on both ends of the ice. You also failed to mention Nylander who I think will be an elite scoring wing when he makes the big club. Fasching also still has really good up side though I’m not sure if you can call him elite in the near future. As we stand this season Eichel has missed 21 games that’s over half the games we have played so far and he is supposed to be our best player and the difference from him playing and being is very noticeable. Bogosian missed 20 games and Kulikov missed 19 games, that our second par defensemen out half of the games we have played so far and a lot of that was at the same time. Ennis has been out for 27 games and counting. Kane has missed 11 games and O’Reilly has missed 10 games. The sky is not falling with the players we have. We have some great talent on this team but we have a lot of young players that are learning to be more consistent and as constructed this will be a playoff team once we get people healthy and get some more complete games rather then flashes greatness surrounded mediocre play which is what happens when you have that many injuries. It takes time build a consistent winner and the Sabres are on the right track from what I am seeing.
01/10/2017 10:38AM
Oh Yeah!
Well...If Risto goes down we could be just as bad as without Eichel...
01/10/2017 10:47AM
Re: Shilltime 550
I am not sure what you mean by saying the Sabres lacks elite talent. Sure the 3 prospects you listed have good potential but you complete passed by the elite that is on the team like Eichel, Reinhart, O’Reilly, Okposo, Ristolainen, and I would argue McCabe is showing signs of being an elite defender with his play this year. Kane has even been showing signs of being the elite forward we traded for 2 years ago. For prospects I think you overlooked some high end to elite talent like Guhle, who in his emergency call up at the age of 19 as defender was great and on both ends of the ice. You also failed to mention Nylander who I think will be an elite scoring wing when he makes the big club. Fasching also still has really good up side though I’m not sure if you can call him elite in the near future. As we stand this season Eichel has missed 21 games that’s over half the games we have played so far and he is supposed to be our best player and the difference from him playing and being is very noticeable. Bogosian missed 20 games and Kulikov missed 19 games, that our second par defensemen out half of the games we have played so far. Ennis has been out for 27 games and counting. Kane has missed 11 games and O’Reilly has missed 10 games. The sky is not falling with the players we have. We have some great talent on this team but we have a lot of young players that are learning to be more consistent and as constructed this will be a playoff team once we get people healthy and get some more complete games rather then flashes greatness surrounded mediocre play which is what happens when you have that many injuries. It takes time build a consistent winner and the Sabres are on the right track from what I am seeing.
01/10/2017 2:40PM
scoring?what scoring?
just look at the GF and the GA nope this team is at least two more years away, so if your two years away why not let Bailey and Baptiste get two years of playing time in the NHL. Also draft a $HIT DISTURBER like Marchant.
01/10/2017 3:54PM
Feel Badly for Eichel
The "top tier" talent he'll always be compared against at the top of recent drafts all made the All-Star squads except him. Of course he missed roughly 1/4 of the season, but still ... Even Toronto's A. Matthews made it.
01/11/2017 10:42AM
Re: Feel Badly For Eichel & Nylander
What do you mean? In Eichel's draft year, you have McDavid, Strome, Marner and Hanifin? Only McDavid made the All-Star team. You don't give it to someone who missed half the season. He will be there every year going forward. Nylander is an even better playmaker than shooter. He will be dynamite in a couple of years. Better than his older brother, IMO.
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