"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.