While the Buffalo Sabres will not qualify for the playoffs, the 2015-16 season will be remembered as a season of improvement for the team.
After finishing in 30th place for the past two seasons the Sabres record has improved, the club is averaging more goals scored per game, and in an overall sense it has performed better on special teams. While the team has made strides there is still a lot of room for improvement. GM Tim Murray will need to address this during the offseason to give his club an opportunity to reach the playoffs next season.
The Sabres have won four of nine games so far in the month of March. With no post-season action in their immediate future, Buffalo will continue to battle and try to finish the season on a winning note. As the 2015-16 season winds down, here are three must-see games for the Sabres in their final ten games of the regular season.
March 29th: Sabres vs. Penguins
The Sabres have struggled against the Pittsburgh Penguins for several seasons. Buffalo has already lost their prior two games against the Penguins this season. In fact, the team’s losing streak against Pittsburgh dates back to the 2012-13 season.
Evgeni Malkin recently suffered an upper body injury which will sideline him for 6-8 weeks so he will not play against the Sabres. However, Buffalo will need to be mindful of Sidney Crosby who has excelled in recent games. While he had a slow start to the season, Crosby now has 31 goals, 72 points, and he has tallied at least one point in each of his last 10 games.
Buffalo has scored six goals against the Penguins in two games this season. Sabres’ defenseman Zach Bogosian leads the team with two goals scored against Pittsburgh. Bogosian has also gone on an offensive hot streak recently notching two goals and four points in his last five games.
March 31st: Maple Leafs vs. Sabres
Buffalo will face the Maple Leafs tonight in Toronto but their tilt on March 31st will be their final meeting of the season. The Sabres have defeated the Maple Leafs twice this season. They have outscored Toronto by a six to four margin during this span.
Nazem Kadri leads Toronto in overall points with 37 while Leo Komarov leads his club with 19 goals. At 24-35-11 and 59 points, the Maple Leafs have the NHL’s worst record. While Toronto and Buffalo are holding down the bottom two positions in the Atlantic Division, when the clubs have met they’ve played rather spirited contests.
Evander Kane has two goals and three points in Buffalo’s two games against the Maple Leafs this season. Despite the fact that Buffalo has scored six goals in two games against Toronto, the club has gone a staggering 0-8 during these games on the power play. The Sabres will look to reverse this trend on home ice when the clubs faceoff to close out the month of March.
April 2nd: Sabres vs. Rangers
While the Sabres fell to the Rangers by a 4-2 score earlier this month, Buffalo put forth a pretty solid effort. The Sabres outshot New York 36 to 26 but they had difficulty lighting the lamp against goaltender Antti Raanta. With forward Ryan O’Reilly back in the lineup, the team will head to the Big Apple to try to secure their first win against the Rangers this season.
Through 71 games, New York has a 40-23-8 record which is good for second place in the Metropolitan Division. Mats Zuccarello played a big role in the Rangers’ recent win against the Sabres notching one goal and three points. He leads his club with 53 points.
Buffalo has given up ten goals in two games against New York this season so a key to this match will be playing a stronger defensive game. This is especially important on special teams where the Rangers have converted on two of six power play opportunities against the Sabres this season. Depending on the severity of Robin Lehner’s ankle injury, Buffalo may need to rely on goaltender Chad Johnson against New York.
[See Also: Buffalo Sabres Must Improve Home Record]
The Featured Image is provided by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers.