An Up-and-Down February for the Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres have one game left against the Florida Panthers before the February 2015 portion of the schedule comes to a close. The Sabres have a 5-5-2 record in the month of February heading into this afternoon’s game against Florida. The Sabres are on a two game winning streak and they have scored ten goals during that span.

In terms of the McEichel sweepstakes, the NHL schedule isn’t very kind to the Sabres today. The Arizona Coyotes are within four points of the Sabres for last place in the NHL while the Edmonton Oilers are within three points. Arizona is on an eight game losing streak and they will roll into Boston today to faceoff against the Bruins. Meanwhile the Edmonton Oilers will host the Blues tonight and St. Louis is currently in second place in the Central Division.

Buffalo has had an up-and-down month of February but their record has improved in comparison to January. The club made a few trades shaking up the roster but is still at the bottom of the NHL standings – much to the delight of the ‘tank for McEichel’ fans. Here is a look at the Sabres’ month of February so far and a preview of tonight’s final game of the month against the Florida Panthers.

[See Also: 3 Silver Linings for the Buffalo Sabres]


A Review of February for the Buffalo Sabres

There is still one game to go for the Sabres this month but February on the whole had an assortment of peaks and valleys for the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres entered February on a historic 14-game losing streak. Buffalo did not win a single game in the month of January and, prior to their first game in February, the club’s last win came on December 27th against the New York Islanders.

The Sabres brought their 14 game losing streak into Montreal and defeated the Canadiens by a 3-2 score. They didn’t generate a ton of shots, 18 to be exact, but they capitalized on their scoring opportunities. Former Sabres’ goaltender Jhonas Enroth saved 32 of 34 shots in the match. Here is a look at Brian Gionta’s goal against his former team that turned out to be the game winner snapping the Sabres’ 14 game losing streak.

After cracking their mammoth losing streak, Buffalo lost to the St. Louis Blues by a 3-0 score. The Sabres then spoiled former head coach Lindy Ruff’s return to Buffalo with a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars. After this, Buffalo went on another losing streak with losses to the New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, and a shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils.

Buffalo has amassed a 3-2 record over their last five games. During that stretch, the club earned a shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers and regulation wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Vancouver Canucks. The Sabres dropped two games in their last five matches to the New York Rangers and to the Nashville Predators in a shootout.

A key ingredient in the Sabres’ last three wins has been the effort of Michal Neuvirth between the pipes. In the Sabres’ last three victories Neuvirth faced 116 shots and allowed just seven goals. Buffalo currently is on a two game winning streak but faces the strong possibility of more changes to the roster heading towards the NHL Trade Deadline.


The Trade Winds of February

While the Sabres entered the month of February on a historic losing streak, the club passed on the torch of setting history to the Western New York region. The temperatures of February 2015 in the Buffalo region have been historically frigid with temperatures and wind chills breaking all kinds of Buffalo weather records.

The weather outside was cold but there sure was a flurry of activity within the Sabres organization. Over the years, many have debated what the Sabres should do with former first round draft pick Tyler Myers. After having an outstanding rookie season the defender struggled to play a consistent game. Despite the Sabres’ struggles, Myers seemed to be improving this season which spawned a lot of questions surrounding whether the Sabres should keep him or trade him to address other team needs.

The Tyler Myers question was answered on February 11th when he was traded as part of a blockbuster deal to the Winnipeg Jets. The big pieces the Sabres received in the trade include Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian. While Kane is on the shelf due to injury for the rest of the season, Bogosian has already made an impact with the Sabres. My colleague at THW Chad DeDominicis explored Bogosian’s first impression in Buffalo – you can read about it here.

Buffalo also traded goaltender Jhonas Enroth back on February 11th to the Dallas Stars. In exchange for the veteran netminder, the Sabres received goaltender Anders Lindback and a 2nd round draft pick. Lindback has yet to play a game for the Sabres and he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

Sabres’ GM Tim Murray has a history of flipping goaltenders. Last season he acquired Jaroslav Halak from the St. Louis Blues in the deal for Steve Ott and Ryan Miller. Halak didn’t play a game for the Sabres before he was traded in a deal for Michal Neuvirth. Will Lindback have a similar story in Buffalo? The answer to this question may come as early as next week at this year’s NHL Trade Deadline.


Previewing the Sabres vs Panthers

The Panthers are in the thick of the Eastern Conference Wild Card race sitting just four points out of the last playoff position. Today will be an important game for Florida so the Sabres will need to play a focused effort to earn a victory. So far this season, Buffalo has a 1-3-0 record against the Cats scoring only six goals in these four games. The Sabres will need to improve on the powerplay against Florida where they have been unable to score a goal in ten opportunities with the man advantage.

This afternoon’s match between the Sabres and Panthers is expected to mark the debut of Jaromir Jagr in Florida. Jagr was acquired by the Florida Panthers earlier this week for a 2nd round pick in 2015 and a conditional 3rd rounder in 2016. According to Yahoo Sports, in 82 regular season games against the Sabres over the course of his NHL career Jagr has scored 42 goals and 98 points.

The Sabres’ next game will be played on Tuesday, March 3rd against the Tampa Bay Lightning after the NHL Trade Deadline has passed. Barring any trades before today’s match, the Sabres’ game against Florida could be the last time to see some of Buffalo’s unrestricted free agents in a Sabres’ uniform. The NHL Trade Deadline will occur on Monday at 3PM Eastern. With Buffalo currently in last place and in the possession of a number of unrestricted free agents, there likely will be changes coming to the Sabres’ roster over the course of the next few days.

[See Also: A Look Back At Tim Murray’s 2014 Trade Deadline Moves]