Sabres ‘Better Days’ Are Here

These days, fans in Buffalo and all over the world are going goo-goo over the Sabres. The team that hasn’t seen postseason action in seven years has been overhauled by general manager Jason Botterill and is riding a ten-game, franchise record-tying winning streak and is sitting in first place in the NHL.

Jack Eichel
Sabres Captain Jack Eichel is proud of the team sticking together as a group. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The pain, disappointment and “suffering” that former-Sabres GM Darcy Regier promised Sabres fans has finally changed to hope, promise and just plain fun. The morgue-like atmosphere inside KeyBank Center has turned wild, with jubilant, raucous cheers from fans. The marginally talented lineup that played as individuals has been overhauled with speed, skill and a team-first, pick-up-your-teammate attitude. Calls for Housley’s job and rants about his decision-making have disappeared like morning mist on a summer day.

Ten straight wins can change anyone’s attitude and outlook. And now that they see what this team is capable of, they want more of it. These passionate fans aren’t about to settle for anything less. Their thirst for victory has only intensified. The energy and buzz inside 716 area code is palpable. Smiles and high fives are everywhere. Cars are honking “Let’s go, Buff-a-lo.” TV ratings for games are through the roof.

Related: Sabres: From Last to First in 25 Games

Awakening Sabres Memories

After a mediocre start to the season, the Sabres are riding a magical ten-game win streak, complete with comeback victories and thrilling overtime wins. They’re sitting atop the league and are the only team in NHL history to go from last place of a season to first place the next season in a span of 25 games.

This young team has awakened memories of the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons and stirring play-by-play calls made by legendary broadcaster Rick Jeanneret. They’ve dominated some games, and in games they haven’t played their best, somehow found ways to win.

Watching Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner is prompting flashbacks of Chris Drury and Danny Briere and of Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny. They’re a threat every time they take the ice. The duo gives the team a legitimate, tangible will to win as well as a calm confidence to trust the system.

Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner
Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner is tied for the league lead in goals. (Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports)

There are heroics by different players every night. Contributions are coming from everywhere. Just like they did in 2005-06 when a total of 11 players tallied 40 or more points. The team is showing heart and are playing for one another while finding ways to win at home and on the road. It’s undeniably fun to watch them. As a result, Buffalo Sabres fans, local and afar, are emotionally ‘all in’. Even hockey fans and media members in different cities, who are cheering for their own hometown teams, are also voicing their joy in seeing the long-suffering fans of the blue and gold experience some happiness.

Staying Focused

No one saw this streak coming–there was no warning. Hockey, just like any sport, has its share of bounces and luck. While they’ve seemingly tilted in the Sabres’ favor, it’s not all coincidence. Players are making big plays. They’re hustling and creating their own chances and opportunities then capitalizing on them.

Many number-crunching analytical experts will tell you that the team’s success is not sustainable. They can’t keep winning like they’re winning. Regression is likely on the way. Carter Hutton can’t possibly keep standing on his head making countless point-blank saves and Linus Ullmark can’t go undefeated the entire season.

Carter Hutton
Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton has a 2.50 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

These are just opinions based on statistical odds. They’re not always exact, nor accurate predictors of future outcomes. Many of these naysayers are the same professionals that said last year’s Vegas Golden Knights would fall apart. The Golden Knights didn’t care what they spewed. Instead, they just kept on winning, advancing all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Sure, it may be wise and sensible to be cautious about the Sabres’ success this year. But it’s a lot more fun to embrace the team and enjoy the wild ride. To those that say ‘real hockey starts after the All-Star break’ well, phooey. It neglects all the wins and points the Sabres are banking now. Points in the first quarter of the year mean as much as those in the last quarter.

Related: Sabres Are Shattering Expectations

A Promising Start with an Uncertain Future

There’s still a lot of hockey left to play this season. So far, everything about this team has been entertaining. This team and their success is very real. They’re getting first-rate goaltending, tenacious forechecking and strong defensive play.

There’s a buzz around this young team. They’re growing together. They’re learning together. And they’re winning together. Fun, excitement and energy are all back in Buffalo. There’s a chance that maybe we’ve found better days.

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again
I need some place simple where we could live

– {excerpt from} “Better Days” by The Goo Goo Dolls

That simple place? The NHL Playoffs.

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