If there’s one thing the new regime changing in Buffalo has brought about, it’s that the Sabres aren’t going to be steamrolled like they were earlier in the season.
Granted, the losses keep piling up, but the Sabres haven’t been an easy out since Ted Nolan was brought on as head coach and Pat Lafontaine as VP of Hockey Operations for the organization.
The Sabres had an okay week, going 1-1-1 against their three Eastern Conference foes. After a 3-1 loss on home ice to the Canadiens, the Sabres rebounded with an overtime victory against their rivals from Toronto. They followed that up the next night with a 1-0 overtime loss to the Devils.
Anyone who expected this team to start winning more is delusional, but it is refreshing to see the team has elevated their basic understanding of the simpler points of the game. Like “don’t leave guys standing open in front of the net” and “shoot the puck”.
Here’s the week ahead.
12/5 vs New York Rangers
After a four-night rest, the Sabres get Rangers. The Manhattanites started the season slowly but have since surged into third place in the pretty-mediocre Metropolitan Division.
The Rangers have been treading water of late and on the season as a whole, as indicated by their 14-13-0 record. To be fair, they spent most of that time without star winger Rick Nash (who has been back a little bit now with nine points in 10 games), but part of their struggles are defensively. They are middle of the pack in the East; a far cry from their status near the top of the conference that had become a yearly thing.
Henrik Lundqvist has also been apart of the probably. That sentence in itself seems odd to type given his standing as one of the best goaltenders in the game the last several years, but here we are. He’s limping along with an 8-11-0 record, a 2.51 GAA and .917 save percentage. He’s had his streaks, but consistency has escaped him. If the Rangers want to hang around the playoff picture, they’ll need more from The King.
12/7 @ Montreal
The Sabres have struggled with the Habs this season and rightfully so. They are just two points back of Detroit for second place in the Atlantic Division and are one of the hottest teams in the East right now with a 7-1-2 record in their last 10 games.
Continuing to lead the way is PK Subban, who isn’t without some controversy. There has been some issue as to whether or not the superstar defenseman is being utilized properly at the end of games. Still, he leads the team with 19 assists and 23 points so far and will be on Norris Trophy watch once again.
It’s the same story when the Sabres face them: the Habs are small but skilled. They can do a ton of damage if you don’t put some bodies on them and goaltender Carey Price is capable of shutting the door any night of the week.
Prediction for the week: 1-1-0
Ryan is a lead writer for The Hockey Writers as well as editor for Mile High Sticking and co-owner of The Farm Club. Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things puck, Bills football, or his hatred of all things Philly.