It’s been no secret that the Sabres have been just a little bit better since Ted Nolan took over as the head coach. The effort is better and the team isn’t an outright embarrassment to watch on a nightly basis.
But anyone expecting the Sabres to put in the week they just had couldn’t have been serious. Nine goals in three games isn’t really all that special, I know, but during the season the Sabres are having? It’s down right magical.
My one worry is that the Sabres will play themselves out of the first overall pick when they are a rebuilding team in desperate need of a superstar draft pick. Even as their level of play has improved, I realized that they’ll likely still be the worst team in the league. They’re still four points behind Edmonton for the second worst record in the league and that’s with this winning week. So I think we’re safe.
Let’s take a look at the week in review.
12/17 vs Winnipeg
Let’s get one thing out of the way real quick here: the Jets are not good. They’re just not. Ondrej Pavelec is their starting goaltender so you probably get a fair idea of where this team is at. They work hard but they might not have the talent to compete. Kind of like Buffalo, just not as bad.
The Sabres dominated basically the entire night, save for a short stretch in the second period where Mark Scheifele picked up a pair of goals in about four seconds thanks to some really bad defense by the Sabres.
Other than that, the Sabres controlled the pace of the play, maintained extended possession in the Jets zone and outshot the Jets; a feat that doesn’t usually happen for the Sabres. Not a bad way to kick off the week.
12/19 vs Boston
This is where reality was supposed to come crashing down, seeing as the Bruins are actually a good team that will realistically contend for the Stanley Cup as they normally do. And like the Jets game, it looked really dicey in the second period when the Bruins took the lead in a matter of about four seconds.
Buffalo didn’t dominate this one – they were outshot pretty handily 36-23 – but they fought hard to stay in it through two periods before getting a rare goal from Drew Stafford in the third period to put them in the lead. The much-improved Tyler Myers applied the backbreaker just over a minute later and that was all she wrote.
I know, I know: they beat the Bruins backup but a win over the Bruins is a win over the Bruins and the Sabres aren’t likely do that much this season. To anyone. The sad part about this game is that not only did Stafford score, but so did Marcus Foligno and we’re not likely to see them score for another month or so.
12/21 @ Boston
With Tuukka Rask back in net, we’re back to the status quo. The Bruins did it across three period, scoring in each session and showed why they are an elite team. Saturday was also the debut of Linus Omark as a Sabre. Without a shootout to do crazy things in, he looked out of place.
The one silver lining in this game is that Zemgus Girgensons picked up his fourth goal of the year. He’s been a real bright spot on the Sabres and looks like he has a very bright future ahead of him as a two-way staple in the middle and maybe even captain material. I was leery about keeping him up in Buffalo simply because the team knows they’re just playing for the draft and are probably going to trade everyone come March, but he’s more than earned his place in the linenup.
It’s hard to complain about a 2-1-0 week where the one loss was to the defending Eastern Conference champions. We’ll see if the Sabres can manage repeat their newfound scoring ways or if they’ll be back to the “one goal per game” days that started the season.
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.
A long-time (and long-suffering) Buffalo sports fan. Sometimes optimistic, always weary. I write other stuff for a lot of other people.