Recently, the Sabres had been on a tear, as they rocketed up the Eastern Conference standings. They went from being ridiculously lost from playoff contention to one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and a team pegged by many as destined for the post-season.
The team was half way up the mountain. Math and momentum had gotten them that far, and it was then up to the boys in Blue and Gold to decide which way to go.
That’s a screen-grab of an observation I made at the time, just before the team was to hit the ice against St. Louis. The Sabres had made it this far, but the team had seemed to pick up a sort of undecided momentum for over a week. It was a good thing that they were about to face a Blues squad that was gutted, having just traded away their captain.
Time for a surge up, and regain the momentum, the climb. It seemed guaranteed.
The Sabres were shut out, 0-3.
Since then, the team has mustered just 1 goal in two games, and 2 goals over 3. Their ardent stampede up the standings that grabbed the hearts and hope of Sabres Nation had gone all the way up to the middle of the mountain, and stopped looking up.
Never, ever, look down when climbing up a great height. Maybe that’s what the boys did.
The team is floundering now, and looks lost on the ice. Drew Stafford is suddenly not scoring goals anymore – not that anyone else is. Ryan Miller had a Vezina style game against the Capitals, but his offense was placid, while the Capitals generated 16 shots on Miller in the 1st period alone.
“We had like five unbelievable chances and we just knew Ryan Miller was in one of those zones,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We had to persevere if we were going to succeed. … We got a little bit lucky. But if you put enough shots at the net, good things usually happen.”
The Caps finished with 39 shots on Miller. That’s not good enough for a team like Buffalo, which had been working so incredibly hard to make the top 8. The Sabres now sit 4 points out of a playoff spot – and that is obviously not good enough either.
Just 4 points? That doesn’t sound too bad, until you take into account that the team has gone from stampede to seizure.
Buffalo is not alone in the hockey ER however, as the 2 teams they are chasing, the Rangers and the Hurricanes, are just 2-7-1 and 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, respectively. It would seem they are still in a good place.
Just don’t try to convince the New Jersey Devils that it is the Sabres who are in a good place now. The Devils are on fire, 9-0-1 in their last 10, and just 6 points behind Buffalo.
Mathematically, the odds for the Sabres to make the playoffs are down 6.2 to 35.2%. The Devils are clinging onto odds of just .7%.
But in the uphill playoff race, it’s not how big the number on your back is – it’s how much you let it weigh you down when you’re climbing to the top.