This week was a microcosm of the Sabres season. The Sabres came out Monday in New Jersey looking to build off a 4-0 win last week against Ottawa. Instead they failed to get much of anything going in a 2-1 loss to the Devils. The next night the Sabres play 50 minutes of bad hockey but manage to comeback from down 4-1 to beat the Sharks in OT. On Thursday they play good hockey for 40 minutes but let up 4 goals in the third to fall 5-2 to the Ducks. Then last night the Sabres came out ready to go in Toronto. Sabres went up 3-0 in the first, thanks to number one bust Jack Eichel’s three assists. Although sloppy in the second the Sabres managed to hold off the Leafs to grab a 3-1 win in Toronto.
1. The Sabres have to find some sort of consistency in their game down the stretch. Coming out slow in the first period has been a major problem with them all season. I like that they have no quit in their game when they go down a few but I’d rather not be in that situation in the first place. A winning streak of three or more games has to happen if the Sabres want to realistically make the playoffs. It starts tonight too. A win against the Canucks and the Sabres are three points out of a playoff spot.
2. I have to give this team credit for battling the way they have all season. Seems like each week another man goes down. Sabres lead the league in man games lost due to injury and have still managed to stay in the playoff race. Just this week Zemgus Girgensons went down with a mid-body injury and Cody Franson has been sidelined 2-3 weeks due to a foot injury. Both Girgensons and Franson had been playing better as of late too.
3. Obviously the Sabres need to upgrade on defense the next biggest need on Tim Murrays list should be retooling the Sabres bottom six. Last night the Sabres 4th line was Moulson-Grant-Ennis. Grant played near 10 minutes, with Moulson and Ennis playing around 6 minutes. Grant is a filler right now until the Sabres get healthy or Tim Murray finds a 4th line center he can trade for. Moulson and Ennis on the other hand are in tough situations. Moulson has been able to pot a few goals this year on the power play but hasn’t done enough when given the opportunity to play in the top 6. He has little to no trade value due to his contract so it will be interesting to see what the plan is with two years left on his contract after this. Much like Moulson, Ennis has been a disappointment. Injuries have derailed his last two years and it doesn’t look like he’ll ever get back on track. With a $4.6 million cap hit and two years left on his contract his value is slim to none.
4. How about our busts last night. Jack Eichel had three assists, Sam Reinhart had a goal and an assist, and Evander Kane scored two goals to beat the Leafs. My biggest take away though was how well the Sabres passed in the first period. When the Sabres are moving the puck like that they look like a top team in the NHL. We looked fast and controlled the pace. Reinhart’s goal was set up by a heads up play from Eichel and Okposo to exploit the Leafs defense. Okposo had a perfect feed to Reinhart and he made no mistake finishing.
5. Tim Murray has said that he is always looking to make hockey trades and deals that will help his team going forward. The biggest need is fixing our defense. With the trade deadline coming up and the expansion draft after the season it will be interesting to see how teams handle it. Right now trade talk seems to be at a standstill with all but Arizona and Colorado in the playoff race. Murray should be targeting teams like Nashville and Minnesota who both will have tough decisions when it comes to the expansion draft. Ryan Ellis or Matthias Ekholm from Nashville would certainly be enticing. Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, or Matt Dumba from Minnesota would be great additions. Add in other guys like Brandon Davidson from Edmonton and Ben Hutton from Vancouver and theres no shortage of defenseman who could be available.
The Sabres face off against the Vancouver Canucks at the KeyBank Center tonight at 7:30.
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