Another week down of Sabres hockey and for the first time in a long time they are quietly in the playoff picture. Last Sunday the Sabres seized to take an opportunity losing to the Vancouver Canucks. The frustration finally reached it’s boiling point. Robin Lehner ripped into his teammates after the loss and whatever was said behind closed doors seemed to work as the Sabres were able to rattle off three wins in a row against Ottawa, Colorado, and St. Louis before suffering a home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sabres now sit 3 points out of the Leafs who hold the last wild card spot and 4 points out of the Bruins who hold the last division spot.
Let’s get to some thoughts…..
1. Robin Lehner’s comments after the 4-2 loss to the Canucks seemed to spark a little controversy. My take is that maybe he really should have kept that behind closed doors but in the heat of the moment I see his point. Lehner talked about how players aren’t listening to the coach and how it is disrespectful to Bylsma, but one quote I took away was when he said, “We’ve got to stop thinking after we win a game we’re Chicago or Boston or who we think we are. I don’t know. But it’s time to realize we’re a grinding hockey team. We’ve got to follow the structure, start listening to our coach and start respecting this team and respecting our coach.”
2. To go off that quote, for one they seem to get too high or too low after games. I think Bylsma talked about how they have to take one game at a time and try to stay right down the middle. Secondly it seems like Murray has tried to build a west coast styled team like Los Angeles who can grind it out but the players seem to think that isn’t their game. Bylsma likes to play the dump and chase wearing down the opposition and most of the time it hasn’t worked. We fail to have any consistent pressure in the zone. In the past week I felt the Sabres stuck to the structure and played solid in all three wins.
3. As I am writing this Bailey, Baptiste, and Rodrigues have been sent down to Rochester. I believe this is just a move to give Rochester some help during the Sabres bye week. I think all three should to stay up on the sabres roster once the bye week is over. This will likely not be the case but in all honesty if we want to make the playoffs these guys will help us get there. All three add speed and skill that we lack so much. Every time Bailey is on the ice he seems to make a play either on his own or forcing the other team to make a mistake. Baptiste and a goal and an assist against the Blues and he adds some speed along with toughness along the boards. Rodrigues has done all the little things right. He’s in position and he’s not afraid to battle. What’ll likely happen is Baptiste will stay in Rochester unless Reinhart is still sick in a week, Deslauriers will either get scratched or waived leaving Rodrigues to become the 4th line center once Girgensons is back, and then it will be a tough call with Bailey. Do you leave him in Rochester or do you scratch Ennis or Moulson?
4. The NHL trade deadline is almost a week away and this bye week will give us a good look if we are still in contention for a playoff spot. The Sabres have played more games than anyone in the Eastern Conference with 60 GP. Teams will have time to catch up in games played this week. If the Sabres are, say, four points out of a playoff spot come next Wednesday I don’t think we’d be in the business of buying a rental player. If GMTM makes a trade I’d think it would be for a player who will contribute past this season. If the Sabres feel that the playoffs are out of reach I think we’ll see Cody Fransona nd Dimtiry Kulikov dealt. An RFA like Girgensons (if healthy) or Foligno could possibly get dealt too. I don’t see Gionta getting dealt after he stated he’d like to stay in Buffalo and not get traded. I’d hope the organization has enough respect for Gionta after the last three years.
5. For my last thought, I’ll leave you guys with this; Doesn’t it feel good that the Sabres are playing meaningful games heading into March? I get goosebumps watching them now because I get that feeling I had when we made the playoffs in 2010 and 2011 and how exciting it was to watch the Sabres go to back to back conference finals in 2006 and 2007. This team is going to be something special once we find that consistency. Playoffs are coming back to Buffalo soon!! I can feel it!!
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