Ryan Miller is being the goaltender the Buffalo Sabres need Ryan Miller to be. Sharp, focused, and ready to bail his team out when mistakes are made. Despite the current points streak that the Buffalo Sabres are on, and the routing of the Boston Bruins in that stretch, the Buffalo Sabres are still far from a Stanley Cup caliber team, and need Ryan Miller to stand on his heads some nights to keep the winning going.
Tonight just might be that night. The Tampa Bay Lightning are in town, and the Buffalo Sabres had to dig deep last night to beat the Dallas Stars. There will probably be some guys who have very little left in the tank late in tonight’s game.
Similar to the number prior to the Boston game Wednesday night, this is the third meeting of the two teams, and the Lightning have outscored the Sabres 7-3, and are 2-0 against the Sabres so far this year. The Lightning have not beaten the Sabres three times in a row since March of 2003. While both teams enter tonight game looking to stay hot and stay alive in the playoff race, the Buffalo Sabres need this game to end in regulation, with them having more goals than their opponents.
While tonight’s game is important to put space between the Buffalo Sabres and the teams below them, the Sabres also need to catch some teams ahead of them, and earning points is the only way to do it.
The Sabres have 28 contests left on the schedule including tonights game. Five of those games are against teams in the Western Conference. That means you have 23 games left against teams in your conference who are looking to get points. While not mathematically eliminated, the Carolina Hurricanes have played the second most games in the East, and are in dead last – realistically their season is over and they get to play the role of spoiler for the rest of the season. Everyone else in the East has has just as much chance (or a better chance) at making the playoffs as the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo, Montreal, New York [Islanders], and Tampa are all teetering on the edge of still contending or playing for pride. Of those 23 games left in the East, nine of them are against teams in the Northeast division. The Sabres have games in hand on everyone in the division except Boston who is, despite a stretch of bad games recently, running away with the Northeast.
I am not saying the Sabres are a lock, but they continue to play this way, chipping away at the point spread – they could still make the playoffs. With every win, their chances increase.