With April just around the corner, and only 9 games left in the regular season for the Buffalo Sabres, time is quickly running out on the 2011-12 NHL calendar.
While the Sabres were busy trouncing the beleaguered Tampa Bay Lightning last night, 7-3, the Detroit Red Wings did Buffalo no favors by dropping their game against the Washington Capitals, 5-3. The results kept Buffalo two points out of the final playoff spot.
Two measly points. One victory. That is all that separates the Sabres from the post-season dance. Although it does not seem like much, there are some tough games left on the schedule. The final 9 games includes 4 games against the top 4 teams in the East (Rangers, Bruins, Flyers, Penguins); 4 games against struggling teams (Maple Leafs twice, Canadiens, Minnesota); and an all-important matchup with the Capitals next week.
The people over at Sports Club Stats have calculated the Sabres as having only a 15.5% chance of grabbing that final playoff spot. Washington sits with a solid 73% chance, and even Winnipeg has better odds than Buffalo, with a 16.2%.
If the Sabres want to make the playoffs, they cannot afford to squander many more points out of the 18 available in the final games. My guess is that Buffalo can only afford to lose 2 games in regulation, maximum, to get in to the postseason.
Ryan Miller will need to keep standing on his head. The defense cannot have any lapses in judgement. The Ennis-Foligno-Stafford line will need to stay hot. Hopefully, Vanek can wake up from his slump, and get back into the beast-mode he was in earlier this season.
The next game is tomorrow against Montreal.
Get those 2 points Buffalo!