It’s crunch time, Sabres’ fans!
The season we feared we would never see is about to end in a fearful fashion: with the Buffalo Sabres failing to make the playoffs for the second straight year.
Mathematically, the Sabres are still alive, so no one is putting the final nails in their coffin just yet. However, I have already spent a good deal of time imploring readers to maintain an optimistic mindset. Today I will play the role of Devil’s advocate and assume that the Sabres are not playoff bound. If that is the case, it is easy to dismiss the remaining eight games of their schedule as “meaningless” – in which case, you’d be wrong, bucko! With the playoffs so close, and a gaggle of teams still doing their damnedest to make it into the post season, a team like the Sabres is dangerous, indeed. After all, a team that has been eliminated from the post season has nothing to lose . . . but those teams still trying to get in have EVERYTHING to do lose. Misery loves company, as they like to say, and teams that have missed the playoffs love to be the spoiler, and in a shortened season like this, that means they are no meaningless games on the schedule!
Here, then, in the order that the Sabres will face them, are the five teams whose playoff hopes could be significantly altered, or downright destroyed, by the upstart Buffalo Sabres.
Montreal Canadiens: currently 2nd in the Northeast Division, 4th in the Eastern Conference, with 55 points
Montreal was idle last night, which means they got to sit in front of their TVs and watch the Boston Bruins pass by them in the Northeast Division. Just like that, they went from 2nd in the Eastern Conference to 4th, and a loss to Buffalo would hurt their chances of regaining their division lead. I don’t love Montreal, but I love the Boston Bruins even less, so I am no hurry to see the Sabres damage the Canadiens’ chances of winning the Northeast.
Boston Bruins: currently 1st in the Northeast Division, 2nd in the Eastern Conference, with 56 points
Ah, the hated Bruins. Sitting pretty as the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins would undoubtedly prefer to hold on to the spot, as it means they would not have to face the Pittsburgh Penguins until the Eastern Conference Finals. Losing their lead in the Northeast Division, however, would drop the Bruins into 4th place in the East, setting up a date with the Penguins in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Wouldn’t it be great to see the Sabres take 4 out of 5 from Boston this year, and knock the divisional crown off of their heads? Yes, indeed!
New York Rangers: currently 3rd in the Atlantic Division, 8th in the Eastern Conference, with 44 points
The Rangers are one of the teams that bleacher report claims no one wants to play in the playoffs. Hmmm. Seems to me, the way these guys score goals – get it? Because they don’t! – everyone in the NHL would love to see this team taking the ice with them come the playoffs. Of all the teams on this list, the Rangers are probably the team the Sabres could hurt the most, since they are only one loss away from potentially being out of 8th place in the East. I don’t have any feelings for the Rangers, but my kid has a teammate who is a huge Rangers fans, so what the hell! I’ll pull for these under-achievers to squeak into the playoffs.
Winnipeg Jets: currently 2nd in the Southeast Conference, 9th in the Eastern Conference, with 42 points
Every point counts for this team right about now, as they are currently the “Close but no cigar” team on this list. A nice stretch of games, and they could shoot by one, if not both, of the New York teams on this list. A stumble here or there, however, and it will be a second consecutive disappointing year for the team to the north. I would kind of like to see this team make the playoffs, because Winnipeg has some great fans . . . but the Jets have been a major thorn in the Sabres’ side this year, costing the Sabres four valuable points so far. For that reason, I would enjoy seeing the Sabres exact a measure of revenge on Winnipeg by beating them and dashing their playoff hopes on the ice.
New York Islanders: currently 2nd in the Atlantic Division, 7th in the Eastern Conference, with 44 points
I know that the Sabres and Islanders had a previous game get nasty at the very end, but other than that, the games between these two teams have been pretty entertaining. I have enjoyed watching the Islanders surprise everyone in the NHL by becoming relevant again, and how can you not love watching John Tavares? This team is hanging onto 7th in the East for dear life, but they have been playing great as of late and I would hate to see them make it this far and then fall out of the playoffs on the last day of the season, which is when Buffalo hosts them at the First Niagara Center.
Thoughts? Predictions on how many of these teams the Sabres will actually defeat? Leave your comments below, or find me on Twitter @theamazingMrS.