The Rochester Americans, I mean the Buffalo Sabres, head into Ottawa to play their final game before the 2014 Winter Olympics break. Dare we hope that the team heads into the hiatus on a high note?
Tonight’s Opponent: The Ottawa Senators
Record: 25-21-11, 61 pts.
Standings: Tenth in Easstern Conference
Current Streak: Won one
The Ottawa Senators have managed to play themselves right into the tenth spot in the Eastern Conference – excellent! All of which makes tonight’s game against the “lowly” (I don’t know why I used quotation marks – they really are!) Buffalo Sabres a must win for this desperate team.
Ottawa is a less-than-impressive 4-3-3 over its last ten games. I love how that always looks impressive, when really, the Senators have lost six of their last ten games. Granted, they have won 11 of the 20 points that were up for grabs in those games, but in the tightly-contested Atlantic Division, that’s just not good enough.
You can’t necessarily blame the offense for the Senators’ current situation; at 2.83 goals per game, they are the 8th most prolific offense in the NHL. Ottawa is led by Erik Karlsson, who apparently has forgotten that he is actually a defenseman an should never be leading his team in scoring. Seriously – his plus/minus is -13, despite the fact that he has personally been involved in 53 goals on the season, And therein lies the problem for the Sens: defense. See, they score just UNDER 3 goals per contest, but they also give up a little OVER 3 goals every time they play (3.09), which puts them third-to-last in the league.
So every time you see Karlsson jumping in to join the offensive rush, ask yourself, “Shouldn’t he hang back and play a little more D?” It’s just a thought.
Not helping Ottawa’s cause is the fact that starting goaltender Craig Anderson has been so-so this season. A year removed from having everyone pencil him for Team USA (12-9-2, .941 save percentage, 1.69 GAA), Anderson has been able to be gotten to (.908 SV%, 3.04 GAA). Really, the Senators are like the Bizarro-Sabres: whereas Buffalo’s goaltending has kept in many games despite its nonexistent offense, Ottawa’s offense has to score at a high rate because its defense/goaltending give back whatever goals they earn.
Both teams would love to head into the Olympic break feeling good about themselves, so expect another closely-contested battle tonight. Remember: the three games that these teams have played against each other this year all ended with a score of 2-1 on the scoreboard, so strap in for another nail-biter and see if Buffalo can finish the season series with Ottawa tied 2-all.