Buffalo Sabres break comes at a bad time for team

Just when things were starting to get interesting …

The Buffalo Sabres are on an unscheduled and unwelcome break thanks to Covid. The rest of the league decided to start the Christmas break early too, but that didn’t affect the Sabres since they already had three games postponed this week anyway. Now they have to wait until Monday, December 27th to return to the ice, that is, assuming Covid doesn’t get in the way again.

The timing of the break is a bit frustrating because it looked like the Sabres were starting to figure some things out. Before the postponements, the Sabres had six games in a row in which they gave up exactly two regulation goals. This was obviously a drastic change from the shooting gallery that took place in the weeks before.

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The improvement began with better goaltending. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen played five of those games and looked fantastic. There were a few softies mixed in there, but UPL made lots of really nice saves to keep every game competitive. Malcolm Subban chipped in with a nice effort of his own against the Penguins, albeit in an overtime loss. And how about the save with the glove hand behind his back? I still don’t know how he did that.

Despite the better goals-against total, the Sabres only won two of those games, but two of the four losses went to overtime, so the team did collect six points in those six games. (We can also whine some more about the point or points they would have had in the game against the Rangers were it not for a momentary lapse in intellectual acumen by a replay official. Frankly, I’m not above whining about that well into the new year.)

It is also significant that five of those six points were earned on a road trip in which they had to play in Winnipeg, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh over the course of four nights.

The success on the road trip was only part of what had some fans excited about the immediate future and it isn’t the only unfortunate thing about the timing of this break.

Alex Tuch was supposed to make his Sabres debut against the Blue Jackets on Monday. From everything we have heard about this guy, he seems like someone who is willing to skate through a brick wall for the opportunity to play for the team he grew up rooting for. I can’t imagine what it must be like for Tuch to have to wait an extra week to suit up. He is probably holding back the urge to body-check people at the grocery store and run up and down the aisles at full speed. I’m fired up about it and I’m just a silly fan. Tuch must be out of his mind.

When the Sabres finally do get to play hockey again, it has the potential to be interesting. If Tuch is as good as he was in Vegas, then his presence in the lineup strengthens the top six. If UPL and Subban continue to succeed, they can keep the Sabres competitive in games in which they give up twice as many shots as they get. If Thompson and Olofsson regain some of the scoring touch they had to start the season they will start putting lots of teams on their heels.

It really could be fun. Is it Monday yet?