Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - Every game is an important game for the Buffalo Sabres, as the NHL playoff race continues to heat up.
This past week was also was the NHL Trade Deadline, which saw plenty of big names moved around the league well-ahead of Friday's 3 p.m. EST deadline. However, there weren't many moves to come from the Sabres.
Buffalo only played three games since Tuesday, Feb. 28 and posted a 1-2 record in that span. The only win came over the Tampa Bay Lightning, while the two loses came against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins.
The win against the Lightning proved important, as it snapped a two-game losing streak and kept the Sabres from sliding down the standings.
As of Sunday night, Buffalo sits three points out of the second Wild Card spot and four points out of the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 68 points. The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders currently control both playoff spots.
Here are three observations from the last week of Sabres hockey:
1.) Capitalize on chances
When the worst team in the NHL comes to town, you need to take the points that you can get, and the Sabres were not able to do that against the Blue Jackets last Tuesday.
While Buffalo was able to keep the game competitive, at times, they looked flat and out of sync. Shots weren't hitting their targets, line changes were slower, and crucial passes were misplaced.
The team did make a powerful push to tie the game late, but it wasn't enough and they fell by a score of 5-3.
Games like these don't come along very often, and with the Sabres being in a close playoff race with so many teams, every point matters.
2.) Physical trades
This year's NHL Trade Deadline was an interesting one. Superstars like Patrick Kane, Timo Meier, and Vladimir Tarasenko all have new teams for the first time ever.
While some teams were making splashes on big names like these, the Sabres kept things more low-key while still adding important players.
A couple of days before Monday's deadline, Buffalo added defenseman Riley Stillman from the Vancouver Canucks to help bolster the depth of the blue line. Then just about an hour before the 3 p.m. EST deadline, the Sabres added forward Jordan Greenway from the Minnesota Wild.
These two players fill a very specific need for the Sabres: Physicality.
While Greenway hasn't had a chance to get into the lineup yet, Stillman has already made an impact on the team's physical side of play. The 24-year-old defenseman has racked up eight hits and a fight in just two games with his new team.
3.) Offensive upside
This Sabres team is much different than years past for many reasons.
The biggest difference being their ability to score up-and-down the lineup. Head coach Don Granato has figured out a way to maximize the team's scoring ability like no other Sabres coach in recent history has.
Buffalo has five players with 50 points or more, six players with more than 20 goals, and their best scoring forward, Tage Thompson, is on pace for 56 goals and over 100 points.
Normally when a player like Alex Tuch goes down with an injury, a team will struggle to replace his output. While the Sabres have had some minor issues since he hasn't been in the lineup, the rest of the team has stepped in nicely to pick up the slack.
Teams that can score like the Sabres are usually only one or two components away from a playoff spot. This newfound scoring touch could be one of the last pieces of the puzzle for Buffalo to finally return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Game of the week: Saturday, March 4 - 5-3 win vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Sabres came into Saturday's game against the Lightning desperate for a win, and got exactly what they needed. The team was dominate throughout, as they have been all season while wearing the black and red "goathead" jerseys.
Not only was this game good for team spirits, it was important in the standings as well.
As of late, the Ottawa Senators have entered into the playoff race along with the four other teams that have been battling for the two Wild Card spots.
This win kept the Sabres tied with the Senators, as well as the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals. The only real advantage remaining for the Sabres in the standings is the games in-hand that they have over some teams.
Player of the week: Jack Quinn
Quinn was called upon late last week to fill the big shoes of Alex Tuch on the first line when he was ruled out due to injury. So far, he's lived up to the task.
The 21-year-old has three points (2+1) in the last three games, and has looked right at home on the first line with Thompson and Jeff Skinner.
Quinn's effectiveness on the forecheck, along with his quick snap shot make him a sneaky good addition to this top line that will keep teams guessing on where a powerful shot will come from.
The week ahead:
The Sabres play four games over the next week: Three games on home ice and one game on the road.
Buffalo starts the week off with games in back-to-back nights, hosting the Edmonton Oilers on Monday and then traveling to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders on Tuesday in an important game.
The Sabres then return home on Thursday to take on the Dallas Stars. They end the week hosting the New York Rangers late Saturday afternoon at KeyBank Center.