OPINION: Sabres Week in Review: Buffalo remains in playoff hunt

A glance at the last week that was for the Sabres
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Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres have had their issues so far in the new year, but the team has turned things around in the last week of games.

Buffalo played five games since Saturday, Jan. 14, and have a record of 3-1-1 over that stretch. Wins came over the Nashville Predators, New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks, while loses came to the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks, the last of which coming in overtime.

For most of the season, the Sabres have been in the playoff conversation, but still remain on the outside looking in. As of Monday night, the team sits five points out of the final Wild Card spot currently occupied by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The other teams in the Sabres' way include the Panthers and Islanders.

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Here are three observations from the past week of Sabres hockey:

Owen Power
Photo credit Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

1.) Discipline

The Sabres have recently had a big problem with staying out of the penalty box, especially at key times. The team seems to only take penalties when it's the worst time to do so.

There are moments to take "smart penalties" in a game, as well, but a large majority of their penalties come at the wrong time and from the wrong players.

Another problem the team has is the effectiveness of their penalty kill. While they aren't the most penalized team in the league, their penalty kill is one of the worst in the league at only a 73.9% success rate.

That puts Buffalo at 26th in the league, as of Monday night.

Peyton Krebs
Photo credit Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

2.) Play style

The past week has shown both sides of the Sabres' style of play.

There were games like Anaheim and Chicago where the team controlled the game and looked very comfortable. Meanwhile, against Florida and New York, Buffalo struggled to establish a presence at times, or any presence at all.

The Sabres ended up winning the game against the Islanders because they played their way to finish out the game.

However, against the Panthers, they were unable to get any sort of pressure on their opponents. Florida outshot and outplayed Buffalo in two of the three periods.

It's hard to keep up the same energy in a long stretch of games, but the team needs to ensure confidence will be there every night. If the confidence is present, Buffalo will be able to control enough of the games to give themselves a better chance to win.

Tage Thompson
Photo credit Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

3.) Keep winning at all costs

The team closed out the week with two statement wins. One in overtime on "Ryan Miller Night" on Thursday, and the other on Saturday with another six-goal output on youth hockey day.

These two wins brought the vibes back for the team and the fanbase after two ugly losses earlier in the week. It's important to carry the vibes and confidence throughout the next week in the final five games before the NHL All-Star break.

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Ryan Miller
Photo credit Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

Game of the week: 3-2 overtime win vs. New York Islanders

Longtime Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was honored prior to this game with a celebration of his career, as well as the retirement of his No. 30 to the rafters of KeyBank Center. This ceremony, in front of a full house, seemed to lift the Sabres to a much-needed victory.

Not only was the beginning of the game extremely special, the end of the game was a spectacle in itself.

Buffalo tied the game with just over 10 minutes to go in the third period. Then in overtime, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin lobbed an impressive pass to center Dylan Cozens, who buried his shot to win the game for his team.

Victor Olofsson
Photo credit Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

Player of the week: Victor Olofsson

Olofsson has had a resurgence over the past week, scoring five goals in five games. One of the goals being an eventual game-winning goal, and the other was a game-tying goal that eventually led to a win.

These five goals helped bring his goal total up to 21 on the year, which establishes a new career-high.

Olofsson has also found some new energy with his line mates Casey Mittelstadt and Tyson Jost, who have helped propel his game to another level.

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Rasmus Dahlin
Photo credit Jamie Sabau - USA TODAY Sports

The week ahead:

Throughout the next week, the Sabres will embark on a four-game road-trip.

This started Monday night in Dallas against the Stars, and it will continue Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues. Then on Thursday, the Sabres travel to Winnipeg to face the Jets, and they close out the trip on Saturday against the Minnesota Wild.

In their final game before the All-Star break, Buffalo will host the Carolina Hurricanes at KeyBank Center on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
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Featured Image Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports