Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres continued to roll through a tough stretch of games at the end of January, and ended up earning some important points on a long Western Conference road trip.
Buffalo played five games since Monday, Jan. 23, and in that span have a record of 3-1-1. Wins came over the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, and Winnipeg Jets in that stretch, with losses coming to the Minnesota Wild in a shootout and, most recently, the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.
The Sabres remain in the playoff hunt thanks to their performance over the past week. As of Thursday afternoon, Buffalo sits only one point out of the playoffs behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who control the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They are also four points behind the Washington Capitals, who hold the first Wild Card spot.
Here are three observations from the past week of Sabres hockey:
1.) Energetic road trip
The bulk of the past week for the Sabres has been spent on the road throughout America's (and Canada’s) heartland, and it was no easy task. The team played four games in six nights with a lot of travel on their plate.
Along with the tough travel, Buffalo faced off against some of the best teams in the West and handled themselves very well. The Sabres played with an energetic look night-in and night-out, and secured seven out of eight possible points to keep them involved in a tight playoff race.
This is something past teams in Buffalo have had difficulties doing, which shows the energy and hunger of this young group. They want to win, and will ensure they do everything they can to get that win.
2.) Defending leads
While on their four-game road trip, the Sabres needed to defend leads in games on multiple different occasions. This has been a difficult task for the team so far this year, but in three of their four games, they were able to sustain the lead and secure a win.
This is a welcome improvement, as the team continues to push for a playoff spot. Those wins provided the Sabres some much-needed points in the standings to help that push. When the Sabres can win close games like that while in the playoff hunt, it can secure unexpected points and help them gain an edge on the teams around them.
3.) Rest and reset
With the NHL All-Star Game on the horizon, all teams in the NHL will get some form of a week-long break. The Sabres’ break began on Thursday following their loss to the Hurricanes on Wednesday, and will continue until their next game on Feb. 11 against the Calgary Flames.
This break couldn't have come at a more perfect time for the team, as they have played 14 games over a 26-day span with a lot of travel in-between games.
The Sabres did sustain some bumps and bruises along the way that held players like Dylan Cozens and Mattias Samuelsson out of games.
Tage Thompson even sustained an injury that flared up against Carolina, which will now keep him out of All-Star festivities.
The Sabres need this time to rest up and get healthy, and also find a way to reset themselves for the important month ahead.
In past years, this break has been a killer for some Sabres teams, but this one seems different. This is a young and hungry team on the cusp of breaking the longest playoff drought in NHL history, and they'll be difficult to stop after being rested.
Game of the week: Monday, Jan. 23 - 3-2 overtime win at Dallas Stars
The Sabres started out their trip in Dallas and got off to a bit of a rocky start after going down early and surrendering many chances to the Stars. Goaltender Craig Anderson kept his team in the game early on with multiple highlight-worthy saves.
The Sarbes turned on the offense seemingly out of nowhere, taking a lead in the second and controlling much of the game until Dallas was able to tie the score in the final minute of play.
Rookie Defenseman Owen Power was the hero of this game. In the dying seconds of overtime, as he netted his first goal of the season that gave the Sabres the win.
It ended up being a statement win for the team, who controlled a majority of the game against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. It was also a good jumpstart for, what turned out to be, a fantastic road trip.
Player of the week: Owen Power
The 2021 first overall pick scored his first three goals of the season in just three games in the past week. Each one was just as impressive as the last.
Power has recorded 19 points in 47 games so far in his first full NHL season. The young defenseman appeared in only eight games last year and recorded three points in that time.
The best is certainly yet to come for the University of Michigan alum, as he continues to improve both offensively and defensively every single game.
The week ahead:
All but one Sabres player find themselves on a long nine-day break due to the festivities in Florida for NHL All-Star weekend.
The one who will be going to Florida to represent the Sabres is defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who replaces an injured Thompson.
The NHL All-Star Skills Competition will begin on Friday at 7 p.m. EST with the 3-on-3 All-Star competition itself starting on Saturday at 3 p.m. EST.
The Sabres will not play again until Saturday, Feb. 11 for a 12:30 EST matinee matchup with the Flames at KeyBank Center.