Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - The 2022-23 NHL season continues on and the playoff race tightened over this past week. However, the Buffalo Sabres find themselves in a precarious situation.
The Sabres played a total of four games since Monday, March 6 and posted an abysmal 0-3-1 record in that span. Buffalo lost to the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders and Dallas Stars in regulation. They also lost to the New York Rangers in overtime.
After the rough week, the Sabres are fighting a tough uphill battle in the standings.
As of Tuesday morning, Buffalo sits seven points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who hold the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 78 points. They are also five points behind the Islanders, who control the second Wild Card spot with 76 points.
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Here are three observations from the last week of Sabres hockey:
1.) Fast pace
Although the Sabres were unable to pull out a single win this week, in two of the four games, they played very fast and kept up with very good teams.
Against both the Oilers and Rangers, the Sabres held their own, outshooting their opponents in both games.
The team ran into a hot goaltender in Stuart Skinner when they played the Oilers, and had some unlucky bounces against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference in the Rangers.
Speed alone doesn't win games, though, and they were still outmatched offensively in both games, despite great efforts from goaltenders Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Craig Anderson.
2.) Getting embarrassed
Following a 3-2 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday, the Sabres returned home to face the Stars at KeyBank Center. However, it was a game that was anything but good.
The Stars destroyed the Sabres by a score of 10-4, and controlled play throughout the entire game. Some Sabres players were vocal following the game, emphasizing how they didn't show up for each other in a game that mattered.
Games like these simply can't happen this late in the season. They destroy any kind of momentum, and take away crucial opportunities for points in the standings. While it's important for any team to recognize that, it's also important for the team to move on and not let it distract them from the next important game.
3.) Showing up for the meaningful games
Every game at this point of the sesaon needs 100% effort, and then some. The Sabres haven't given that for some time now.
To find the last full team effort, one would have to look back all the way to Feb. 26 in a 7-4 win over the Washington Capitals. The Sabres looked organized, they controlled play, and the had a powerhouse mentality throughout the whole game, which helped them to a victory.
When any team plays with confidence, more chances are created and more games are won. This was how the Sabres played in the middle of the season, but somewhere in the past few weeks, that confidence has slipped away.
While things may be too late this season, Buffalo still needs to finish strong to keep developing chemistry and an identity. They still have a slim chance at the playoffs, but they need to make every point count for the rest of the year.
Game of the week: Saturday, March 11 - 2-1 overtime loss vs. New York Rangers
While this game wasn't a win, it was one of the few bright spots from the week.
This was the Sabres' first game following their awful 10-4 loss to the Stars, so they needed a big response. While the score line didn't show it, Buffalo had a fantastic offensive output in this game, along with stellar goaltending from Luukkonen.
Ultimately, the Sabres lost this game in overtime because of some unlucky bounces, but this still was positive, in terms of player confidence and the standings.
The fact that the loss was in overtime still allowed the Sabres to tack on a point, and the players seemed to have a bit of their swagger back going into a long road trip.
Player of the week: Jeff Skinner
The 30-year-old Sabres winger has had his highs-and-lows while in a Sabres uniform, but this has statistically been his best season so far.
Skinner recorded four points (3+1) in four games in the past week, and set a new personal point record for one season with 67 points. Skinner was one of the only bright spots in a tough week of Sabres hockey, and made sure his team was always involved offensively.
The week ahead:
The Sabres embarked on a three-game road trip that began Monday night with a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They will continue their trip on Wednesday, as they head to Washington, D.C. to take on the Capitals. The road trip ends in the "City of Brotherly Love" on Friday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Buffalo will close out the week by hosting the Boston Bruins at KeyBank Center on Sunday afternoon.