A couple of weeks ago I picked out a few reasons as to why the Sabres were a horrible team. Since then a lot has changed and many of problems this team had have seemed to disappear. They have earned 9 out of a possible 12 points in their last 6 games, winning 2 games in a row at home, something that seemed impossible a few short weeks ago. They’ve climbed from worst in the league to 3 spots out of a playoff spot. All this during one of the toughest stretches of the season so far, facing teams like Washington and Vancouver and coming out on top.
First off this team plays like it wants to win for a change. Monday night Vancouver stormed back at the end to rally and close a 2 goal deficit. The old Sabres team would fold and all but give up. The opposite happened, an amazing penalty kill at the end of the third and a hard-fought OT period gave them the win. Wednesday night against Washington, down 3 goals, they fought hard and not only got 2 quick goals to get them back in it but they dominated the third period giving them a decent chance to pull off the win, falling just short of doing so.
The Sabres needed players to be hero’s. And with the exception of Derek Roy that spot on the team was empty. That too has changed with the rise of Vanek who was off to a slow start this season, having many chances but never seeming to come up with the goal. He has seemed to gain some confidence in the recent games and it shows with a few multiple goal games and an amazing overtime winner. Ennis is turning into one of the better forwards on the team and Hecht has picked his game up recently also. They went from having no playmakers to multiples. Tyler Myers has even started to turn his game around netting the OT winner Monday night (even though he is still -9 on the season).
Rivet has been an unhealthy/healthy scratch for a while now. Normally that would be bad for on ice leadership but it seems to be just the opposite. A team with no captain has played like they’re a “team” more than any other time this year. It’s clear the C needs to reside on another jersey and there’s a handful of available candidates, only question is if Ruff will make the change. Word is that Rivet will be back sometime this weekend so we’ll see what happens.
Saying Ryan Miller started out slow this year is a bit of an understatement. He spent the first few weeks towards the bottom of the goalie stats…stats he dominated in years past. Turns out the Vezina hangover I thought he might have had was “just” a bum knee. After a few games off to get healthy, and an impressive showing from Enroth, it seems that was the cause of his issues. He seems to be a different net-minder now that he’s back making those saves we’ve become use to. He’s still not putting up superstar stats but he’s keeping the Sabres in games again, something we needed.
Like many I was calling for Ruff’s head during their losing streak, not because I think he’s a bad coach but more because the team needed a shake-up. Looking at his track record, Ruff hasn’t exactly over-achieved in his time at Buffalo and maybe it was time for a change of guard. However, him being able to pull the team out of this rut they were in says a lot. Lets just see if they can carry the momentum forward, if not this may be the last season Ruff is in Buffalo.
Another test comes tonight when the Kings come to town, a team on a bit of a roll themselves. The Sabres went from win-less at home to winning 2 in a row. If they can keep that streak alive and earn 2 more wins this weekend (Tampa is in town Saturday night) then maybe we can lower the cover on the panic button. The Sabres aren’t out of this hole yet but they at least have their heads above the surface.