It's time for Sabres fans to believe again
That's how far back the Buffalo Sabres were from the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after a 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 17.
However, just 16 days later, Buffalo climbed from 15th place and ten points back to a tie for 10th place and sat four points back of the eighth-place Winnipeg Jets as of today.
Just think about that for a moment. On the morning of Saturday Feb. 18, Buffalo was chasing Montreal, the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals and the Jets. Now? The Sabres trail only the Capitals and the Jets for a playoff spot.
With such an unlikely and improbable run taking place, it begs the question of whether or not it is time for Sabres fans to begin believing again.
To help answer that question, let's break down this recent stretch in detail.
Since their loss to Montreal, the Sabres have gone 6-1-1, earning a total of 13 out of a possible 16 points.
In those eight games, Buffalo has outscored their opponents 21-13.
One big reason for their excellent play has been the performance of Ryan Miller. Since hitting rock bottom in late January, the 2010 Vezina Trophy winner's record has been 11-2-3, and he seems to be returning to the form that won him the trophy two years ago.
Miller has been the backstop for this recent Sabres run, putting up a 1.61 goals against average and a .910 save percentage in his last eight games. It's blatantly obvious that his play is having the same affect that Jhonas Enroth's play last season had on the Sabres — it's making them play harder, smarter and simply better all around.
If the play of Buffalo's all-time winning-est goaltender isn't enough to make you believe, think about this: For the entire season, fans and the media have wondered just how the team would perform if their leading point producers, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville, went cold. Well, we're all finding out how right now, and the results have been pretty good to say the least.
Pominville hasn't found the score sheet since Buffalo's victory over the Islanders on Feb. 21, and Vanek has just one point in his last six games, but the team is getting scoring from other key players.
Derek Roy has started to pull it together, tallying seven points in the team's last eight matches. Drew Stafford has been finding the scoring sheet more often. Even Brad Boyes and Ville Leino have started to get in on the scoring lately.
The odds are still against the Sabres making the playoffs — they have just a 13.1 percent chance according to Sports Club Stats — but it doesn't mean it can't happen. The team is fighting as hard as, if not harder, than they did to make their run last season, and it is making for some great moments.
Whether or not you believe the team can make it to the eighth spot is solely up to you, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy what is going on.
The team is exciting to watch again. They are taking on and defeating some of the best teams the NHL has to offer, and have gotten the entire hockey community talking. All I am saying is that if this team can make it to the postseason, will you be able to say that you were one of those people who believed it could happen?
Michael Straw can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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