Taking a look around the Northeast
As January winds to a close, we’re hitting the homestretch of the 2009-2010 campaign. The Sabres, despite struggling over the past few games, continue to hold down the top spot in the Northeast division. But that comfortable lead Lindy Ruff‘s squad had opened up around the new year is slowly disappearing.
The Sabres, collecting just 6 of 14 points on a recent seven-game road trip, now sit at 67 points, just five ahead of second place Ottawa.
Ottawa has been streaking of late, in the good way (for them at least), winning their last seven. Elevated by the returns of Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, they’ve been playing lights out, including shutting out the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. This seven game streak followed a five game losing streak, where the Sens had dropped games to powerhouses Carolina and Atlanta. The Senators are an enigma, and when you consider that the Sabres haven’t beaten them in their three meetings so far, you wonder if Ottawa’s gonna let Buffalo walk away with the division title.
The teams meet next Wednesday at HSBC Arena, and pending the results of the next few games, it is entirely possible an Ottawa win could put them in the top spot in the division. The Sabres are looking at the Devils, Bruins and a visit to the Penguins before that meeting, while the Senators visit Pittsburgh and host Montreal, with a couple days to rest up for the trip to Buffalo. It’s obvious that there’s gonna be a foot race to April.
Will it just be Buffalo and Ottawa? Most likely.
As bad as the Sabres have been, they have the second best “last 10” record of the group. Only 4-3-3 in the last 10, it’s enough to pull away from Montreal (4-4-2), Boston (2-7-1) and Toronto (2-7-1). The Habs and Bruins are gonna be fighting for playoff spots.
Montreal has been plagued by inconsistent play from pretty much everyone on the roster. They can’t figure out which goalie to play, their scorers are inconsistent, they’re a bit of a mess. But that said, they can be dangerous if they get hot.
Boston, meanwhile, is dropping like a rock. For a while it looked like Boston was the true threat to the Sabres’ place in the driver’s seat, but that’s long gone. They’re the lowest scoring team in the league, and if it weren’t for stellar seasons from Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, they’d be nowhere near a playoff spot.
And Toronto? They’re irrelevant, which is not a shock to anyone outside the province of Ontario.
Right now, it looks like it’s up to the Sabres to turn things around. Ottawa has won seven in a row, but they’re still five points behind Buffalo, with the Sabres having three games in hand. It’s extremely important to win a few here now and keep a buffer heading into the Olympic break.
Once everyone returns from Vancouver, it’s gonna be madness. Each team has five weeks from today to see who they are and then try to pick apart the carcasses of the teams in the basement to gear up for a run. Who’s ready to make a move?