The Sabres' impressive 4-1 win over the Rangers Friday night in Madison Square Garden sets them up for some interesting scenarios with seven games left. Overall, Buffalo is 17-5-5 in its last 27 games and 5-0-2 in its last seven. Heading into tonight's game against the Wild in First Niagara Center, the Sabres are 6-0-2 in their last eight at home.
Want to get maybe a little stupid for a second? Forget nipping the Capitals and finishing eighth in the East. How about winning the Northeast Division and claiming a No. 2 or No. 3 seed? It's suddenly in play.
If the Sabres win tonight and the slumping Bruins lose at Los Angeles, which has won six straight to take over the Pacific Division lead, Buffalo would be just three points out of the Northeast lead (Boston would, however, still have two games in hand).
On Jan. 23, two days after the loss in St. Louis that was their 12th straight on the road, the Sabres were 21 points back. The Bruins have gone 11-15-1 since while the Sabres have put up their 17-5-5 run. Incredible. A win tonight also puts Buffalo two points behind idle Florida (the Panthers would also have two games in hand).
Now, the games in hand make it extremely difficult for the Sabres to actually catch either Boston or Florida. But the fact we can even write the above paragraphs is astonishing in itself given where the Sabres have come from. Here's a look at last night's highlights.
The Sabres have 82 points, tied with idle Washington after the Caps' meltdown last night at home, where they blew a 3-0 lead and lost a 4-3 overtime decision to Winnipeg. I had bid adieu to the Jets for the season on Twitter after the third Washington goal but now they're back in it. Whoops! Winnipeg has 78 points and a game in hand on both the Sabres and Caps heading into its toughie tonight at 7 in Nashville.
Take a look at the Jets' wild comeback in Washington:
Meanwhile, Ottawa is in panic mode after Friday's 5-1 loss at Montreal. Habs forward Erik Cole scored the fastest hat trick in the Habs' storied history by putting his team in a 3-0 lead in the first 5:41 of the game.
Reeling Ottawa hosts surging Pittsburgh tonight at 7 then plays Monday night in Winnipeg. The Sens, just 3-5-2 in March, still have trips left to Philly and New Jersey and a home game with Boston. Whoa. (Pittsburgh, by the way, is 13-0-1 since its Feb. 19 loss at First Niagara Center). The Capitals are off tonight and get their crack at hosting the Wild on Sunday before hosting the Sabres Tuesday in Verizon Center.
Speaking of Minnesota, here's a cautionary stat for you on the 13th-place team in the West: The Wild have won four straight in Buffalo and haven't lost here since their first visit on Nov. 17, 2000. Fair warning. Sabres need to keep taking care of business. Two points tonight and it's their first four-game winning streak since the Lucic game in November ended their only one this season.