That was no early April Fool's joke. The Sabres really did lose to the going-nowhere Maple Leafs, 4-3, Saturday night in the Air Canada Centre. And that's a killer loss. The Sabres better win their last three games, no small task when two of them are in Philadelphia and Boston, and get a lot of help that they've suddenly stopped getting in other rinks if they're going to make the playoffs.
In his commentary off Saturday's game, Bucky Gleason says the Sabres were in midseason form: And that means they were tied up by fits of sloppy play and average goaltending.
Ryan Miller almost single-handedly lifted the Sabres into the race, and then back-to-back supbar outings in net really hurt his team. I know the first goal was a breakaway but it's Joey Crabb. Make a save. Goals two (5-hole) and three (rebound with 0.7 seconds left in a period) weren't much better.
Here's a look at Saturday's lowlights:
So where does that leave the Sabres today? They're taking their usual Sunday off and sit two points behind idle Washington (which has the tiebreaker) and four behind Ottawa and Florida. The Senators can clinch a playoff berth with a win today at 3 against the Islanders.
Florida uses its game in hand over Buffalo with a toughie today at 4 in Detroit. The Panthers got just one point in Minnesota and Columbus while the Red Wings are only 2-6-2 in their last 10. Something has to give. Unless the Caps stumble badly, watching the Panthers fall behind Washington and then catching them for eighth might be the Sabres' best chance.
By the way, Boston plays the Rangers tonight at 7 on NBC Sports Network and there are clinching possibilities there. The Rangers clinch the Atlantic Division and No. 1 seed with a win AND any Pittsburgh loss at Philadelphia or if they get one point and Pittsburgh loses in regulation. Boston, meanwhile, wraps up the Northeast Division with a win or with one point and an Ottawa loss. Thinking ahead to a Rangers-Bruins Eastern Conference final? The Rangers have won all three meetings this year.