Saturday afternoon's tilt between the visiting Buffalo Sabres and hometown Colorado Avalanche truly features a tale of two teams headed in opposite directions. With Buffalo's win over Phoenix on Wednesday night, the Sabres finished the month of January with just 4 wins, compared to 5 losses and a Chicago-level 4 Overtime losses.
Look. This is a bad hockey team that the Avs should beat. Despite being the clubhouse leader for "coolest names" with Rasmus and Zemgas (holla Prof), the Sabres have managed a league-low 38 points through 53 games. For reference, Florida finished the lockout-shortened season with 36 points in 48 games (the Avs finished with 39, MacKinnonnnnn). Their top point scorer, Cody Hodgson, is on pace for a whopping 55 point season (had he remained healthy, which he hasn't so he's going to have to step it up to even reach that paltry number). Their second-leading scorer, Tyler Ennis, is on pace for a 40 point season. The Sabres have suited up a comical 32 players this season (not counting goalies because they aren't people), all of whom have played at least 4 games. The point is these guys are bad.
These are exactly the types of games the Avs should be winning if their rise to relevance is going to be taken seriously by those outside of Colorado. The largest obstacle standing in the league's way of further trampling the hapless Sabres has been start goaltender Ryan Miller, whose .927 save percentage is all the more amazing considering the porous defense in front of him this year. Let's just hope he keeps that stuff up in the Olympics. Miller regularly stands on his head to keep Buffalo in games but with a goal differential of -46, his team simply isn't up to the task of helping him out. Good luck in St. Louis when you go, Ryan!
As for the Avs, they had pretty much the exact opposite of Buffalo's 4-5-4 January, going 10-3-1. More important, the Avs closed the gap on their division leaders, from 13 points behind Chicago and 7 behind St. Louis at the start of January to now just 6 behind Chicago and 4 behind St. Louis. Almost just as important, the Avs separated from the teams chasing them, increasing their lead on Dallas and Minnesota from 5 at the start of January to being now 9 up on Minnesota and a whopping 16 up on Dallas. Colorado is clearly trying to force their way into the Central Division conversation. Games against teams like Buffalo should only serve to prop them up in their chase but this is still the NHL so the team needs to take them seriously and maybe try closing an opponent out for once instead of these heart-attack inducing third period meltdowns.
Whereas the Sabres have been nothing short of anemic offensively, putting the puck in the net is where Colorado has succeeded from day one. Instead of relying on a big-time line to produce a huge chunk of their goals a la Minnesota, the Avs have spread the wealth, with 5 players likely to hit the 20 goal plateau this year and a 6th, Jamie McGinn, with a solid chance assuming he stays healthy and relevant. Furthermore, the Avs are likely to see those 5 goal scorers also break the 50 point mark, meaning any singular focus on a particular line will open up other dangerous players to do some damage.
Seriously, though. Just win this thing, guys. Let's keep the heat on Chicago and St. Louis and not let Minnesota get their hopes up. Slap em around a bit, will ya? Thanks <3
For opposing team's coverage, feel free to visit Die By The Blade and see what they have to say.