December Expectations

If you’ve been paying attention to the Sabres in November, you know that it has been an up-and-down month. Buffalo played 14 games and went 7-6-1 (4-4-1 at home).  This record includes a couple of terrible losses to the Islanders at home and the Blue Jackets on the road as well as a tough shootout loss at home against Boston where the Sabres blew a couple of two-goal leads.

I wish I could say that it was just injuries that were the main cause of these struggles, but more often than not, lack of effort and playing an overly complicated game have been the primary reasons for most of their plight during the month. After they pounded the Caps at home, 5-1 by playing a hard and simpler game, it looked like it could have been a turning point in the season for Buffalo. However, they proceeded to pull a 180 and laid an egg against the lowest-scoring team in the league to wrap the November schedule. Now fans are wondering what to expect from the team during this month. Let’s take a look at the Sabres schedule for December.

Friday

Dec. 2nd

vs. Detroit

7:30 p.m.

Saturday

Dec. 3rd

@ Nashville

8:00 p.m.

Wednesday

Dec. 7th

vs. Philadelphia

7:30 p.m.

Friday

Dec. 9th

vs. Florida

7:30 p.m.

Saturday

Dec. 10th

vs. NY Rangers

7:00 p.m.

Tuesday

Dec. 13th

vs. Ottawa

7:00 p.m.

Friday

Dec. 16th

vs. Toronto

7:30 p.m.

Saturday

Dec. 17th

@ Pittsburgh

7:00 p.m.

Tuesday

Dec. 20th

@ Ottawa

7:30 p.m.

Thursday

Dec. 22nd

@ Toronto

7:00 p.m.

Monday

Dec. 26th

vs. Washington

7:00 p.m.

Wednesday

Dec. 28th

@ New Jersey

7:00 p.m.

Friday

Dec. 30th

@ Washington

7:00 p.m.

Saturday

Dec. 31st

vs. Ottawa

7:00 p.m.

Normally, fans would be excited about their team playing 6 of their first 7 games of the month at home, but it’s been a struggle for the Sabres at the First Niagara Center. With the exception of Ottawa, all of the other teams they’ll be playing will be tough. Detroit is Detroit, New York’s red hot, Philly’s always tough, and the Panthers and Leafs are both surprisingly playing very good hockey. The one road game Buffalo plays during that stretch is against the ever-stingy Nashville Predators, so that will be far from being easy. Ideally, they’ll be able to knock off their division rivals and find a way to get at least 2-3 wins out of the five other games. However, I can’t say that I’m all that confident in that happening with their inconsistent effort. I’ll say they win three games during that seven-game stretch.The Sabres will play 14 games this month, which will include three sets of back-to-back games. Fortunately for them, three of their games are against a team they’ve thoroughly dominated of late (Ottawa) and two of them are against a struggling Washington team that Buffalo just demolished. The other nine games are pretty tough.

As for the other seven games, Buffalo has a few soft spots vs. Ottawa & Washington. They’ll play each team twice at home and twice on the road during this run of games.  Based on what I’ve seen from those two teams, winning three of those games should be expected and you can’t rule out a four-game sweep. Finally, Buffalo will also play Pittsburgh,  Toronto, and New Jersey on the road. I can’t in good conscience pick the Sabres to beat Pittsburgh right now, but I think both Toronto and New Jersey are very winnable games for a good road team like Buffalo. Overall, they should win five of the seven games in the 2nd half of their December schedule.

To sum things up, out of the 14 games Buffalo will play this month, I expect them to win eight of them. It should be a struggle during the 1st half of it, but I see this team taking advantage of the 2nd half of their schedule to wrap up the month. Given how erratic the Sabres have been, I’d gladly take eight wins with this schedule. I’d love to be proven wrong in a positive way though. Let’s hope they kick things off the right way with a home win against Detroit tonight.

On an unrelated note, since the Ducks just fired their head coach and hired Bruce Boudreau, I think we can curb our enthusiasm about Bobby Ryan for now. You’d think that they’d want to see what Boudreau can do before they float Ryan out there in trade offers.

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