The most important 2 game 5 day series comes to a close on Monday Night in Arizona, when the 30th Place Buffalo Sabres take on the 29th Place Arizona Coyotes. The Sabres have a 6 point lead, a game in hand. The Sabres can just about wrap up last place with a regulation loss Monday night, making it only necessary for the Sabres to lose 2 more regulation games to close the season.
The Coyotes won the first round on Thursday night in Buffalo, New York, by a score of 4-3 in overtime. Arizona out shot Buffalo 42-35, and looked like the better team.
The Coyotes as a team, have more goals (160) and less goals allowed (252) than the Sabres (144 goals, 254 goals allowed). Both these teams struggle to stay in games, and make costly mistakes when the game is on the line.
This game is key for the Coyotes to remain in the Battle for the Bottom, with a Sabres regulation win, the Sabres “lead” with be cut to 4 points. The Sabres have the easier schedule of the 2 teams jockeying for last place, which is a concern for Sabres fans.
The Coyotes have 2-7-1 record in their last 10, with a minor scoring outburst in their last 3 games (11 goals) but a total of 18 goals through those 10 games. The Coyotes are in trouble if their recent scoring surge continues, and they jump out to an early lead. The Coyotes key to a loss is allowing Mike Smith to handle the puck.
As for the Sabres, their recent play is somewhat concerning as well, a 1-7-3 record in their last 10, with 9 goals in their last 3. The Sabres don’t lack heart, and most certainly don’t quit like they did early in the season. Credit Ted Nolan for teaching this young squad to play a full 60 minutes, as you saw on Thursday and Saturday vs the Avalanche. The Sabres were getting embarrassed by the Avalanche early on, as the Sabres fell behind 4-0 but came out swinging early in the 3rd, to scratch back to a respectable 5-3 finish.
Expect more of what we saw on Thursday, the Coyotes should be energized in front of their home team, and should jump out to an early lead. The big question, is if they can hold off the Sabres, and knock themselves out of contention for 30th place.
Sabres fans want a regulation loss to reduce stress heading into the final 6 games. As a Sabres fan, I would love a regulation loss, so Buffalo can steam roll over their rivals on Wednesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nothing would feel better heading into Wednesday’s tilt with Toronto, than a 8 point cushion. The fans would pack the First Niagara Center, and actually cheer their team on, not sarcastically for the tank.
Lets see how this shakes out. Keep an eye on Sabres Twitter for a good laugh, as the overreactions and hot takes will be flowing like crazy.