This season has, thus far, turned out to be full of surprises. Among the many surprises, count the Buffalo Sabres.
The Sabres polished off their ninth win in a row Saturday night, defeating the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. They’re set to face the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday and will be searching for their 10th win in a row, obviously, but it’s safe to say few people expected this result from this team.
The Sabres have, after all, been the butt of many a joke in hockey circles and their rebuilding process has been a continual headache for most observers. They’ve been rebuilding on top of a rebuild, seemingly, and are sitting at the top of the NHL standings as of press time.
That can change. That will change. Maybe.
Are these Sabres for real or is this all a mirage?
If Buffalo does pull off the 10th win on Tuesday, they’ll tie a franchise record set in the early 1980s. If they keep on sitting on top of the league, they’ll do so for the first time since 2006-2007. That season, they finished with 113 points and won the Presidents’ Trophy.
The Sabres have done a few good things along the way here and things may finally be paying off. They have a point-per-game pivot in Jack Eichel, who’s got 28 points in 24 games. He may have just five goals, but the points are coming.
They have Jeff Skinner, netted in one of the better franchise trades in recent memory. The 26-year-old has 18 goals so far this year. He had 24 goals all last season and must really want to show Carolina who’s boss.
They’re also defensively tight and Sam Reinhart’s been playing well.
Plus, Linus Ullmark hasn’t lost a game in the crease and Carter Hutton is rocking the house as the starter.
This adds up well, tells a story and positions the Sabres as a team to reckon with. Imagine that. This is a hockey team that has clawed its way to propriety and has made more than its fair share of gaffes along the way, but this could be the signal fans have been looking for. This could be the payoff, this could be the season and this could be the sort of troublesome hockey this team needs to play.
And make no mistake, Rasmus Dahlin and Co. are troublesome. This is an irritating team to play against and they will not go away (ask Detroit). They are finding ways to win, their special teams are special (the power play went two for four against the Red Wings), and coach Jason Botterill knows how to handle his crew.
So, are the Sabres for real? Most signs point to yes. Most signs suggest this is the team fans have been waiting for, this is the payoff.