"We gotta play a best-of-12," Ruff said with a grin after the 1-0 loss Tuesday to the Carolina Hurricanes. "We gotta go 7-5 to win the series."
The Buffalo Sabres have 12 games left in the season and they are two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes and four points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sports Club Stats gives the Sabres a 94% chance to make the playoffs with a 7-5 record, that increases to 99.5% with an extra win and decreases to 73% with a 6-6 record (all of these percentages as of 8:30 pm Thursday night).
The main question is where can the Sabres seven wins come from. The team has seven games at home where they are 15-16-3 while they are 19-12-5 when they play on the road. They have five games against teams that either they are chasing or that are chasing them in the playoff race, for which they have been 2-2-1 in their last five in that situation. The Sabres also have five back to back situations left on the schedule and they are 9-7-1 in the first game of a back to back while they are only 6-8-3 in the second game. They have only won both games of back to back games twice.
After the jump are the Sabres last 12 games and our thoughts on the possible winners.
|3/26||vs. New Jersey|
|3/30||vs. New York Rangers|
|4/5||vs. Tampa Bay|
Starting with this weekend, the Sabres have to take at least one or both of the games against the Thrashers and Predators. The Predators seem to be the easier choice but they are in the thick of a very messy Western Conference playoff race. The Thrashers are 4-4-2 in their last ten games and have fallen out of the playoff hunt quickly over the last month and a half. The Sabres are 2-0-1 against the Thrashers while they haven't faced the Predators yet this season. Also, expect Jhonas Enroth in the game against the Predators as he has played well in his last few games.
From there, the schedule starts to get dicey. The Sabres have had issues against Montreal and Florida this season. They are 2-3-0 against Montreal and 1-2-0 against the Panthers. The New Jersey Devils have been red hot since the new year, a timeframe the Sabres have not faced them in and the Maple Leafs have beaten in the Sabres in their last two games. If the Sabres take two games out of those four, they should be good.
The Southeast road trip featuring the Capitals and Hurricanes could pose some issues too. The Sabres are 1-2 against the Capitals this season and the Hurricanes have defeated the Sabres in their last two games. The Sabres will need to defeat the Hurricanes to possibly keep them at bay or try and gain ground on them depending on the situation.
The final three games are a wild card. The Sabres have had success recently over both the Lightning and the Flyers, plus both teams should be locked into a playoff spot and could be resting players which could pose well for the Sabres. The Sabres have faced the Blue Jackets once this season already, which was a 5-0 win on December 3rd.
Our thoughts on games the Sabres should win are as follows: Atlanta, Nashville, Florida, Toronto, NY Rangers, Tampa, Philly, Columbus. That would put them give them their seven wins plus one that they need to make a push into the playoffs. The next question is whether the teams around them would cooperate.