It's always been said that a Western road trip can make or break a season for an Eastern Conference team. If that is the case...how did the Sabres come out of this road trip? They fared well on their Western Conference trip. The Sabres were .500 on their trip and had two impressive victories. A 10-2 victory against the Edmonton Oilers was the highlight of the trip but a 2-0 win in Phoenix was equally impressive.
This was the Sabres longest and best Western Conference trip since the lockout. They had a three-game trip last season, they did not head out west in 2006-2007 and they had a three-game trip in 2005-2006. The Sabres won only one time on eack of their last two Western Conference trips.
|Dec 5||@ Anaheim||L 1-4|
|Dec 6||@ LA Kings||L 2-8|
|Dec 8||@ San Jose||W 7-1|
The Sabres salvaged an otherwise horrible trip by beating the San Jose Sharks 7-1. The strange part is that San Jose may have been the best team of the three.
The Sabres did not take a Western trip in 2006-2007 and it may be possible that this was a negative for the team. The Sabres won the Presidents Trophy that season but they were beat by the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals.
|Jan 16||@ Edmonton||W 3-1|
|Jan 19||@ Vancouver||L 1-4|
|Jan 21||@ Calgary||L 1-4|
After a good start in Edmonton the Sabres dropped their final two games on this road trip. It was similar to this year but the Sabres played one of their best games of the season after losing in Calgary.
This was a good road trip for the Sabres despite the loss on Monday night. The Sabres haven't won two games on any of their Western trips since the lockout and this time they did. In addition they played some really good hockey and did not back down to teams that play a much more physical style of hockey than the Sabres do. There is plenty of work left in order to become a playoff team but this trip was a step in the right direction.
The above schedule shows the importance of the next five games. The Sabres play their next four games against division opponents and need to come away with at least six points in that span. The Montreal game is easily the most important because the Sabres are trailing them in the standings. The last of the five games is a home game against western Conference powerhouse San Jose. It should be a good measuring stick as to how they can compete with the elite teams in the Western Conference.