Raising the Bar

Meaningful November hockey games!

Jeremy White
November 08, 2018 - 2:42 pm

Photo: Andy Marlin - USA TODAY Sports

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Four periods into this hockey season, I tweeted:

I was... half-kidding? The Buffalo Sabres had just finished out a lackluster period that came after a snoozer of an opener, in which they were shutout by the Boston Bruins. Since then, things have improved. We’re 45 periods into this hockey season and I’d say things are… going just fine.  

I wrote before the year just how important it was, to me, that the Sabres get off to a good start. The mission to start this season was to not kill their season in the first month.  

From that piece: “They’ve gotta be better, it’s got to be obvious, and it has to happen quickly. Too many Octobers and Novembers have destroyed this team.”

Check. Check. Check.

The Sabres possession numbers are average. Their PDO (shooting % + save %) is average. 

The Power Play is running at 19.6-percent, where league average is 21-percent. The Penalty Kill is at 77-percent with league average at 79-percent.

The Sabres are average and... that’s GREAT!!!!

So now it’s time to ask for more.  

Coming into this season, I put all of that pressure squarely on the shoulders of head coach Phil Housley. So far, I’d say the hot seat has cooled a bit. Speaking with Housley this week, things sounded a bit different. What sounds different? Well… I guess you could say that a coach talking about his strategies and evaluations of his team seem more appropriate when they’re not in dead last. If you missed the segment, it’s worth the listen. Housley sounds refreshed.


 

Last week, after they lost to the Calgary Flames, I was in my usual “Hey they got a point in a game that they didn’t play well in” mode. I talked with our Program Director, and mega hockey fan, Allan Davis after the show and he was… pissed about the game. He laid it all out that the Sabres have to find ways to grind out that last minute of regulation. Get the job done when you have 60-seconds to steal two points.  

It kinda hit me: The bar has been so low, that maybe I’d been out of practice on resetting it for a random game in November. 

So they look better, and tonight they play a division opponent that’s off to a strong start and one spot ahead in the standings.  

The Sabres have been off since Sunday.  

Rested. Division game. Playoff… “race”? 

It seems like the team has crawled out of the depths and into the soft spongy middle of the NHL hierarchy. Show that you belong here, and maybe you can sneak a playoff spot out of it.

Just like the tank season when I was all in for losses on November 8th… it’s time to go all in for wins. Every point matters.

Show us a little something more tonight.  

Belief is building in town…

I don't know about you, but I'm back to doing that thing where I uncontrollably shout at the screen on scoring chances, either way. It feels like the hockey team is back. I have celebrated a goal this year, and REALLY meant it. And I mean "swearing at your friends after a goal for no reason" meant it.  

They're still here... but they're by no means all set. Let’s check back after 90 periods and see how that tweet from four periods in looks… 

Sure, it might not come down to Thursday night specifically, but it’ll be games just like this one that decide how we remember this year.

This game feels important.

I'm terrified, but it's so good to be back.

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