There are only three more days left on the NHL schedule, two if you want to exclude tonight, which does not feature any matchups with playoff implications. In fact, there is only one game on the schedule. It is pretty much a night off in the NHL, as the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres drop the puck. There is nothing on the line for either team, but we’ve seen the Sabres playing really tough. They have provided a glimpse into what they want their team to look like next season and into the future. It’s all about the future for the Sabres, who have invested heavily in it.
Their big name offseason signing, Ryan O’Reilly, has been a pretty nice investment. O’Reilly has been playing great lately, after a bit of a falloff following the All-Star break. He has earned points in five straight games and six of the last seven games. The left-winger also netted 2 goals against the Rangers two games ago. O’Reilly is young at only 25 years old. He is expected to play a pivotal role in the Sabres emergence in the coming years. Jack Eichel has done a fine job as a rookie in the NHL as well, posting 24 goals and 30 assists at just 19 years old.
The Blue Jackets outplayed the Maple Leafs for the greater part of 60 minutes on Wednesday evening, defeating them by a score of 5-1 at the ACC. I don’t like putting the blame on goalies, but that was another poor effort from Garret Sparks in net. The Blue Jackets had no business scoring 5 goals, but Sparks handed it to them on a silver platter. He has plenty of improving to do, if he wants to be a regular at the NHL level. A meeting of two rather young teams tonight in Buffalo, as they take the spotlight, shortly before the playoffs get underway in the NHL.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Buffalo Sabres NHL Pick
This has been a nice run for the Sabres, who have gotten some much needed confidence for the offseason. They believe in their selves and know that there could be a future in Buffalo. If I had to wager, they might be flirting with the playoffs a year from now. But let’s see how they play their cards in the offseason. The Sabres have won three straight games and gone 5-2 in their last seven games. Conversely, the Blue Jackets are 2-5 in their past seven tilts. The offense for Buffalo has gotten on track lately, with 2.90 goals per game in their last ten games. O’Reilly showed up, and the rest of the offense followed around him.
There is potential for a really good defense with the Sabres. They have done a good job of containing some good offenses this season. In their last ten games they’ve allowed 2.40 goals per game, with their only big lapse coming against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Jackets were the beneficiaries of exposing a pretty bad goaltender against the Leafs, who gave them an empty net to shoot at for a few of those goals. I expect the Sabres to continue to play hard hockey tonight in front of their home crowd. The Blue Jackets haven’t seemed to want to show up and play following a win, as they are 0-6 in their last six games following a win. The Sabres should be able to extract some more energy tonight in Buffalo and get to .500 tonight.
PICK: SABRES TO WIN -120