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What the Sabres need to do to make the playoffs

Win five games.

There are nine games left in the NHL season, and the way I see it they have to win at least five more (or get ten points) to secure their spot.

Right now the Sabres sit somewhat comftorably in eight place in the East, with three points seperating them from the ninth place Hurricanes and seventh place Rangers. Its not too late for any team to get hot and sneak into the playoffs over the Sabres if they hit a slump (Toronto, Atlanta, New Jersey).

Here is their remaining schedule and how I think it will play out:

3/25/11 Florida: Win

3/26/11 New Jersey: Lose, the Devils still have a slim chance at making the playoffs and they have been red hot in since the All-Star game so their desperation will trump the Sabres here

3/29/11 @Toronto: Win, Sabres have had their number in recent remory

3/30/11 Rangers: OT Loss, one of the biggest problems the Sabres have had all year is being able to finish games. This Rangers matchup could decide seventh place, but the Sabres won't be able to deliver a definitive 60 minute performance. Sound familiar?

4/2/11 @Washington: Loss, this is a good team, even without Ovechkin.

4/3/11 @Carolina: Win, this will cement the Sabres' eigth place spot

4/5/11 Tampa Bay: Win, the Lightning has no answer at goalie and the Sabres know how to exploit that

4/8/11 Philadelphia: Loss, could be a preview of the first round of playoffs

4/9/11 Columbus: Win, Enroth will probably be in net, and he will be the deciding factor in what should be a meaningless game for Buffalo

Thats 11 more points for a season total of 92 and final record of 41-31-10. This will most likely lead to a first round best of seven with the Philadelphia Flyers or Washington Capitals.

As we watch the last games of the year here's a few things to keep an eye on:

The first tiebreaker for playoffs this year is different than in previous years. Instead of being more wins, it is now wins in overtime or regulation (ROW). This means that a team with lots of shootout wins could get trumped by a team with more of the traditional wins. Second tiebreaker is head-to-head record.

The seeding in the East is far from decided. Philadelphia was running away with the East early on but they have slumped in recent weeks and now Washington or even Pittsburgh could take first. Also, there is still a race for all the division titles. Montreal is only three points behind Boston for the Northeast, so if they flip, that would seriously mix up first round matchups.

The West playoff race is a good one. Four teams are within one point of each other and they will fight it out for the last two playoff spots. The West has been better than the East all year, so these are decent teams too. I have a feeling Anaheim will finish strong there.



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