West Coast Posts: Part 1 – The Phoenix or The Flame
So, seeing as I’ve been super lazy this break I have decided to do a series of posts dedicated to the upcoming trip to the west coast that the Sabres have. This series will be called the “West Coast Posts” and will run everyday or every-other day depending on when the next game is (relative to the post). Expect this series to go hand in hand with the Game Previews.
For those who don’t know, the Sabres play 7 games in the next 12 days. The first 5 of those games are against Western Conference opponents and on the road. The Sabres return home after those games to take on their Conference Rivals in the New Jersey Devils and their Division Rivals in the Boston Bruins.
First, I bring you an overview of the trip:
The Sabres kick off the trip tin Phoenix, AZ tomorrow night against the Coyotes (28-16-5). They then travel to Anaheim the very next day to take on the Ducks (22-20-7). After a day off on Wednesday, they head to Los Angeles to play the relatively hot Kings (27-18-3) on (thirsty) Thursday. The San Jose Sharks (31-10-8) then play host to the Sabres on Saturday night. At 10:30 PM. Yikes, gotta love the west coast. The trip comes to a close on Monday night against the Vancouver Canucks (28-18-2). The Sabres head back home on Wednesday to take on the Devils. As the image below displays, the total millage for the trip is 3,949 miles. Wow. That is a lot of traveling in only eight days. Clark Griswold would be very jealous.
Next up, why the trip is important:
Well it is important because the bulk of it is against teams from the Pacific Division. And by bulk I mean every game is against a Pacific Division team with the only exception being the Canucks. The Western Conference has been way better than the East this year and the proof lies in the standings. The 8th seed in the West is the Los Angeles Kings who have 57 points. The 8th seed in the East is the New York Rangers who have 50 points. If the Kings were in the East they would be sitting in a comfortable 5th place. Meanwhile, back in the West, the Minnesota Wild are in 11th place with 51 points. If they were in the East and the season ended today, they would be playoff contenders. This is simply just a juxtaposition to show how the East stacks up (or doesn’t in this case) against the West. Ironically, if the Sabres were in the West, they would still be in 3rd place.
Let’s focus on the present, shall we?:
The first team that the Sabres face on this left coast bonanza is the Phoenix Coyotes. In my opinion, this game will set the tone for the entire trip. If the Sabres can rout the Coyotes (with something along the lines of a 5-1 win), they will be rejuvenated after their recent loss to the New York Islanders. The Coyotes are 5th in the Western Conference and have put together a very solid season after a shaky off-season that had them worried about their financial future. The Sabres beat the Yotes in their only previous meeting this season. If they can get another win against Phoenix, it should be smooth sailing against what was a weak Anaheim Ducks team that is having a great January. The Sabres need to play solid, hard-nosed hockey against these good Western Conference teams. I’ll have more tomorrow in the Game Preview.
And finally, we’ll bring it all back together:
Overall, the Sabres just need to play their own game and not get sucked into the vortex of decent talent that exists in the West. If they come out strong each night, there is no way they can lose. Fatigue is always a huge factor and it will definitely play a major role in this trip. They need to win games and stay healthy in the final stretch of what has been a great January (so far they are 4-0-2).
It seems to me that this trip is either going to make or break the Sabres (or at least Tim Connolly). This west coast series kicks off what will be a hellish four weeks before the All-Star Olympic break.
Stay posted throughout the week as I provide you with constant West Coast Posts and Game Previews.
Oh and for those who don’t get the title “The Phoenix or The Flame”, it’s a Harry Potter reference. In the book they are asked which came first, the Phoenix or the flame. And yes, I know, I’m a huge dork. They say the first step is acknowledgement and acceptance…
See you tomorrow for the Game Preview!