While making the playoffs is always the benchmark of a good season, sometimes there are those games, regardless of their playoff implications, that push a team around the corner into a successful franchise.
Facing countless moments of adversity against one of the Eastern Conferences most prolific teams, the Buffalo Sabres scraped and clawed their way back on multiple occasions, and instead of finding a way to lose, they burst through that door of opportunity, and found a way to win.
Anyone who watched last night's game, regardless of your affiliation, would have to agree that the Sabres were the team that deserved the 2-points. Aside from a parade to the penalty box early in the 2nd period, the result of 2-poorly timed penalties and an atrocious call by Bill McCreary on Toni Lydman with Buffalo already 2-men down, Buffalo dominated 5-on-5 play, and carried much of it throughout the entirety of the game.
They listened to their head coach for a change, and starting firing anything and everything towards the net that they could, and wouldn't you know it, stuff started going in. Clarke MacArthur's centering pass went in off of Kozlov, Drew Stafford tipped a point shot, and Afinogenov tied the game midway through the 3rd on a mad scramble in front of the net after a couple of shots had been fired at Varlamov. Good things happen when you put the puck to the net!
On so many levels, this game could be the one we look back upon and decide that this is when this group of players, so desperate to find their own identity, still after nearly 2 full years without Drury/Briere, finally became a their own team. Leaders are beginning to emerge over the past 2-weeks as this team has been admirably fighting to stay alive. Paul Gaustad, in my opinion, should be wearing the “C,” and that is no indictment of Rivet, it's just a fact that Goose has been a leader on and off the ice for this team. Patrick Kaleta was seen on the MSG feed last night going up and down the bench before the OT session started, trying to fire up his squad. And of course, Ryan Miller, who has not had the huge numbers since his return, does what he was so highly touted for doing coming out of college…win! Since his re-insertion into the line-up, the Sabres have collected 9 of 10 points, and despite their ever fragile playoff hopes, he has been instrumental in doing all you can do at this point – make the next game mean something.
For the optimists, and I know there are a few of you out there, I suppose there is hope. In fact, the hope really relies heavily on one thing – the Sabres ability to win out. This of course is where I lose much of mine, but nevertheless, depending on what happens today, the Sabres could miraculously be in control of their own destiny heading into the final week of the season. If that happens, I'll be in line to eat my words, and I'd do so with the biggest smile on my face you'll ever see from a man who was so patently wrong. However, the road remains perilous, and there's a big dip in it dead ahead, as the Sabres entertain the New Jersey Devils tonight – another 3 in 4-nights for Buffalo.
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Written by Tim Anderson