March 15th, 2011.
The Day of Reckoning.
Back on March 1st, just before the Sabres embarked on their longest road trip of the season, I posted this article. A brief synopsis:
“The Buffalo Sabres are about to embark upon their longest road trip of the season, a 7 game stint that pegs them all over the map until a return home trip from Toronto on March 12. And it will decide the season.”
“The Sabres currently sit in 9th place with 65 points, behind the Hurricanes’ 67 and the Rangers’ 70, with 2 games in hand over the Dreaded Canes and 3 games over the New York Rangers.”
“By (March 15) the Sabres will have played 9 games, the Canes 7, and the Rangers 7. Buffalo will still have 1 game in hand over the Rangers, but for all intents and purposes, the games in hand ratio will finally have reached even ground.”
“Buffalo will cash in its games in hand on the road… Buffalo’s 2010-11 season will be decided on the road. They will use their games in hand, while going up against the two teams that are ahead of them in the top 8. Here’s to reckoning that when the boys in Blue and Gold come back to town from Toronto, that they come back as winners.”
Back in Buffalo, and after last night’s emotional triumph against the Senators – on the day that Sabres Nation lost cherished legend Rick Martin – these heroes not only made up ground on Carolina and New York, but they took a cue from Rico’s #7 banner and claimed 7th place over both teams.
This could go down as one of the most successful road trips of all time for the Blue and Gold. A team out of the playoffs all season found a way over the longest road trip in team history to finally scrap back into the top 8.
Terrence Pegula had just taken over ownership of the team, just in time to hop on the team “bus” and tag along on the team road trip from city to city. With Pegula watching from each arena – sometimes in regular ol’ fan seating – his team rallied alongside his ardent support, dug deep, and seized 4 victories and 9 out of a possible 14 points.
Add the homecoming victory against the Sens, and the total can be considered 11 of 16. (The Sabres were off the heels of the trip, and faced an early 5pm start – after losing an hour of sleep due to daylight savings time, and straight after a 7pm match-up the night before in Toronto. Yea, one could count this game as a road game, for all intents and purposes.)
Today, the team will enjoy a well deserved day off from game action. Tomorrow, they will play host to the Carolina Hurricanes, for a 4 point match-up that gives the Sabres the chance to all but bury Carolina’s realistic playoff hopes.
The Day of Reckoning is here, but it is the Hurricanes, not the Sabres, who will be playing to prevent the sounding of their season’s “Dies Irae” - (the march to the playoffs is one of life, and death, after all).
Heading into that heady showdown tomorrow, Buffalo is marching strong – 6-2-2 in their last 10, compared to Carolina’s bumbling 3-5-2 record (and New York’s middling 5-5-0 record).
Beyond that momentum is simple math – with 13 games left, the Sabres will somewhere have to lose 3 games while Carolina will have to win 3 in order for the Canes to sneak back in, if their schedules otherwise remain equal.
That’s a tough task, and for the Canes, it simply must start tomorrow, or they will be looking at a mountainous 4 in 12 games swing.
Big game tomorrow, then? That’s an understatement.
I guess I was spot on when I called it “The Day of Reckoning.”