Let’s hope we don’t need a Part II.
Tonight the Sabres go up against the Philadelphia Flyers at the HSBC arena, and if they earn one point, they will clinch the playoffs.
Sure, a Carolina loss tonight or a Rangers loss on Saturday would also cinch the deal for the Blue and Gold, but I think it’s safe to say that the Sabres would prefer to do this on their own – it is always best to end the season on a roll and continue that momentum into the playoffs.
Not that they will be completely on their own – aside from a packed house full of golden-towel waving fans, the Sabres will be joined on the ice by the hoots and hollers of 75+ Sabres alumni, present for Fan Appreciation night. The “Party in the Plaza” honoring fans and the Sabres’ past, present and future starts at 5pm at the HSBC plaza (puck drop is at 7:30). Quite the spectacle.
Of course, there is always the chance that the Flyers could win this game and spoil the party. While Philly is faltering of late (3-4-3 in its last 10), this probable 1st round playoff opponent of the Blue and Gold will be looking to do whatever they can to disable the purposed stampede that Buffalo has been on.
That will be a far from easy task for the Flyers, however. Just how good has Buffalo been lately? From the Buffalo News:
“(Buffalo) leads the league with 32 points since Feb. 22. The Sabres have a 14-4-4 record and have not lost consecutive games since Terry Pegula became owner. They have a 7-1-2 record over their last 10 games, including a 3-0-1 mark with rookie Jhonas Enroth in goal.”
The Sabres’ sister expansion club, the Vancouver Canucks, may have collected the President’s Trophy for best overall record in the NHL this season, but Buffalo is nearing the playoff charge as the most dangerous team of late. It’s quite a turnaround since December, when the team was sitting 12 points out of 8th at 10 points back and had just learned that leading-scorer Derek Roy would miss the rest of the season by injury.
It would have been easy to give up, then. It would have been also pretty easy to give up when the injury bug started to work it’s way through the roster, hitting veterans Jochen Hecht, Mike Grier, Patrick Kaleta, Steve Montador, Jordan Leopold, and yes, Ryan Miller.
With all these veterans down, the team dug deep, and discovered that the vein of Gold on their blue and gold roster runs deep. Some highlights from the mining expedition:
- Vanek emerged as a cool team leader who is endlessly dangerous and effective in all three zones on the ice.
- Drew Stafford finally blossomed into a dynamic scorer, able to net a hat-trick at any time, and suddenly unstoppable on his way around the defense to the net.
- Nathan Gerbe rediscovered his clutch play that earned him AHL Rookie of the Year and NCAA MVP honors.
- Tyler Ennis is now just one goal shy of a 20 goal rookie campaign.
- Andrej Sekera has shown flashes of Bobby Orr on the ice – not in every game, of course, but enough to win a few games.
- Tim Connolly survived yet another trade deadline and responded by becoming a force on the ice again.
- Tyler Myers collected himself after a sophomore slump that saw his plus minus go as low as -14, and is now +/- 0.
- Rob Niedermayer shook off the inability to score and potted 5 goals in the second half.
- Mark Mancari is finally looking determined and able to play with the big boys of the NHL as a physically dominant body along the boards, just waiting for his chance to unleash his cannon at the net.
- Jhonas Enroth filled in for Miller, and immediately became one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
It’s been quite a run, and tonight is the night for the Sabres to finally cap off their epic comeback by clinching a spot in the playoffs.
Part II, if necessary, will take place in Columbus tomorrow night.