Technically, he isn’t the Sabres’ captain.
Despite Vanek’s glorious overtime goal last night, I do not see Lindy Ruff throwing a “C” on Thomas Vanek’s jersey anytime soon. No, Ruff might think it distracting to change anything about the hottest team in the NHL of late. Fair enough.
It’s safe to say that everyone, in the locker room and in the stands, knows who the captain is anyway.
But my, oh my, that goal was the stuff of champions. In essence, Vanek’s game winner was a perfect synopsis of this team and the playoff drive that started way back in January.
When Vanek gobbled up the puck in the Sabres’ own end, there was no time for pause. It was January all over again: the Sabres had been reeling, but suddenly had the means and the method to find a win again. Once 10 points out and in 12th place, there was only one thing to do: bear your head down and start pushing up ice.
When you start a fevered playoff push, there is no looking back. In February, Buffalo had to stay focused and determined to charge through the standings. On the ice, Vanek was charging through the neutral zone. There would be no looking back.
March was a story of clutch play against the greater teams of the Eastern Conference. If the Sabres were to truly get into the top 8, they would have to do it by beating the teams in front of them. As Vanek neared the Flyers’ goal line, he had two Philadelphia Flyers to beat. He went straight through them.
April was the time when the Sabres and their fans were finally able to embrace victory. When Vanek beat Flyers’ goaltender Bobrovsky for the win, all the emotion that had built up over the last 4 months was let out, all the determination rewarded. It was a magic moment, to cap off a magical four month ride.
No, he isn’t our captain, but Thomas Vanek showed the NHL last night that he is able and willing to put the entire team on his back, skate up ice with it, and lead it to victory – be it on one play, or over a period of four months.
I can’t wait to see what Vanek, and the rest of the hockey calendar brings us.