The Sabres finally show some resilience
So I was kinda down on the Buffalo Sabres last week. I kinda took a swipe at their playoff chances, kinda questioned their talent, skill and desire to win.
But I'm always pleasantly surprised when they make me look foolish for playing Monday morning goalie. I'll give them due recognition when it's earned, as it was in Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins. Let's be clear, though: I'm still stuffed full of skepticism, as I believe most realistic fans remain.
Nevertheless, let's play eternal optimist for a moment. Buffalo surely didn't play its best game, looking lazy and turning pucks over in their own zone. There were times when Jochen Hecht and Tim Connolly handled the disc as if it were a live grenade. This one was looking all too familiar when the B's took an early 2-1 lead in third: a fragile collection of skill guys wilts in the face of adversity, surrendering turnovers, scoring chances and eventually, the backbreaking goal. We've seen that scenario play out time and again for uncomfortably long stretches since 2007-08.
But things took a strange and delightful turn Tuesday night. For much of an important divisional game (Boston would've moved 10 points ahead of the Sabres with a win), this too-often soft, underachieving and panicky turned into the Bizarro Sabres.The power-clicked, connecting on two goals.
That's what they mean when they talk about special teams making the difference. Drew Stafford was heard from again, burying all three Buffalo goals. I've had some well-documented doubts about Stafford's future with this organization, and he's either been unhealthy or invisible for in-season eternities. But the guy was on his game, racing to the net and making the opposition pay. When healthy, he's appeared to be finally fulfilling the potential of a fourteenth overall draft pick.
Most importantly, and as yet relatively unseen as the season unfolds, the boys finally showed some grit and determination in this victory, rallying twice, playing a physical game and overcoming a fair-to-midland effort to secure two important points. There was a rugged resilience about the way they told their visitors: "Not so fast."
Here's another opportunity to turn a solid win into something special. They've beaten quality teams before, collecting the building blocks to put together a consistent run, only to regress and return to a loss. They won't get to the top eight by continuing to drift into those maddening waters.
It actually sets up nicely for Lindy Ruff's troops. They always seem to return from their Florida trips with some big wins, although the Cats and Bolts are improved this season. Then they come home for games against the Ducks and Panthers before Christmas. Afterward, a lengthy Western road sojourn that could go a long way toward finding out if this outfit is legit.
I'm just hoping the Bizzaro Sabres show up for the next fifty-one games: the ones that score with the man advantage, get hat tricks from the players they desperately need them from, and refuse to say "uncle."