Alumni and the Playoffs
Last night was “Fan Appreciation Night” at HSBC Arena. In most years, this would just mean discounted food and drinks, an appearance from an old player or two and a camera panning to the owner making his first appearance since the home opener. Not this year, not this ownership group, and not this franchise. The Buffalo Sabres did something which, to this writer’s knowledge, has not been done in recent years in the NHL.
Puck drop was at 7:30pm, but the festivities started much earlier. The team organized a Party in the Plaza at 5:00pm, at which there was a pseudo-parade where 80-plus former Sabres players got out of limo-buses or cars from the era in which they played for the franchise, walked down a red carpet and signed autographs for fans. There are way too many to name, but some big names include Rene Robert, Gilbert Perreault, Pat LaFontaine, Phil Housley, and Jay McKee. Following a couple of musical groups, fans either proceeded into the arena or stayed outside to watch the game in the plaza. All of the players that walked down the red carpet were then honored at center ice in a pregame ceremony, ran by Mr. Pegula.
Following the pomp and circumstance, there was a hockey game to be played. The team took on the Philadelphia Flyers. Needing a point to clinch a playoff spot, Lindy Ruff decided to toss Jhonas Enroth in goal. After the Flyers led 1-0 after 20 minutes, Nathan Gerbe released a shot from the point to tie the game, and then Jason Pominville took a beautiful pass from Thomas Vanek and buried the biscuit to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead. However, two goals in 39 seconds gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead heading into the third period. Halfway through the frame, Gerbe struck again, releasing a backhand that went top shelf over Sergei Bobrovsky. The score remained deadlocked until the final horn, giving the Sabres a point and a playoff birth. However, they weren’t done yet. Tyler Myers worked the puck loose to Thomas Vanek, who streaked from the blue line all the way down the ice and sent the fans home happy.
In the big picture, WE’RE BACK IN THE PLAYOFFS! For the team, it’s a great way to end a season in which they were at one point in the cellar of the Eastern Conference. They can now finish no worst than 7th. If Montreal loses and the boys in blue win tonight in Columbus, we’ll be 6th in the conference. So put away your razors Sabres fans, and get excited for more hockey!