Buffalo Sabres Play Their ‘Get out of Jail Card’ To Escape With The Win


One of the inevitabilities of spending Christmas with my girlfriend’s family is that at some point, a game of Monopoly will break out.  Call it tradition if you will.  This year, the game went on far too long, finishing after three o’clock in the morning.  (In my opinion, board games should not be allowed to last longer than two hours max.)

Why am I telling you this?  Well, New Years Day resulted in another late night, as I watched Buffalo play Atlanta.  And the way the game panned out reminded me of Monopoly as the Sabres elected to play their ‘get out of jail’ card and steal the victory from a stunned Thrashers team.

What’s that old saying?  “Sometimes, I’d rather be lucky than good.”  This was definitely the case with Buffalo last night, who had no business winning this game. 

In fact, the winning goal in overtime illustrated this point perfectly as the puck took a crazy bounce off of the boards and fell into the lap of Derek Roy, who couldn’t miss the open goal to win the game. 

“That was the most wide-open net I’ve gotten in my career,” Roy said after the game.  “I got a lucky bounce off the glass. It was a good bounce for us.”  (The first contender of 2010 for ‘understatement of the year’)

And in another comparison to the 1990 Bills team this marked the third successive game in which the Sabres won despite trailing after two periods.  (The Bills had three successive come-from-behind victories against the Broncos, Raiders and Jets.)

I realise that the Hockey season lasts just a little bit longer than Football, but the parallels must surely be causing a sense of excitement in Western New York.  The never-say-die attitude of this Sabres squad is impressive.

The win against the Thrashers also set a franchise mark, as the first time in their history Buffalo had won two straight games after recovering from three-goal deficits.

As I discover more about this team, I became intrigued by the reaction of head coach Lindy Ruff in his post-game interview.  In particular, his demeanour couldn’t have been more different in comparison to the Penguins game.

Ruff, while relieved with the win against Atlanta, was not nearly as happy with the way the team played and you could sense it in the way he spoke.   “We’re not going to keep coming back from 3-0.  We’re right on the cusp of either getting it figured out and going one way or looking pretty bad.”

Ruff knew that they had been fortunate to win the game.  Interestingly, the interview started later than usual and I suspect it was because he was giving his squad a ‘right bollocking’ as we call it in England.

Despite the sense of déjà vu Ruff also proved that he doesn’t let his emotions rule his head.  It would have been easy to once again replace Ryan Miller with Patrick Lalime when the score got to 3-0. 

However, the head coach knew that his goaltender couldn’t really be blamed for any of the goals this time, as Miller was left exposed time and again by his defense.  With 32 stops overall Miller had some key saves that kept the Sabres in the game.

A lot of fans may be concerned by Buffalo’s recent habit of starting games slowly.  But in an attempt to give the glass-half-full viewpoint, at least the team is starting to score a few more goals. 

Buffalo may well still need to try and sign some more firepower, but 13 goals in three games has to give at least some cause for optimism.  And the three straight come-from-behind victories more than proves the team’s character and mental resolve.

Unfortunately, I will soon be back at university, which means going to bed at a more reasonable hour.  However, I will do my best to keep an eye on a Sabres team that has helped to give me a new-found appreciation for the NHL.

Happy New Year everyone!

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