Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE
If there is any doubt left that the Buffalo Sabres could make the playoffs, tonights game should eliminate it. I will admit – I was ready to write the season off, and had pretty much no hope that the team could come from last place, and recover from the hole they had dug themselves. I am a changed man. The season isn’t over, they haven’t clinched anything – but if the Los Angeles Kings can win tonight, the Buffalo Sabres should stop talking about making the playoffs, and start talking about taking the division, as they will be within three points of second place.
Not bad for a team that was in 15th – last – just one month ago.
If there is one man who can convince any remaining doubters, it is Marcus Foligno. He admitted tonight wasn’t his best game – the kids on this team are definitely showed what tired legs mean when the Sabres play them in back to back situations (thankfully those are over). Foligno’s determination shines though – as he still put himself in the right place at the right time to net the game winning goal in tonights contest, courtesy of a Tyler Myers slap shot. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Foligno’s production puts him in pretty select company. He’s on a list with Teemu Selanne, Evgeni Malkin, Devin Setoguchi, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Alex Ovechkin, the similarities? They are the only NHL players (active) to have scored six or more goals in their first nine career NHL games.
Cody Hogdson continues to break out of his funk, as he nets the empty netter – after previously making Vanek’s goal happen. Thats 19 goals and 20 assists for Cody. When you shoot the puck, you shall be rewarded. Hodgson led the Buffalo Sabres with seven shots.
The story of the night (other than the Sabres taking over the eighth spot in the East) came in the second period. The Sabres failed to capitalize on the buzz they were creating as they were swarming the net and taking every available shot at Harding they could. The Wild took some exceptions to that and came to the aid of their goaltender. Whatever they did, whatever they said, enraged Cody McCormick so much, that the striped shirts were so entertained by his activities that Travis Turnbull was able to hold his own in his first NHL fight in just his second NHL game.
After being outshot in the first period, the Buffalo Sabres turned things on and put the heat on the Minnesota Wild, sending rubber at Harding 26 times in the second and third frame – which was still more than the Wild produced all game if you didn’t count the Sabres first period shots. Miller had an easier night after the first 20 minutes – having to be solid for only 9 shots through the final 40 minutes.
The Sabres did have a scare – and Lindy said when things are going bad, we probably would have been bit by it, but a shot taken by Minnesota’s Clayton Stoner hit Miller and got over him – but it ended up on the net, instead of in the net. That would have tied the game, and the way it would have ended up in the net, would have taken the energy out of the building.
The energy was high tonight, as fans were loud throughout the arena. Fan of the night award goes to the guys in 317 – who called out Sabretooth early in the game, and low and behold Sabretooth showed up with his drum and the guys helped him woo the crowd and keep things loud. Honorable mention goes to the guys who started the night in section 326 with SABRES sprawled on bear chests. Team President Ted Black showed up with upgrade tickets, sending the six guys to section 116 for the remainder of the game. Thanks to @BradTheBarrel for tweeting that in game and letting everyone know.
The Sabres get some time off, they don’t play again until Tuesday, when the now behind them Capitals come to town. Lindy stressed its a good time for the guys to get away from hockey for a day, and get back to work on Monday. The Sabres can add definition to their season by controlling their own destiny now, and putting space between them and the Washington Capitals. Faceoff on Tuesday is 7 PM. Buffalo probably faces their toughest two contests of the rest of the regular season in their next two games, facing the Capitals and Penguins.