Most Sabres fans were probably hoping for a better situation when they woke up on April 20. They had hoped that the Buffalo Sabres would have beaten the New York Rangers the night before and climbed to within two points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference Standings. Alas, that was not the case as the Sabres perhaps put up one of, if not their worst performance of the season adding the exclamation point to the failed campaign of 2013.
Maybe this was an appropriate end to the playoff hopes. The 2013 Buffalo Sabres were good at one thing this season: being difficult to read. Just when they had written themselves out of it with a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens on April 11, they rallied and won three straight games against Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and an emotional one in Boston, in a shootout. That kept them alive with the chance to climb to within a game of the New York Rangers by beating them on home ice April 19, yet it was not to be as the Rangers got some luck and out played the Sabres for the 8-4 win.
Three Game Winning Streak
The Sabres put forth some of their best efforts of the season leading up to the tilt with the Rangers. The keys to their success began from the net out with two solid outings by Jonas Enroth and one by Ryan Miller. Enroth started the first two games. He earned a shutout against the Flyers, making 29 saves. Enroth was well on his way to another shutout the following night against the Lightning, but was denied by a goal in the third period. Still, he turned aside 32 shots and was named first star of the game for the second night in a row.
The Sabres went back to Miller on April 17 in the emotional game played in Boston, the first sporting event since the acts at the Boston Marathon. Despite a revved up Bruins squad, Miller shined in this one making 40 saves in regulation and overtime. Miller was perfect in the shootout and was named first star in the win.
It wasn’t just the goalies that had people believing that, despite how bad things had gone, there was a chance, albeit a small one, that the Sabres could actually sneak into the dance. Thomas Vanek and Cody Hodgson continued to play well offensively, Christian Ehrhoff was chipping in from the back end. Drew Stafford was even the hero in the shootout game against the Bruins and Steve Ott continued to show leadership on the ice and in front of the microphones. It all provided for just a little bit more hope.
To add to the hopes, the three teams the Sabres were battling with for the final two playoff spots were not doing anything amazing to separate themselves from the rest. Yes the Winnipeg Jets were on a five-game winning streak, but that was only after they dropped five in a row. The Rangers were just over .500 at 3-2, in their last five, and the most consistent team was the Islanders at 3-1-1. The Sabres had games against two of those opponents, Winnipeg and the Islanders, in the final three games of their schedule.
Then came the match with the New York Rangers. It was back and forth to start the game. Both teams had their chances. The Sabres were pressing and even forced John Tortorella to use his time out. It looked like it was going to be a one-goal game. And then this happened…
It started out as bad luck two goals off of two defensemen Adam Pardy and Ehrhoff. Then a frustrated Ryan Miller fanned on a pass and it was 3-0. Most fans hadn’t even settled in for the second period when a quick wrist shot beat Miller, ending his night. Enroth did no better as the first shot he faced trickled through. When all was said and done the Rangers had scored five goals in a span of just 2:58. But it wasn’t quite over there after the Rangers made it 6-0, the Sabres came back with a pair, perhaps a great comeback was on the horizon? No. This Sabres team did what is has done well and that’s give the fans just a little glimmer, but again failed to follow through. The game ended 8-4, the most goals the Sabres had surrendered all season.
An obviously frustrated Ron Rolston addressed the media, briefly after the game simply saying “The team didn’t get it done when they needed to.”
Three Games Left
Buffalo will be playing for pride as they finish up the season. Players will be playing for jobs and many other positions in the organization will try to convince ownership they deserve to remain. Will Rolston be around after the final game on April 26? What will happen to Darcy Regier? The season may end in a week but the offseason will just begin. With so many questions going forward, the offseason just might be more entertaining to Sabres fans than the 2013 campaign was.