The Buffalo Sabres and NHL are Boston Strong

They can’t. They won’t. They couldn’t possibly…. They did. In a game that they were supposed to lose, that would have even been acceptable to lose — and a game where fans may have even wanted them to lose — the Buffalo Sabres prevailed. Even when this team wins, they leave you scratching your head. The Sabres pulled out a dramatic  3-2 shootout  victory Wednesday night on the road against the Boston Bruins following the Boston Marathon bombing.

Playing a Difficult Role

In a game that transpired beyond sport itself, the scene was absolutely electric from start to finish. The stage was set with a spine tingling rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. The Sabres were put in the uneasy position of being the ‘other’ team, on a night everyone was a Bruins fan.

For the Sabres, it was important to get off to a quick start and not fall behind as the Bruins would feed off of the ruckus crowd. Lo and behold, the Boston Bruins struck first with a goal from former-Sabre Daniel Paille in the sixth minute of the opening period. The Sabres battled through the first frame and eventually tied the game on a Thomas Vanek powerplay goal.

Buffalo Sabre Drew Stafford - Photo by Andy Martin Jr
Buffalo Sabre Drew Stafford – Photo by Andy Martin Jr

Eventually the Bruins would score again in the second and hold on to the lead until the end… almost. With the Sabres heading to their expected doom, the unthinkable happened. Cody Hodgson tied up the game with 27 second remaining. Did the Sabres really just do that? Yes. The team that has so often been the lovable underdog was suddenly the villain, playing spoiler during what should have been the Bruins moment.

But no need to worry. This year’s edition of the Blue and Gold always find a way to let a game slip away. Well, not this time. The two teams traded blows in overtime, but neither would fall down. Then the final chapter was set for the shootout. And wouldn’t you know it, out of all of the cast of characters on the Sabres bench, it was everyone’s favorite whipping boy Drew Stafford scoring the lone goal to seal the deal.

The team that has looked absolutely listless and uninspired during stretches and sometimes hasn’t even showed up for games, somehow pulled out one of the most dramatic wins of the NHL season. The Sabres have — for the most part — rose to the occasion against class-A opponents this season, but clearly was fueled by the atmosphere inside the TD Bank Garden. Even so, this is still something that no one could have expected from the 2012-13 squad.

We Are Boston

Although the Sabres and Bruins may have been classified as opponents by the sports world, they stood as one Wednesday night. The two teams put on a real show in front of the deserving fans in the arena and around the world, and as a show of solidarity, together, saluted the crowd after the conclusion of the game.

The gesture was actually a collaboration between some of the Sabres players and personel. The idea was then discussed before the game as Sabres forward Steve Ott points out, “I think [Vanek] and Chara during the pregame skate went to center ice and talked about doing something special for the fans. As I stated, we were all playing for Boston last night, and that was the case. It basically puts [everything] in perspective when you are a hockey player to be able to live through that experience and the game. It was absolutely surreal.”

This was another instance of where a game was much more than just a game. It was an opportunity for us all to come together and rise above adversity. Again, Ott sums it up perfectly, “That was probably the most emotional game that I’ve ever been a part of, for so many reasons. [For] the Boston fans and community — with what they’ve been going through — it’s obviously been a horrific two, three days. For them to come out there and at least cheer, and [us players] put some smiles on their faces just for a couple hours was the least we could do to just try to battle for the fans and show the pride of both teams.”

Although the Sabres were able to keep their scarce playoff hopes alive with the win, the bigger picture here remains the Boston community and those affected by the recent tragedy. At least for a small moment in time, the game of hockey gave us an escape from the rigors of our society and brought us together collectively as one.