4:09 left in the third period. Last TV timeout.
Ryan Miller stars at the faceoff circle to his right while the ice crew scrapes away the excess snow. There is no looking around, no watching the dance cam on the big board; just a steady crouch as he stares at the faceoff to his right.
Does he know what’s coming? Does he know that in less than ten minutes his shutout would be over and he would be tackling Miroslav Satan with less than a second left on the game clock? Does he know Tyler Ennis would outwork everyone on the ice to seal the game despite a pair of power plays for the Bruins?
I couldn’t tell you either way, but I think he knew one thing: this thing is headed back to Boston.
When you think about just how close this series has been, a game like this was bound to happen. No one had really dominated a game, and even two-goal leads seemed slim thanks to the Sabres’ ability to let them slip away. So when that third goal went in off the faceoff in the second period, it was hard not to start thinking about Monday night.
The good news is that the despite what the fans in the building were thinking, the Sabres didn’t think about anything but finishing that hockey game. It was the first time this postseason where the Sabres played a complete game. Forget about playing “55 minutes” or “everything but the second period,” the Sabres dominated play on Friday the same way they dominated the last 45 minutes of Wednesday night’s game.
And so if there is hope for this team, that’s it: they’ve been playing some really strong hockey over the last 100 minutes of this series. The Stafford penalty and Satan goal aside, Buffalo played some of their best hockey of the series on Wednesday night, especially in the first overtime. That play certianly carried over last night, and their fast start didn’t fade like it has in the past.
Oh, and Jason Pominville had a strong game. And yes, so did Derek Roy. I’d even go as far as saying Tim Connolly played much better, and did a good job killing penalties. We’ve speculated a number of times that Connolly is hurting, but he wouldn’t be out there on the PK if he was. He’s just not right at the moment, but he’s getting better and that’s important.
So what happens now? What team shows up on Monday? Does Vanek play? What does the scrum at the end mean for each team? A big win has given us hope but only more questions. Last night could have been the end of the road for this team, and I’ve written before about how that ending will give us some answers. Yesterday I didn’t feel like I had learned anything just yet.
Let’s hope I feel the same way on Monday night.