Rising Action

by Ryan

It wasn’t a miracle, but it may be categorized by the Florida government as an Act of God.

At least then fans could get some money back after the damage the Lightning inflicted on the season ticket holders last night. Watching the game on tape delay gave me a lot of time to wonder exactly what happened to swing the game so hard, but the answer is right there in front of you: Tampa caught a bad break and then they set the building on fire.

Of course, the Sabres didn’t hold back. Their forecheck was key to causing turnovers and they absolutely rose to the occasion when tensions got high early in the third period. And good on them for doing just that, something that didn’t happen very often early in the season. The Sabres have rarely risen to the moment when necessary, but last night they did.

Hidden within all that chaos was Miller recovering from a few bad goals to make some key saves in the third period, and Tim Connolly making no mistake on a golden opportunity to score. There was Weber finding Vanek all alone and Drew Stafford changing the minds of quite a few with regards to his future.

The past week or so I’ve batted around the question of whether this team is worth saving. What is the approach moving forward with a team hovering around playoff contention that has merely shown flashes of interest in changing that? The litmus test is different for everyone, but for me it is watching the game and looking at each team’s place in the standings after the final horn sounds.

Maybe it’s a sign of how out of the loop I’ve become, but it shocked me to see Tampa Bay sitting in second place in the East after that game. Yes, they have Stamkos and Lecavalier and St. Louis, but oftentimes a team with that talent is worth less than the sum of its parts. Last night excluded, they have been much more than that.

Buffalo, on the other hand, has Vanek and Miller and Myers. Roy is hurt and Stafford hasn’t earned the distinction yet, but the analogy can apply here as well. For the Sabres to be worth saving, so to speak, they have to become much greater than the sum.

Last night Thomas Vanek showed he can almost always push the abacus beads positive. Vanek’s ability and confidence has grown, and despite lacking many of the tools necessary to aid greatness he is doing the job anyway. He alone is a player worth throwing some help towards, a true center or some transaction that sends this team into the top eight.

Drew Stafford, however, is a much more complex decision. Each time Stafford’s situation is approached with great consideration the conclusion seems clear. Then the evidence changes. Something (or nothing) is going to happen with Stafford’s situation in the next few weeks, but even then I’m not sure what that something will really mean for the Sabres.

Stafford will be the topic of choice until Thursday night, when the Sabres can either build off of an impressive third period or regress back to the mean. Then the plot will shift slightly and a new character may come into focus. If there is one thing we have learned from this season it is that Thomas Vanek is the protagonist of the epic.

Last night may have proved Stafford to be the foil.

One Comment

  1. Admittedly, I have no idea what to expect from Stafford at this point in his career.

    I also have no idea what to expect from the Sabres this year.

    All I can do is wait for February 28th. Once Regier (Pegula) is done with the 2010 deadline tinkering, we will at least have a fair indication on what shape or form the roster is going to be taking.

    Go Sabres.