There is something haunting about Zdeno Chara’s goal on Friday night that I can’t shake.
Chara, as always, looked dangerous all game. He hit a post, abused much smaller Sabres without penalty and loomed large as the Bruins pressed to tie. A second period goal was unlikely to stand up against a team with the best third period goal differential (+33) in the league.
A few minutes into the third, Ehrhoff check-swings a puck into foul territory — the dreaded delay of game penalty — and it seems like a matter of time.
But Miller has been good and the defense is there. The penalty kill starts with a poorly-executed 2-on-1 between Gaustad and Kaleta, and you wonder if maybe they can kill this thing off. Just over a quarter of the way through the power play, Chara winds up and fires the best slap shot in the league, his momentum carrying him past the Blue Light ad on the half wall.
The puck skids into the corner to a waiting Derek Roy, who turns and does the neighborly thing. ‘You missed that one, buddy. Try again?’
Turnovers, it seems, can overcome any language barrier.
The entire building knew what was coming next. The crowd groans, Jason Pominville dives in futility to get near the vapor trail and the flashbulbs fade the picture out for just a moment. The Bruins celebrate and someone’s camera just captured the turning point of the game.
The goal is listed as ‘unassisted’ in the box score. Everyone knows better.
Depending on your perspective, Chara’s Slovakian snipe is any number of things. ‘ Resilience ‘ looks much more like misguided charity when you’ve not blinded by allegiance. Opportunistic makes more sense. There are, after all, two teams and 12 players making decisions on the ice at any one time.
The curious part comes next.
A few months ago, that turnover sets the whole place on fire. May as well pack up the camping chairs and drive the RV over a cliff, there’s no going back from a mistake that big. The Bruins will earn another one. They were on their way do doing just that before you practically picked up the puck and threw it behind Ryan Miller yourself, Roy. The intensity will ramp up and the Sabres will once again let it slip away.
The second goal never came. Boston had more chances, but Miller was there. Vanek even tried the ‘last minute soul-crushing penalty’ routine, but the red light never lit. Chara had one last slapper from the left side that wasn’t true. Maybe the pass wasn’t good enough this time.
Five minutes of extra time came and went, and sure enough, Roy is there to bank one in off the post in the skills competition. Two more points and a nice redemption story to lead the gamer.
I’m not sure what to tell you. I understand this team about as much as I understand that Jack Edwards tweet about showing jam. What I do know is that the Sabres have topped the Stanley Cup champs twice this month and are slowly extending the lead in aggregate. That seemed incredibly unlikely after that Saturday night in November when Milan Lucic left Buffalo’s franchise goaltender lying lifeless on the ice.
Call it opportunistic. Maybe resiliency suits you better. You don’t have to call it something ‘good’ but it certainly is something different. Another reason to look up the ladder.
For another day, at least.