For much of this year, the Buffalo Sabres were only in the top eight of the Eastern Conference's grouping if you turned the standings upside down. Through team unity and tireless efforts, they skated out of Philadelphia and Minnesota on the weekend, with a combined four points as their reward.
Road games have brought the players closer together, as they appear to thrive away from the comforts of their home ice and understand what must be completed. Although both matches tested the durability of Lindy Ruff's club, it was in Minnesota where a few inspirational moments occurred. Four sequences signified how the Buffalo Sabres have pulled it together after a dreadful start to the campaign.
We'd like to know which of these moments stood out most for you, best describing the new-found confidence and resiliency of the Buffalo Sabres.
Easy As 1-2-3
Games on consecutive days institute scares of fatigue and rest, but the Minnesota Wild played right into the strong hand of their opponents: counter-attacking. Brent Burns sent Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville on their way to a quick rush. Upon reaching the blue line, Pominville was in control of the puck with Burns directly behind him on the chase. He linked up with Vanek, who made a one-touch pass to a trailing Steve Montador and the defenseman was in a prime shooting spot. Burns and Nick Schultz were distracted by Montador and forgot about Pominville, who was on their left side. Going to his backhand, the veteran slipped a deceptive pass to Pominville for a simple finish on this lovely tic-tac-toe draw-up.
On The Rebound...
Rob Niedermayer has played slightly more than 720 minutes in Buffalo - or 12 full matches - and finally found himself that elusive first goal of the season. Any way you look at it, the 36-year-old was carrying extra weight primarily because he was forfeiting golden scoring chances during his struggle. Andrej Sekera was the architect, which again speaks volumes about how well the Slovakian has performed of late. Jose Theodore failed to gather in the original shot and Niedermayer did not let this opportunity slip away. Alice Cooper's 'No More Mr. Nice Guy' blended into the sequence almost in a cinematic way, as that song must have been played in Niedermayer's head dozens of times.
Where Is The (G)love?
A break-away might intimidate most goaltenders, but Jhonas Enroth feels right at home in these showdowns. With three of his four wins coming off of shoot-out decisions, the Swede seems to relish these do-or-die junctures and doesn't believe in panicking. As the puck was cleared into the Buffalo end, it looked to have glanced off the linesman and centered itself for the oncoming Andrew Brunette. A few hearts likely skipped a beat as they watched Brunette skate in uncontested, but Enroth refused to budge and snagged the backhand with his trusty glove. Had a goal been the result of the unlucky bounce that gave Minnesota this opening, it could have been a back-breaking tally. Little more than five and a half minutes was left in regulation, but Enroth was up for the challenge. He has shown his capabilities to ease the burden on the strained shoulders of Ryan Miller.
I'll Take It From Here
Drew Stafford's two overtime winners have one thing in common: he took matters into his own hands against numerous opposing players. In Phoenix, he showed the skill side of his talent by cutting in between two forwards and rifling a shot past Jason Labarbera. But Minnesota received the detriment of being undone by the strength portion of Stafford's package. Two defensemen were in his way and last year, the 25-year-old might have kept his distance from the outside. Putting his head down though, Stafford muscled himself towards the net and deposited the game-winning marker. If the Buffalo Sabres can avoid giving up their spot as a playoff contestant, people will undoubtedly look back on this match as a key breakthrough for their achievement.