Sometimes after big moments, months, or years, it's important to step back, take a breath, and really reflect on what just happened, rather than get caught up in the moment and rely on knee-jerk reactions to guide your thoughts. The 2013-14 Buffalo Sabres season is not one of those cases; what the team and their fans just went through will undoubtedly go down as one of the worst and weirdest seasons in franchise history.
But tonight, in the final game of the year, between two bottom-dwelling teams, the Buffalo Sabres gave their fans something we can all appreciate - an entertaining hockey game. Was it a perfect game? No, but it offered enough shots, goals, fights, hits, glimpses at the future, and ridiculous reminders of where things went wrong that tonight's finale ended up being the perfect way to sum up the season.
The worst offense in 78 years...and this might be why
The Sabres weren't able to reach their magic number of five goals to avoid history, and will go down in history as the worst offensive team of the modern era in terms of goals per game. However, the scoring they did get came from unlikely sources, as Matt Ellis, Torrey Mitchell, and Jamie McBain all found the net - and McBain even went coast-to-coast for good measure.
None of these guys should play a big part in the Sabres future, and there's a chance none of them will even be on the team next year. But in a season that will go down in infamy, goals from the unlikeliest of sources seems a good way to put a bow on it.
The energy in the arena from the pregame ceremonies and early goals bled over to the physical side of the game. There were three fights tonight, including John Scott getting dropped on his behind and Zenon Konopka's wrestling match with Brett Gallant, but the highlight reel scrap goes to Nicolas Deslauriers, who dropped some absolute bombs on Scott Mayfield's face as they both exited the penalty box.
"I never did boxing, but I just protect myself, chin in, and just throw everything," said Deslauriers on his strategy. (Ed Note: Seems like it worked.) "He just came out and looked at me, and that was the sign."
The Sabres were very appreciative of the crowd tonight, and all season. "Two last place teams playing, and the fans are still right here to the end, cheering," said Ted Nolan. "I had a meeting with the team afterwards and that's why it's so important this summer that we come back with a whole different attitude and a whole different change and try to get this thing turned around. Because if there's fans that deserve a championship, it's this town."
Marcus Foligno echoed his coaches sentiments, saying, "They love this team, they love this city. It was two last-place teams going at it, and they're here right to the end, so I definitely want to thank them, they're the best fans in the league and they deserve better."
The pregame video thanking the fans was predictably awesome, and the balloon drop at the end of the game was predictably awkward. Once again, a perfect bookend to a historic (in so many ways) season.
Tonight also marked broadcaster Mike Robitaille's final game as a member of the Sabres organization. He was honored in a pregame ceremony at center ice, and was given a standing ovation to go along with his Rolex...which we later found out had been replaced with a cheap kid's watch from the Sabres store by Rick Jeanneret, who, with Terry Pegula's help, pranked his longtime broadcast colleague one more time.
1. Who the heck is playing today?
Turns out all the call-ups played well - Connor Knapp got his first NHL start and assist on Jamie McBain's goal, while Nicolas Deslauriers layed the lumber in a big way fighting Scott Mayfield. Mark Pysyk had a key third breakaway breakup, and Andrey Makarov opened the bench door like no other. All of these guys should be back in Rochester by tomorrow for the Amerks playoff run.
2. Who will win the team awards?
Tyler Ennis won the MVP (because they weren't allowed to give the award to Ryan Miller, I can only assume) while Zemgus Girgensons won the Rookie of the Year, and Jhonas Enroth took home the Unsung Hero award.
3. What will be our final memory of this awful, interesting season?
There can be no more fitting last image than Ville Leino, sent out third in the shootout with the chance to keep the season alive...and completely whiffing on his attempt. You couldn't have scripted a more brilliantly devastating ending.
1. Anders Lee - scored 2 goals
2. Jamie McBain - coast to coast!
3. Matt Ellis - scored a goal and finally gets some love from the Star Men
Comment of the Game
The end of the season calls for a two-for-one. It feels good to win something, doesn't it?