Sabres vs. Penguins recap: A fitting end as Fleury shuts out Sabres 2-0
There's no more appropriate way to end the season than with the Sabres getting shut out for the 14th time.
After all the heartache, all the confusion, fans turning on their own team and one another, and months of pent-up anxiety, the Sabres season mercifully ended with an appropriate whimper - their 14th goalless game - as they were shut out 2-0 by Marc-Andre Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The final day of the regular season began with some of the most positive energy seen in the First Niagara Center in maybe two years. It was a beautiful Buffalo day, and the excitement for the future could be heard in the sweet tones of the 70's funk music emanating from the Party in the Plaza.
As the two teams took the ice, there was a palpable energy in the air - people were ready to cheer for this team again, and cheer they did as a loud "Let's Go, Buffalo!" chant rang out before and after the opening faceoff. The crowd was buzzing all game (thanks in part to a large contingent of Penguins fans) but nevertheless it was great to hear a real hockey atmosphere in the First Niagara Center again.
Before the puck dropped, the team announced the winners of their in-house awards, voted on by the players. Nic Deslauriers took home Rookie of the Year honors, Mike Weber was voted Unsung Hero, and Tyler Ennis was named the team's MVP. The fans cheered each player (yes, even Weber) with the enthusiasm that months of growing frustration suddenly released last night.
That excitement and energy bled over to the ice - at least at first. Fans who watched the first period saw an intensity and chippiness from the Sabres that they would sadly be unable to maintain. Despite clinching 30th place last night and allowing us all to relax for tonight's game, Sabres fans had to suffer through one more classic Sabres Tank effort. While the team was giving what they had on the ice, they were being outshot almost 2-1 at the end of two periods, and Anders Lindback's clean sheet was finally tarnished in the second by a nifty backhand goal from Brandon Sutter.
The Sabres would fade even further in the third period, allowing a second goal to Sutter while barely managing to put any pressure on Pittsburgh whatsoever until a final flurry in the closing minutes. It was a stark reminder that, although their ultimate goal was achieved, this team has a long way to go to compete with a playoff-bound team, even a slumping giant like the Penguins.
Still, we can take solace in the fact that tonight marks the end of the two worst seasons in franchise history. For the Buffalo Sabres, there's nowhere to go but up, and I for one can't wait to start looking forward.
1. Can the Sabres keep the Penguins out of the playoffs?
Nope, Pittsburgh will play in the postseason, while the Bruins will not. I do not feel bad about this.
2. How many players will be playing their final game as a Sabre?
Out of those who might not be with us in Buffalo next year, Patrick Kaleta's game stood out as one of the all-time great Kaleta efforts. He was all over the ice in the first period, setting up big hits, getting his hands in people's faces after the whistle, and "accidentally" bumping anyone going off on a change. While it didn't result in any penalties drawn, it was nice to see Kaleta back in his old form, possibly for the last time.
Comment of the Game
Ladies, Gentlemen, it's been real
This season was insane. I can’t believe we had two separate standings, one for the NHL and one for the lottery, and that we were struggling over ROW, 3rd string goalies,AHL callups, trade deadline shenanigans, and more. I can’t wait to see what happens next week, what happens July 1st, and what happens next season.
Hell yes Buffalo. We’re going to be in it to win it from this point foward.