“Sorry Mom, I won’t be able to make it this Sunday.”
A sentence that has today become all too familiar for the mothers of hockey fans all over Western New York.
Today is a very special Saturday, not because it is Easter Eve, but because Buffalo Sabres fans are ecstatic following a Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers — a huge win which puts the Sabres up three games to two in the first-round series.
It is a day that is normally spent by mothers prepping their hams and turkeys, cleaning the house from top to bottom in anticipation of the company that is due to arrive early Sunday afternoon.
Instead, moms will be receiving calls throughout the evening from their “grieving” sons who are burdened by the possession of Game 6 tickets, explaining in a rehearsed disappointment exactly why they won’t be apart of this year’s Easter festivities.
“You won’t mind though mom, will you? You need to understand just how important this game is to me!”
Although it is not likely she does understand (if she does, your mom is cool as all hell), there is no understating how much Game 6 — which is set to begin 3 P.M. Easter Sunday — means to the fans of the Sabres.
This game is without a doubt the biggest game the Sabres have been apart of in nearly three years.
A win on Sunday means the Buffalo Sabres have completed an improbable upset over the two-seeded, reigning Eastern Conference Champions.
It certainly has been a season to remember for Sabres fans. Remember when come mid-December they were deemed irrelevant by fans everywhere (myself included), only to pull a complete 360 and become the team everyone thought they were before the season began. With a little help from Mr. Terry Pegula himself, the Sabres put together a run for the ages, becoming one of the NHL’s best teams in the process and cruising their way past playoff incumbents like the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers.
Not only did they find themselves in the big tournament come seasons’ end, the Sabres grabbed the 7th seed on the final day of competition, ensuring a favorable match-up with the reeling Philadelphia Flyers.
Win or lose, no Sabres fan can conceivably be disappointed with the effort put forth this year and in this series thus far from the boys in blue and gold.
All things point in favor of the Sabres for the remainder of the series though, and it has become theirs to lose. Ryan Miller has been everything everyone hoped he would be in this series while Philly’s goal tending issues grow worse with each spin of the roulette wheel.
Scorers Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis have provided the offense with timely goals that have decided games and surprising grit has been provided by Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Myers. Coach Lindy Ruff and hockey player- turned-comedian Patrick Kaleta have been a great source of humor for the series, seemingly getting under the skin of the “whiners” every chance they get.
Although at times Philadelphia has appeared by far the much better team, the final results do not favor that theory. Miller stole games one and two single-handedly and the Sabres did what they had to do to win Game 5, jumping on Philly goalie Brian Boucher early.
They got pucks on the net and tested the shaky backstop early on. Sure enough, two horrendous goals slipped by, leading to Boucher getting the boot in favor of backup Micheal Leighton — confirming the biggest concern from Flyers’ to be true.
The team played possibly their worst 20 minutes in months during the second period. A severe injury to Jason Pominville then made matters worse, causing the team to play short-handed for the remainder of the game.
It was in this fashion however that the Sabres showed incredible resilience and despite playing on their heels for much of the game after Pommer went down, were able to hold off the Flyers’ attack, turning away rush after rush and force an overtime.
It didn’t take long for Ennis to do his best Danny Briere impression in the extra period, and much like his hero-turned-enemy, reserved his spot in Sabres’ playoff glory; clinching the game and silencing those dreadful Flyers fans.
Although the Pominville injury could severely hamper the Sabres’ chances if they go on to advance past the Flyers, Philly is dealing with their own injury issues. D-man Chris Pronger and scorer Jeff Carter have been reported out for the final two games of the series, a huge blow for a team that will need to bring everything they have to overcome the Sabres and will play like a desperate team come Sunday. If all goes well, this weekend will be remembered by Sabres fans for much more than the pussy willows and perogies.
As for all you fans with Game 6 tickets (I will not be among you lucky SOB’s, however my eyes will be glued to NBC come puckdrop, sorry Mom), make sure you remind mom how much you love her and hope to god there won’t be a playoff game at HSBC arena on Mother’s Day. Also, don’t be stupid. Extra schmoozing is necessary to ensure there will be dessert saved for you upon your return.