Important because a team that struggled all night defensively found a way to hold on and get the single point that it needed. Important because Thomas Vanek put an exclamation point on a festive night with an overtime goal that just may have sent a message to a potential first-round opponent. Above all, important because Nathan Gerbe ensured a playoff spot for the Sabres with an absurdly clutch spinorama goal in the third period to tie the game.
But for me, this game was also important because of a different little guy. This one.
Meet my son, Tyler, who is six months old today. Happy half-birthday, Tyler!
You can call him "Tyler Three" if you like; his name was at least partially inspired by Tylers One and Two (my wife's idea, not mine, believe it or not). Last night was his first Sabres game. We hadn't really planned on taking him to any games this year, but found ourselves lacking babysitting at the last minute. I was alternately excited and terrified about taking my son to his first game - I'm always a bit worried about people getting judgmental with us for bringing such a little baby - but we started bringing his big sister Sarah to Bandits games at an even younger age, so I was sure everything would be fine. I'm proud to say he was a good boy and handled himself well, and we got lots of "awwww"s and positive comments from people sitting nearby. (And yes, we did bring earplugs. Both kids certainly needed them - HSBC was rockin' last night.)
As for the game itself - how freakin' clutch is little Nathan Gerbe? He has responded to being completely left for dead by the media and the fanbase by scoring 15 goals since January 1st, usually in the most timely of fashions - last night's third-period spinorama backhand being the latest, and possibly the best, example. I've always admired his grit and his heart - he threw a hit on Chara in the playoffs last year, for crying out loud - and it's awesome to see him starting to become the clutch performer he was in the 2008 Frozen Four. Paul Hamilton nailed it on WGR last night - Cody McCormick may have been voted the Unsung Hero by his teammates (well-deserved, I might add), but Nathan Gerbe couldn't have been far behind in the voting.
While I'm at it, I want to touch on Enroth being pulled for Miller to start the third period. There's been a lot of consternation about this, but I was fine with it. I felt a bit bad for Enroth - if not for his outstanding goaltending in pressure situations over the last two weeks the team wouldn't be in a playoff position right now, and although I didn't like the second and third goals he gave up last night, I didn't think he was terrible. But I didn't view it as a lack of confidence in Enroth; rather, I viewed it as Lindy telling his team "These are the most crucial two points of the season, and we need our best players in there. Now go get it." It was a bold decision that could have backfired - but as happens with Ruff so many times, it was the right decision.
The Sabres are now undefeated with Tyler Three in attendance. Thought that was worth pointing out.
Bring on the playoffs. I don't care who we face, they won't know what hit 'em. Let's go Buffalo!