If there is any doubt over Pominville’s captaincy of the Buffalo Sabres, it should be silenced now.
Since being named the captain of the Sabres before the start of the 2011-12 season, #29 has been Buffalo’s most consistent forward, leading the team in goals and points. He plays in all zones of the ice. He’s on the power play and the penalty kill. He never gets too high, and he never gets too low.
And oh, after the Sabres hit rock bottom with their 12th straight road loss (5 in a row overall) in St. Louis on January 21st, Pommers called a team meeting. I have no idea what he said to the guys after that game, but the results speak for themselves. Since that game, the Blue and Gold have gone 19-5-5.
All that being said, sometimes being the captain is all about one moment – one big statement. Something clutch. Meetings aside, for Pominville, his best statements come on the ice, and he made a big one in Washington.
Much has been said about the “biggest game of the season” for the Sabres and Washington Capitals.
In short, the Sabres played 60 minutes of smart offense and suffocating, collapsing defense. The Caps rookie netminder, Braden Holtby, predictably succombed to the pressure under what his coach labeled as a “Game Seven.” The Ennis-Stafford-Foligno line continued to dominate, thrilling the raucous contingent of blue and gold clad fans at Washington’s Verizon Center with more of their patented 2 on 1 rushes.
Much has been said, but even this 5-1 victory was not without high drama. This thing almost got away from us.
The Caps dug deep, and had broken onto the scoreboard to make the game 3-1. Christian Ehrhoff and Andrej Sekera had left with injury, and with Robyn Regehr in the box, the Sabres were down to 3 defensemen as they tried to kill off a powerplay and a Caps rally.
We all know what happened next.
Triumph and disaster.
Here’s another look:
Could this be The Goal of the 2011-12 season? With those Caps in position to rally, the Sabres’ captain met the Caps’ captain at the blueline, and the game became just that – captain versus captain. Pominville versus Ovechkin.
Pommers charged at Ovie, forced him to lose control of the puck, dragged him down to the ice, and then skated in for what turned out to be the back breaking goal of the “biggest game of the season.”
Pominville summed up the Sabres’ strategy after the game:
We wanted to take their will away.
Mission accomplished on that play on Ovechkin.
Then, a tip-of-the-hat from Ovechkin, captain to captain:
The goal on the short-handed — I should play [the puck with] my skate, not stick, but it happens. This mistake probably cost us the game.
For now, Pominville and the Sabres’ efforts cost the Capitals the 8th seed as well. Here is where we stand this morning:
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For Ottawa, Buffalo, and Washington, it is now down to a 5 game playoff series. One team will be left out when the final whistle is blown on the regular season. The Sabres are the hot team of the East right now, while both the Caps and Sens have been suspect in net, giving them both an equal share of troubles. Still, there is plenty of hockey left to be played.
Here’s the remaining schedules for each:
- March 30 – Penguins
- March 31 – @Maple Leafs
- April 3 – Maple Leafs
- April 5 – @Flyers
- April 7 – @Bruins
That’s a big stack of games for these three teams.
At least for now, the Sabres sit in the driver’s seat, alone in 8th. It’s been a long climb since January 21st, but who’s to say that they are done climbing the standings yet? Much work is yet to be done, but #29 and his Sabres have proven a heckuva lot in the last 29 games.
19-5-5. Let’s keep this thing going.
And again, as for Pominville’s leadership, there is no need to question it anymore, and there certainly isn’t any need to ask him about it. All he’ll do is continue to answer on the ice.