Thomas Vanek did what Thomas Vanek does. He stood in front of the net, took the punishment and scored. Repeatedly. He stole the puck at center ice with less than a minute remaining and fired it into the empty net to seal the game. He stood on the ice as the hats rained down and smiled. Winning was something he could get used to.
Actually, winning is something the Buffalo Sabres have been extremely used to in 2011. They have amassed 58 points since January 1, the most of any team in the Eastern Conference in that span. Even without reigning Vezina trophy winner Ryan Miller for an entire week, the team went 3-0-1 with upstart goaltender Jhonas Enroth in net.
They beat one of this year's Vezina candidates in Henrik Lunqvist, 1-0. They took Carolina's playoff hopes to the brink of extinction with a Sunday victory in Raleigh.
Talk about getting hot at the right time. The last time the Sabres lost in regulation was last Tuesday against Toronto. The time before that? March 15th. That's not just hot. That's Duff's Nuclear Wings hot.
The Sabres have two games left to clinch a spot, and only need Carolina to lose in overtime or regulation once to do so. When Miller is healthy, they will have two high-caliber goaltenders to turn to for the playoff grind. They are getting contributions from all four lines, from Vanek on down to Brad Boyes and Tyler Ennis (who, by the way, is a top-five rookie scorer this season).
I'm not saying that Buffalo will make it through all 16 wins required to hoist Lord Stanley's chalice this year. What I am saying is that they ought to make a lot of noise come the tournament.
Now do I believe? Yes, Mr. Jeanneret. These guys are good. Scary good.