Even Tyler Ennis
was surprised he wasn't nervous waiting for overtime to start in Game 5 against the Flyers on Friday.
"I thought I was going to be a little nervous heading to the overtime, but I was excited, couldn't wait for it to start," he said. I really wanted to score."
He wanted it so bad, he could see it happening.
"I was picturing myself scoring," he said. "It was exciting."
|Buffalo's Tyler Ennis (left) brought his vision to life with this overtime goal in Game 5 to lift the Sabres to a 4-3 win against the Flyers.
In case you didn't see it, here's how it looked
Ennis said he kept his clairvoyance to himself. Maybe he didn't want to jinx it?
"I was trying to pump other guys up, 'Be a good feeling to get it, go get it,'" he said. "But deep down I wanted to get it."
That's the kind of attitude Sabres coach Lindy Ruff
is happy to hear from Ennis. In his first full NHL season, Ennis emerged as a key contributor to the Buffalo offense, finishing fourth on the team with 20 goals and 49 points. But he had just 1 assist in the first four games against the Flyers.
That all changed in Game 5, as he scored the game's first and last goals and has helped the Sabres move within one win of the second round.
"I just know your first year is tough," Ruff told reporters Saturday. "It's a grind. If you look at the last three months, every game has been a game that has meant so much to our team. We really couldn’t fall flat for a period of time and for young players, adjusting to that pressure on a daily basis is not easy. I think he's got over the hump, the energy's back in his game. You could see (in Game 5), he was dangerous every time he was on the ice."
Ennis is enjoying his increased role this postseason for the Sabres.
"Last year I just got called up at the end of the season," he said. "I was just playing and enjoying it and relishing the moment. This year I'm really committed to making a difference. I have to make a difference because that's my role. I have to produce. Last year I was just enjoying the moment. This year I'm driven and really want to make a difference."
Ruff also enjoyed hearing Ennis' post-game comments about how much fun he was having playing in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center, which has the reputation of being one of the more intimidating places to play as a visiting player.
"I said (Friday) after the game, it puts a smile on your face to see a guy play like he did," said Ruff. "Then he makes the comments about what a great place to play and so much fun. It's always typically been one of the toughest buildings to go into. That's the attitude we have to take -- no excuses."
Goalie Ryan Miller
also has liked what he's seen from Ennis in a leading role this year after his supporting role last year.
"I think last year he was just happy to be here," said Miller. "I think this year he understands he's a big player. We need him to be creative and we also need him to be smart. That creativity needs to come in situations where it's a little bit safer with the puck. The Flyers are a team that can thrive on turnovers. (Friday) was a great example. He got loose and a lot of his moves were from separation, led to some great chances. There was one move where he went inside-out on two guys, and not many people in the League can get through that situation. That's the kind of play he can bring. He's doing it at the right time."
Miller said he likes the fearlessness he's seen not just in Ennis, but in a number of his younger players.
"You can't be afraid to have success," said Miller. "You have to put yourself out there to accomplish anything. There's a risk of losing, there's a risk of looking bad, there's a risk of a lot of different things when you go for big wins or put yourself in position to accomplish something great. I think it's good we're taking the attitude that we want to go for it and we want to win and make the choice that we want to make a difference."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK