It's what I expected, it's how I suspected, and it's why I believed the Buffalo Sabres' season came to an end last Saturday night when they were shutout by the hapless Islanders.Â When you have a schedule as daunting as Buffalo's, it's a necessity to win the games you are supposed to, and as I've gone over and over again, they aren't doing that, and those around them in the standings are.
Tonight's game is not the reason they'll miss the playoffs.Â As I just said, I would have predicted a loss this evening, however if the points the Sabres previously squandered had instead been banked, the devastation would be far less severe.Â But because there have been such lackluster performances against the league's most inept teams, the loss this eveningÂ does nothing more than add water to another filling bulkhead, tipping the ship that much closer to 90-degrees.
The problems continue to be the same for a team that simply doesn't seem to haveÂ a knack for getting the timely goals they need to make ground in the chase.Â It's evident that unlessÂ they can get up early, and get up by a large number of goals, they don't have it in them to win the tight ones – which sadly, are the types of games you need to win coming down the stretch.Â Yet another argument for those who have claimed this team is simply not built for the playoffs.
Just an aside, the Pens have just stormed back from a 2-goal deficit in the 3rd to tie their game with the Panthers.Â Can I get a collective chuckle from those who still believe some sort of entity lives beneath the city of Buffalo, existing only to torment us?
Back to business though.Â The goaltending has been average for 2-games now, but again the problems aren't that simple.Â It's clear that the issues run deeper onÂ a rosterÂ that, as I said before, can't get the scoring when the games are tight.Â Let's be honest, this one was there for the taking as the teams wereÂ deadlocked for an entire period, although it was only tied because the Sabres failed to kill a whopping 14-seconds to close outÂ the 1st period.Â So it would be fair to say that not only are Buffalo severely deficient in scoring timely goals of their own, they're more than happy to allow the opportunistic timely goals to their opponents.Â Nevertheless, an entire period goes by tied at 1, and instead of the Sabres punching one in to take the lead, they fail to capitalize on their opportunities and surrender a bevy of tallies as soon as the 3rd stanza begins.Â
I won't even go into the fact that once again an entire 60-minutes is a phrase simplyÂ lackingÂ in the Buffalo dressing room, or that when opportunitiesÂ are presented to clear the puck in their own zone, there are continuedÂ failures to do so.Â While on that topic, Toni Lydman remained consistent with his one ungodly turnover per game (minimum),Â while Roy and his “I can stick handle through anyone, even at my own blue-line” attitude permeated the building as itÂ so frequentlyÂ does.Â
As the frustration continues to mount for Buffalo fans, a frustration that will only be quelled when the Stanley Cup is awarded, officially ending another playoff-less season – making it now 5 of 7 -Â there is an even stronger fear that with the current roster locked up for the foreseeable future as it is, there is only more of the same on the horizon.Â What makes this particular seasonÂ so disheartening though, is how quickly the ship began to sink, and how it happened without a real hardcore collapse of their own.Â It simply came down to the Sabres' inability to remain consistent, and that lack of consistency is what has me, and virtually every expert in hockey, predictingÂ their absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Call me a pessimist if you will, and while you may be right, my pessimism is based on reality, and not pure emotion (although admittedly some of my rant tonight is the result of the latter).Â For you optimists however, the Florida Panthers are in town Thursday night, andÂ whileÂ a win may tease you into believing there is still life, I fear even you may join the ranks of negativity should they drop that all important contest on home ice.Â Nevertheless…
PS: You guessed it, the Florida/Pittsburgh game has gone into overtime.Â Points for everyone!!!
PSS: Oh glorious day – the Habs storm back late in the 3rd to tie it, and defeat Edmonton 4-3 in OT.
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Written by Tim Anderson