Perhaps it is the most fitting end to a season filled with disappointment. The 3-second shot of the look on Ryan Miller’s face told a 6-month story of a team that still lacks an identity of their own.
It told the story of a man who has tried to take a leaderless team on his back and carry them to their first playoff birth in the post Drury/Briere era. It also told the story of a man who alone, could not accomplish that feat.
The Atlanta Thrashers continue to frustrate the Buffalo Sabres. Four times they’ve met this year, and 4-times the Thrashers have won the game in extra time. And once again, they’ve taken the wind out of the sails of a group of players that was beginning to get their game back together.
The overtime goal by Kovalchuk is a microcosm for the entire season; a season scorn with inconsistency, untimely mistakes, and a lack of timely goals. Thomas Vanek, who was having his best game since returning from a broken jaw, ends up being the goat in overtime, as his blind shot towards the net resulted in a blocked shot that sprung the aforementioned Kovalchuk on a clean cut breakaway. The rest of the story can likely be surmised by the opening paragraph.
I didn’t hate the effort tonight like I have in past games against this team. Nor did I hate the desperation shown by the Sabres, but overall there just has to be someone who can step up and score a goal when the team needs it most. That goal shouldn’t be coming from the likes of Paul Gaustad and Clarke MacArthur as they have in recent games, it has to come from Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy or Tim Connolly. They needed it last night, and didn’t get it.
The point earned in the OT loss is moot, and although the mathematicians say this team is still in the hunt, if reality hadn’t set in before last night’s game even began, I think it has now. Sitting 5-points out of the final playoff spot, and needing to leapfrog the Panthers in the process, the writing is quite clearly on the wall.
I can respect what the team has shown me for 4-straight games now, particularly given the circumstances surrounding them in some of them. Nevertheless, it was the dreadful months of December and March that ultimately did this team in. More notably, it was losses to the leagues cellar dwellers that put them in the position they are now in. It’s sad to think that of the 22-points they’d lost to Atlanta, Tampa Bay, New York (Isles) and Ottawa, only recouping 6 would have them in the playoffs right now.
Thus, last night’s result was a fitting end to a disappointing season.
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Written by Tim Anderson