A Bluejackets Beat-Down And Why We Should Stay Upbeat
The Sabres faithful came in droves to Nationwide Arena, as is usual when the teams meet there. It seemed to be at least 1/3 Sabres fans. For the most part, Sabres fans appeared to be quieter than previous meetings, but optimistic of a win or at the very least a spirited contest.
Sadly, from the get-go the Bluejackets took it to the Sabres in every facet of the game. Even Curtis Sanford looked like Marty Brodeur in net, not that the Sabres were doing anything particularly imaginative offensively. The Sabres did just miss on a few chances, but more importantly they got outworked, outsmarted, outhit, outshot, out…shined? Sorry, not sure how a Soundgarden reference got in there, but you could say the Sabres have fallen on dark days. (I’ll stop now.)
Throw two more injuries into the mix, to Regehr and a yet unspecified forward, and we are one hurting team.
You could argue that the Bluejackets are much better than their record. Their first month they didn’t have Jeff Carter or James Wisniewski, now they’ve come together as a team and found a hot goalie. They’re 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, 4-1-2 in their last 7 games.
Somehow rationalizing it doesn’t make me feel any better after watching that game. We all know that in hockey some nights one team just has that step and another comes out flat. But this was total domination. Defensively, the Bluejackets quickly closed on Sabres fowards in the offensive zone and we could put nothing sustained together. Meanwhile the Jackets forwards looked like the Redwings out there. Don’t even get me started about our power play and giving up shorthanded chances.
Even if the Bluejackets ended up playing like this the rest of the season and perhaps sneaking into the playoffs by year’s end, and even though the Sabres were riddled with injuries, this is a tough one to swallow. Especially for us, as we had the loudest, raunchiest and most annoying Bluejackets fans ever sitting directly behind us. (Don’t get me wrong – most Jackets fans are the salt of the earth, but these guys talked loudly through the whole game, had only the most casual understanding of hockey, and were complete jerks to Sabres fans. They did not represent their team or city very well.)
Let me turn my hat around ala Sylvester Stallone in Over The Top and give you the positives. (Kids, ask your parents, it’s only the best arm wrestling movie ever made. Well, ok, the ONLY arm wrestling movie ever made, but that makes it the best by default.)
It’s a young season still and the Sabres are hanging in the East in points. Despite all the injuries racking up they still find ways to win some games. The AHLers are going to get seasoned and when we need them in the playoffs the experience they get now will be crucial. And if you believe in a sort of injury karma, well, we’re getting it all out of the way now – not during the playoff run. Hopefully that’s the case at least.
I think it’s important to remember that perhaps unrealistic expectations have been set for this team. The Pegula era has been fantastic and I love it, but everything has been about excellence, about winning the cup. Even without the injuries, this is a fairly young team. To expect them to immediately be world beaters is insane. Just because Terry Pegula mandates something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen overnight. There are going to be growing pains. Pressure is a bitch and perhaps the team has been forcing it rather than just playing.
As fans we’ve got to roll with it and take the bad with the good. The optimist in me says that we get a chance to see what the young AHLers can do. Pegula and his deep pockets aren’t going anywhere and there’s no rush to win the Cup this year either. This isn’t a sprint, this is a marathon and we want to have a dynasty. This is year one of it. We may feel that it’s been so long and been so close, that we need to do it NOW – but let’s take the long view here. We’re going to have good, exciting, competitive hockey for a good long while. That’s more than many franchises can say.
Now we get to see the AHLers take on the Capitals. *Gulp* Good luck, kids.