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Three Games Left And No Negatives

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I refuse to be negative about the Sabres.

Yes, it’s been a weird year and they haven’t lived up to the hype and expectations. But those expectations were put on them by an external source.

I’m not saying Terry Pegula was wrong to boldly declare we’d be going where no major Buffalo sports franchise has gone before and actually win a championship, but there was going to be some fallout from it and it wasn’t going to happen right away.

Especially after the miracle of last year’s run to the playoffs, then the offseason acquisitions and everyone pegging the Sabres as being a beast of the East and one of the top teams – on paper.

As Ryan Miller said in a recent interview, the Sabres were never that team. They were a young team with talent and tons of upside, but they’d have to gel into Cup contender.

Then they were smacked with the plague of injuries.

To come back from the unfortunate first half of the year like they did is nothing short of astonishing, and all the gems we’ve found along the way (like Marcus Foligno, Cody Hodgson, Ennis really coming into his own, etc.) has added to the run.

Maybe they’ll get lucky and make the playoffs yet, or maybe maybe not. Of course, I’d love to get to watch some bonus hockey and see how they do, but I’m not going to let it get me down about the future of this team.

lets go buffalo sabres1 Three Games Left And No Negatives

The Sabres were not going for broke and selling out just to win this year. Over the course of the next 5 years, the Sabres are going to be stacked and could easily dominate their division during that time. This isn’t 2005-2007 where we’re good for a couple of years and then lose our two best guys in Drury and Briere.

The problem is the public perception of the masses. Of course I’m not talking about our educated BSN readership or other hardcore Sabres fans, but the general sporting world is pretty binary: you’re either great or you suck.

The Sabres recently lost 2 close games, one to a stellar Penguins team and the other to an admittedly crappy Leafs squad. But the Sabres were on a tear before that, having won 5 in a row – you can’t win ‘em all. And one could argue that the Leafs will play the Sabres tough whenever, plus they were in their home building.

They’re the same team as they were before they lost those 2 games. Quite frankly, I was surprised they hung in there with the Pens as well as they did.

The Sabres can easily turn this right back around and win their last three games. Maybe two will be all they need, or two and an OT point.

For this season at least, the Sabres have burned their boats behind them and there is no retreat. They can go forward and play their best hockey with their backs to the wall.

There are 3 games left and Washington has left the door open a crack by losing last night. The Sabres play hard and get in, or they don’t. I’m hoping they make it of course, but if they don’t I’m not going to let it affect the positive outlook of where this team is headed. We’ve got at least one more week of Sabres hockey left and I’m going to savor it.

If the Sabres lose tonight however, my tune may change a bit. Ask me how I’m feeling tomorrow…

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The Tease Is Over This Year For Sabres Fans – Now What?

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A tease.

That’s what this year has been.

We were teased with a competitive team after the offseason. Then teased again when the Sabres put together a short winning streak in late January/early February.

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No not that kind of a tease.

After the 7-2 absolute drubbing at the hands of the hated Flyers, we now know there is no hope for this team, this year. Well, of course many of us knew before this, but some of us held out the slightest glimmer of hope. I did.

We were teased last year with the 16-4-4 run to end the season and make the playoffs… only to be crushed at the hands of those very same hated Flyers. Now we know that the run to the playoffs was more flukey than being eliminated in the 1st round and the record the Sabres currently hold (24-27-6).

The combination of the bad record despite the high expectations, the mediocre play on the ice, the Lucic Incident and issues of softness, and the TV problems with Time Warner make this season a difficult pill to swallow for Sabres fans.

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Cleanup was indeed needed after the Sabres D soiled themselves in the 2nd period against the Flyers.

Lindy Ruff’s birthday is today but the celebration of his day has to be marred by where this franchise is at. This was supposed to be a mecca of hockey. A return to greatness. No, not even a return to greatness, but something better than we’d had in the past. Pegula labeled it “Hockey Heaven” – claimed a Stanley Cup was in our future. We got the Amerks back in the fold, got coaches entrenched that could coach Lindy’s “System”, the whole deal.

Pegula, Ted Black and the rest of the Sabres brass has consistently said we need to stay the course, to do nothing drastic.

At this point, even they have to see that something needs to be done. Questions come up about the coaching, about the general manager and about the heart of some of the players.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think we can just stay pat with the cards we’re holding. Perhaps it’s as simple as a trade or two now and build towards next year. Maybe it’s as drastic as firing Lindy Ruff.

After all, the team seems to embody his “nothing is wrong, we’ll get through this” mentality. Yes, it’s good for a coach to keep an even keel, but sometimes you need to light a fire under the guys.

Maybe Lindy does that, I don’t know as I’m not close enough to the team. All I know is that I see some guys on the ice who aren’t giving their all. I know that Lindy has had years of chances with different versions of this team and he hasn’t won a championship. There’s two sides to that coin: a) He’s done well over the years and gotten us deep in the playoffs b) It’s him holding us back from doing better than we could.

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THE ANSWER! Ok, not gonna happen, but it's fun to think about. More likely he'll go NASHville. These captions are horrible, but they're free, so quit yer whining.

In the end, I will have faith that “Pegula knows best”, that Ted Black and the rest of the staff are smart hockey guys and will get this thing figured out. But now we have to turn our attention to trades and a better draft pick and I don’t like that.

Go Sabres. /sigh

[Update: I was remiss not to say this: #DoSomethingDarcy]

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Us Lucky Buffalo Sabres Fans

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Are we lucky as fans or what? After one of the worst slides in Sabres history, they go on a 4-0-1 tear – against good teams even. I feel sorry for anyone who left the First Niagara Center early last night, as they missed a great show.

When it went to a shootout, I felt confident in Miller. He let in a few, but he was solid overall. When Gerbe’s shootout chance came, I knew he would sink it. Hell, the whole game I wasn’t worried about their play. The team is playing tough, confident hockey, with smarts to boot. They’re making crisp, quick passes and working hard in the corners. If they lost, they lost, but they were playing hard most of the way.

I don’t do much “real” analysis about the Sabres, as that’s not really my mindset (or forte). I’m more of a fan who just loves the game and makes bad jokes – but even I can see how much better this team is than just a few short weeks ago.

Perhaps part of it is the German bump, although the Sabres were playing well before the contingent of Mannheim Eagles fans came to Western New York. For more on that go here, it’s a feel good read.  And we could take some notes from their cheering playbook. They were rambunctious, perhaps annoyingly so to some, and even tried to get the wave going.

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European hockey fan enthusiasm is a little different than our brand, but we could certainly up the energy a little bit.

Or maybe it was Lindy Ruff. Perhaps his ego overshadowed the players and now that he’s injured they can finally play their best hockey. Now, I don’t believe this, but I’m sure there are detractors out there saying that. But the Sabres started this run well before Lindy fell and busted up some ribs.

Whatever the case, the Sabres are playing tough and are now eight points back in the East. I don’t think I need to say “buckle up”, we’re all pretty aware that this will go down to the wire, much like last year. But you couldn’t write a better script: a billionaire owner takes over the team, spends gazillions picking up all-star talent. The team flounders and all hope seems lost. Then, in Act 3 they get it together and miraculously make a huge comeback.

The only question is how does the story end – do they win it all, or is it just a feel-good drama where the team takes 2nd place but that was further than they ever should have expected to get to?

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Maybe James Patrick is using his time at the helm to teach the Sabres the Flying V.

Whatever the case may be, it’ll be damn exciting to be a part of. The Sabres are eight points back now with the Tampa Bay Lightning coming into our barn. We’ve got a lot of good hockey to watch ahead of us the rest of the year.

Go Sabres.

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A message from a less-than-disgruntled fan

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Stings just a little

 

 

I have to admit, working night shifts have kept me away from the ground zero of the Sabres dilemma. I know we stink, I didn’t finish watching the Blackhawks game the other night, but even when Pominville had the first goal, I knew we would lose.

Everytime I come home from work, there’s new fits of anger, and new trade rumors.

I haven’t watched a game since, and with the exception of the Devils game, I expect us to score early, rarely, and then quit.

As of right now, I’m not sure as to whether or not Ryan Getzlaf is actually a Sabre or not.

I’m a big fan of the saying ‘ it’s only -insert early season month here-’ which I haven’t actually said November, but late January still holds promise. Teams that were on top in the fall are now slipping (and by ‘ teams’ I mostly mean the Minnesota Wild). It’s easier to fall than to rise, yes, but best to get all that bad stuff out before making a comeback.

I’m not trying to be an optimistic fan, I’m just one who isn’t going to let all the anger get to my blood pressure. Yes, its a sport we all know and love, and yes, we’re angry and its going to come out. However, we are not the defensemen, we are not the goalies, or coaches, or general managers. They’re not going to trade Derek Roy because Twitter said so, and I doubt we’re going to convince Bobby Ryan to leave Anaheim.

I went for weeks without actually looking at the standings. I know the Sabres hit rock bottom, and I know they also bounced out….to 14th, but it’s not rock bottom. There’s only a difference of five points between the 10th and 15th team. Not to mention, ten points between Buffalo and a playoff spot.

In the past two years, we’ve been eliminated from the first round of the playoffs when both ending the season at the top of our division, or scraping on by at the end of the season. Maybe we’ll trade Miller, maybe we’ll acquire a ‘ stay here until the end of the season but then go somewhere else’ player (say what you want, that happened to Brad Boyes).

Yes, we’re annoyed, but if you think it’s painful for you, compare notes with Tyler Myers following last nights game.

Lets be honest, nothing can be done in 140 characters or less.

In the mean time: lets go, Buffalo.

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Posted in: Sabres, Speculation

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The Most Crucial Road Trip Of The Year For The Sabres

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If this was a story, the Sabres would be at a critical turning point. Could this be the darkest hour for the Sabres, when it looks like things are at their worst?

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Click to embiggen the standings... if you can stomach it.

The Sabres are 7 points back in the Eastern Conference now, in the 11th spot. And just when you think the Sabres are getting healthy, they take some more hits. Vanek took a puck to the jaw requiring him to finish the Islanders game with a full cage. He should still play, but it’s scary. Regehr is likely out for the next four games and Leopold has been battling the flu. Almost as a symbol of the dark times, we also have the MSG/Time Warner cable dispute.

The calls for the Sabres to make drastic changes are getting louder and louder and from more and more sources. The hashtag #darcydosomething has become a very popular tag recently.

The Sabres front office has maintained a calm demeanor and insisted that nothing drastic should be done or will be done. Terry Pegula has reiterated that it’s all about injuries and that the Sabres can’t really even move anyone until they get back to some semblence of health. From The Buffalo News:

“What everybody is missing is that I’ve been carrying around 167 man games,” he said by telephone Thursday evening. “Forget about the season. I’m talking about the last 25 games. We’ve had 18 players go down. It’s like a merry-go-round every night. You look on the ice and what are your defensive pairs tonight? Hell, who knows? Who’s healthy?

“My attitude now is, ‘Let’s put Humpty [Dumpty] back together again,’ ” Pegula said. “I want our players to know that I thought we had a pretty good hockey team until all this happened. Let’s paste it back together and start a new season.”

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Forever more Humpy Dumpty and Terry Pegula will be linked in my mind. Pegula is the King and it will take all of his horses to get this team back in the playoff mix.

This was before Friday night’s Maple Leafs game win and the loss against the New York Islanders. The team came out guns blazing against Toronto but not quite as energetic against the Islanders. As a start to a new season within a season, it’s not wholly inspiring. (Of course, blaming injuries for the losses is starting to get old for fans.)

Next on the agenda is a 5-game road trip that ends before the NHL All-Star break, kicked off by a game against the always tough Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are 7-3 in their last 10 and looking for a record 15th consecutive home win. Not to mention the Wings are 18-2-1 against the Sabres in their last 22 games AND 10-0-1 in their last 11 games. Oy.

This 5-game road trip will be crucial to the start of the Sabres “new season” and hopes of getting back into the playoff mix. With games against the Red Wings, Chicago, Winnipeg, St. Louis and New Jersey, it won’t be a cakewalk. Each of those teams is 6th or better in their respective conference except for Winnipeg who sits at 10th in the East (just above our Sabres). The Sabres have their work cut out for them.

Will the Sabres dig themselves a hole they can’t get out of or will they get back in the race? We’ll start to find out tonight.

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