All I hear in Buffalo is, “Why do the Sabres keep losing?” The answer, folks, is not because of poor play. Sure, coming home after the team’s lengthiest road trip of the season every fan, including myself, would like to have come out with more than 6 of a possible 14 points, but when you look hard at the trip, specifically the tail end, it’s really not as bad as the record shows.
The last four games of the trip, which the Sabres only secured 1 point out of a possible 8, are, at face-value, sinking the dagger in to the heart of Sabreland. If you take into account the teams played, and the effort put forth, the wound heals pretty quickly.
The last four games were played against tough, Western Conference opponents, at a time when being on the road most starts to effect a team; the tail-end. The first loss of the roadie came against Anaheim. When you eliminate Patrick Lalime’s horrendous start, and the injection of Ryan Miller into the game, how upset can you really be about the team’s effort. From the point where Miller replaced Lalime, the Sabres would go on to score the next 4 of the 5 goals to be posted on the scoreboard. I don’t know about you, but nothing short of tying the game, then winning it would have impressed me more. They were put in to a corner, and rather than hanging their heads and admitting defeat, they battled until the final seconds of the game. You have to take something out of that.
Next came the LA Kings. It was a back and forth game against a solid opponent that took a shootout to decide. After two emotional games, one in which you completely dominate the team in Phoenix, and the next in which you just fall short of a stunning comeback, I can’t complain.
Enter San Jose. In my opinion, the toughest all-around team in the league. The Sabres dominated play in all 3 frames, collecting 40 shots, while the Sharks could only amass 23. The Sharks got superb goaltending, while, for once, the Sabres got a human effort from Ryan Miller. Steve Montador hurt the team badly, factoring in on 3 of San Jose’s goals, showing one chink in the chain can break a team on certain nights. All around, you can’t be upset losing to, at the very least, one of the top 3 teams in the league.
To end the trip, the team played the surging Canucks at the wrong time. They performed admirably, and if that shorthanded goal stood, it may very well have been a different game. Losing to a team on a fantastic winning streak, while on the final game of a road trip, again, doesn’t bother me that much.
What you must do, as a fan, is take what was good out of this road trip. First, every team loses games, and being away for 2 weeks makes it a little easier to do that. For the duration you lack the energy of your hometown crowd, something that I would wager every NHL player feeds on to some exent. Second, not one of these games were the Sabres embarrassed or did they not show up to play. I’ll tell you what, I’d rather see the team lose fighting than lose because they mailed it in.
All-in-all, I think we need to be proud of our team. They battled hard against some of the tougher opponents they’ll see for the rest of the regular season and took a decent amount of points out of it. So, please, Buffalo fans, don’t start with the pessimism just yet.
On a side note, could Tim Connolly get any hotter? The man has been playing out of his mind, and is showing that 05-06 was not just a fluke of a season and he’s one of this team’s most valuabe assets and worth every penny of the $4.5 million dollars we’re paying him this season.