Apocalypse Now

By Chris

All around me are familiar faces, worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races, going nowhere, going nowhere
Their tears are filling up their glasses, no expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow
And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It’s a very, very mad world

-Tears for Fears, Mad World

It’s a depressing time in Western New York right now and we’re standing at a crossroads. We can still believe. Or we can jump off the bandwagon. Each seems like the trendy thing to do. I’m in a place somewhere in-between. I want the Sabres to pull a 2004 Red Sox and make history because I want to watch this team succeed. Then again, they haven’t played well enough this playoff to deserve to make that history and I hope they get blown out 8-0 on Wednesday night. Try to swallow that going into an off season where all three guys wearing letters on their chests could be gone come September. Game Three in Ottawa was the apex of my frustration with this Sabres team.

They showed no heart. No passion. It felt I was watching the team play just some regular season game on the road. My stomach was in knots and I was doing everything in my power to not throw my full glass of Pepsi across the restaurant I was at. When Briere failed to score early in the first, on a play he waited too long on, we knew we were in for a long night. “That’s probably the way the rest of the game will go,” my buddy Jay said. How right he was.

It was the first time all year they’ve been shut out. And they got shut out by Ray Freaking Emery, who made all of 15 saves. They needed to come out and play a great road game and they failed miserably. They don’t like to hit. Our two crash-and-bangers, Gaustad and Mair played all of 11:13 combined. They look like they play scared but they look like they expect teams to roll over and die because hey, we’re the Buffalo Sabres, we’re more talented than you, so just quit now, we’ll get our late goal and we’ll win.

We’ve been spoiled here in Buffalo the last two years. We’ve been on a roller coaster ride and it’s been a helluva time. It’s looking like our window has closed. Only two teams have ever rallied from an 0-3 deficit in NHL history. This team has the potential to be the third, but whether or not they decide to show up is an entirely different story. Game Three was a demoralizing victory. The Sabres looked stunned leaving the ice and it’s a serious question if they’re mentally tough enough to come back. Sure they’ve done it in the regular season but the playoffs are a completely different animal. The pressure of being the favorite seems to have taken over. They’re forcing bad passes, losing battles on the boards, and are unable to keep steady pressure in the offensive zone as a result.

It’s an all-time let down. If they lose on Wednesday night, we’re not going to remember this team ten years from now. They’re just going to be another Buffalo team that let us all down. 1975. 1999. 2006. Those are the teams we’ll remember and endear forever. The 2007 Buffalo Sabres put the pressure of winning a Stanley Cup on themselves as soon as they got back from Carolina last year. “One team. One goal.” Last night was one player (Miller) and no goals. And now they’re on the cusp of letting an entire community down. Then again, maybe we all will remember this team. As the biggest disappointment of them all.

Coming into this series, I was OK if we lost in seven games. Ottawa is a great team. Alfredsson is finally stepping up and his line with Heatley and Spezza is unbelievable. The Senators defense has been outstanding. Anton Volchenkov blocked another four shots in Game Three. But the way the Sabres are losing? It’s got me thinking about next season, sadly. The heart we thought the Buffalo Sabres had just doesn’t seem to be there anymore. It’s enough to wonder how much of the Buffalo roster will even be back next season.

Ryan Miller is the only Sabre worth a damn right now. He didn’t quit. He played his heart out last night and he’s the reason why it was only a one goal game. No one else showed up. Briere played maybe a total of two good minutes all game, most of it coming with only seconds left. His co-captain, the great Chris Drury, wasn’t much better, going 7-11 on faceoffs. It just isn’t enough. This team thought it knew what it took to win a Conference Final after last season’s disappointment. Now we’re all not so sure, and it sounds like the players themselves are among the doubters.

Dmitri Kalinin was awful again. I almost wonder if the Sabres didn’t pick some random fan from Buffalo, flew him in with the team, slapped a #45 jersey on him and let him play. His pinches into the offensive zone, which have been great at times, were completely off in Game Three. He made a lot of bad decisions and forced Miller to make a lot of tough saves that could have easily been avoided had he just played smarter.

Afinogenov looked like the only guy on his line that was trying. Roy and Vanek looked uninterested most of the game and that’s confusing in itself. But when Afinogenov over-tries, that’s when trouble comes knocking. The times when he tries to do it himself are the times when he’s most useless because he ends up just skating around in circles, taking time off the clock. Not very effective at all when you’re down by a goal in the third period in a game that puts your entire season at stake. Roy himself has been a mess. I’d consider benching him if I were Lindy Ruff and putting a little scare in him. Remember, he was in Rochester when last season began. Nothing has ever been gifted to him.

Hecht-Briere-Pominville
Gaustad-Drury-Zubrus
Vanek-Connolly-Afinogenov
Kotalik-Mair-Stafford

Lydman-Tallinder
Campbell-Spacek
Numminen-Paestch

Give it a shot Lindy. What do you have to lose besides one more game?

Corey Griswold on WGR550’s Post-Post-Game Show reminded me of a play that I forgot I was so angry about when I originally saw it. Tallinder’s selfish and flagrant foul on Alfredsson was inexcusable. There’s no other adjective right now to describe it. To take that high sticking penalty is simply uncalled for when you’re supposed to be desperately trying to when a hockey game. That play said a lot about that game. The Sabres lost their composure. They made a dumb plays that they normally wouldn’t have made. They’re falling apart at the seams before our very eyes and there’s nothing we can do about it. Sure they might win a game, maybe even two if we’re that lucky, but it just appears that this series is out of reach.

If you are one of the few Believers, however, I’ll give you two things to hang your rally cap on:
1. The Sabres have played like absolute crap the last three games and have lost two of them because of one bad bounce. One good bounce the other way, and it’s a completely different series.
2. Ryan Miller. ‘Nuff said.

I want to still believe, but I think it might just be over for Buffalo. I hope to the Hockey Gods that I’m wrong.