Over the past few months this blog has been around I’ve slowly slipped into the local blogosphere. It’s been a heck of a ride to say the least. Looking around I’ve found a lot of people have opinions that I don’t agree with, or even ones that make me dislike the idea of blogging in general.
Even so, I’ve found that many have strong opinions that open new areas of thought for me as a hockey fan. No matter how many awful sites or mediocre posts I’ve stumbled across, that one comment or thought is worth scanning so many others for.
As most of you are aware, the Sabres are struggling. All of us have wondered why this is, why they can’t seem to put forth a consistent effort and win the games they should. The perfect example was Monday night against Boston. The Sabres put up 45 shots against a goaltender who was 50-50 lifetime and they scored just one goal.
That game left me downright dumbstruck. Aside from the crippling defensive errors that directly resulted in goals, the Sabres didn’t put forth an awful effort. One thing a commenter in the BfloBlog game thread said really got me thinking.
vtTom said: “Everybody has their “A” game on against “last years” Pres trophy winner – farm team hands pull nickles out of their butts to show they can stand up against last year’s measure.”
It was something I honestly hadn’t considered before. This Sabres team did win the President’s Trophy last year, the best team in regular season play. So much is said of the “Stanley Cup Hangover” that plagues so many championship teams in hockey, when every team sees you on the schedule and wants to match up against the champs. I know I certainly was eager to play Anaheim for that very reason last week.
So does that same target get applied to the President’s Trophy winner?
I certainly didn’t think so. I really never have looked at the team with the best regular season record with any real disdain because in reality it doesn’t matter. Sure, it’s a heck of a nice banner, but postseason performance is what really counts. Before last year I always assumed the Red Wings or some other Western Conference team won it because they seem to finish with more points. It’s just a trophy, nothing more, and it will never have the glory and legacy of the Cup and a championship.
However, his theory may hold some water after all. It would certainly explain why Alex Auld played his balls off on Monday, and why we can’t seem to win games even with a solid effort.
One problem we may have is our perception of the team. Whether we realize it or not, we became a feared offensive force last season. The national media that actually covers hockey recognizes the Sabres as this machine, and I think that translates into the way other teams look at us. The Sabres are expected to score goals. Lots of goals, and in an explosive fashion.
Last night Benanati mentioned Afinogenov’s “familiar skating style”, which was surprising because I wasn’t aware Max was really that well known. Maybe the rest of the league knows more about us then we think, and that knowledge adds a pressure to perform well against the team that was so dangerous last year.
It is only a thought, but one that is worth considering. We are playing teams that we rarely see, and they may peg their match up as a test much like the “test” we thought a game against Anaheim would be. It is more then possible that the other 29 teams and their fans place this team on a pedestal, with the goal to knock the regular season king from atop the mountain.
If that’s the case, they are doing a heck of a job so far.