So take eight minutes and divide
by ninety million lonely miles,
and watch a shadow cross the floor.
We don’t live here anymore.
-The Weakerthans, “Sun in an Empty Room“
A sad song it is. Ten games this year in Section 304, Row 9. Starting on October 5th against the Islanders when emotions were high and a feeling of unfinished business loomed heavy in the air. Bagpipes played and banners unfurled as cheers went up to celebrate the season that was.
But when that Presidents Trophy hit the ice, no one went near it. There was no picture, no ceremonial handshake, nothing. It really felt like a special moment. Their prize was sitting right at center ice and no one wanted it, there were larger things at stake. And as a powerful “Let’s Go Buffalo” rose up from the crowd you couldn’t help but get caught in the feeling that it wasn’t the end, that great ride wasn’t over just yet. One more year.
Alas, here we sit.
Five months later I left that same arena tonight with the bitter chill of defeat slowly numbing that last bit of hope I had. There it was once again, just a bounce or two away from the points we so badly needed. Right in front of my eyes, like so often before, the game slips away.
Blame what you will. Focus, smarts, officiating, the Hockey Gods, roster moves or even blind luck. We’ve seen too many games stolen away and not enough stolen back. Eventually you just knew it was going to catch up to us, and tonight may finally be the dagger.
Yeah, there are plenty of games left for something to happen. Maybe we go on a tear and wind up in the 6th seed, the sweet spot of the Conference. Maybe we go into Carolina on Saturday and blow them out of the water, we’ve done it once this year. Still, I’m a believer in consistency and base my expectations on such.
There are some that see only the next game and that next two points. I think back to the last ten and beyond, a blurry look back into the history this team has left in box scores and blog posts. What I remember are too many close calls, too many excuses, and too many lost points. How many games slipped away with no warning? What teams stole points? Montreal, St. Louis, Ottawa, Boston, Philadelphia; all of those games are slowly creeping to the forefront. No matter where the blame may be shifted, the reality is the same: it hasn’t been enough.
You are going to hear it over the next few days. “They suck” or “They shoulda done ____” or “they’re terrible.” No, they aren’t. This Sabres team is not awful but mediocre, and mediocre teams don’t make the magic we have grown used to. This newest incarnation? This is reality rushing back into our lives. This is the window sliding to a close. This is the decline after the apex, the second half of the parabola. This is the free fall back to earth.
Who knew it would come so quickly?