According to the standings no real damage was done, but we all know otherwise. There are no more excuses, no more explanations or second chances.
This is a loss you don’t recover from.
What’s so unfortunate about the Sabres choking away a point is that beforehand there were plenty to positives to take away from this game. The play of Lalime, the secondary scoring, Roy stepping up, even Afinogenov playing well with Vanek; all reasons to like a strong showing on home ice.
But that’s all gone now. That’s right, there is nothing left to take from this game that is positive. Why? Because they blew a two goal lead at home with less than seven minutes left in a game they had to have against an awful team missing their best player. That’s why, and there is nothing you can say to justify that. Nothing.
The shorthanded goal was completely unacceptable on every level. Spacek shooting into two Thrashers was just stupid hockey, he was completely turned around trying to defend it, and he took himself right out of the play. However, that’s not as embarrassing as watching Jason Pominville and Tim Connolly coasting eighteen inches behind Marty Reasoner as he put in the rebound.
If you want to see how badly a team wants it, look at how they back check. On the most important power play of the game, a chance for the Sabres to put the game out of reach and get two points on a big night, the Sabres just didn’t want it. That’s the worst possible sign from a team that’s supposed to be making a playoff push. If you can’t find the strength to close out Atlanta, how are you beating Boston four times in April? How are you even getting there in the first place?
Last night was yet another sign that we won’t have to worry about that. As I type the Sabres are two points out of a playoff spot, but it’s never seemed further away than it does right now. Last night we didn’t see a playoff team out there. Maybe we did in the second period, but they finished like a team looking for a tenth place finish and a mediocre draft spot. They still need nine wins in thirteen games, and they just choked away their chance for one against a softie.
If there is one positive to take away from this game, it happened three seconds into the third period. Tim Connolly takes the faceoff and gets crushed by Perrin, who gets the charging penalty and a misconduct. Now while no one felt the need to stand up for Timmy, who was trying to figure out what the hell just happened, he eventually got back up and stood up for himself.
For a player who is supposed to be fragile and needing protection, I thought it was great to see him getting angry. This is no longer a guy coming back from injuries, this is a guy whose head is clearly in the game, and that’s great to see. He was the only guy who took exception to what Scott Gomez did to Ryan Miller, and he was the only person to take exception to what Perrin did last night.
I’m not sure if that’s more sad or impressive, but it is interesting to note. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m much more worried about Jason Pominville’s monstrosity of a contract with him playing like garbage all season than I am about Tim Connolly’s deal. Pominville has been such a monumental letdown all year, it’s hard to properly comprehend the fact that he’s making $5.3 million next season.
Still, what bothers me most of all about last night’s game is that I’m okay with it. The way it all went down was so predictable that there wasn’t anything left when it was over. No anger, no disbelief, none of the usual feelings that go along with a third period collapse were there. What bothers me is that in a way I expected it to happen, and in some sense I’m content with it.
Chris is in New York City this weekend, and I was keeping him updated on the game. When I told him it got tied up, he said they’ll lose in a shootout. It had nothing to do with Kotalik’s absence or Lalime’s play, he just knew that’s what the Sabres would do. This is an unpredictable, schizophrenic team at times; but so far when it really matters we’ve seen more bad signs than good.
If you ask me, there just isn’t enough time to reverse those signals.