Maxim Afinogenov has scored three goals this season. This is one of them.
The last time Afinogenov scored was December 26th, and it looked a little something like this:
I think the similarities between the two are unmistakable. In fact, here’s what I wrote about that game way back when:
I think it’s pretty clear the differences between the two teams. The Washington Capitals pinned their hopes on a superstar making a spectacular play, while the Sabres had theirs riding on an utter disappointment getting really, really lucky. Is that really where the Sabres are right now? I know injuries have taken a toll and the backup was in last night, but can Maxim Afinogenov really be the hero of this team?
If you substituted “Washington Capitals” for “Philadelphia Flyers”, would that paragraph be out of place here today? The last time the Sabres left Philly the score didn’t match the game. This time it does. Buffalo was outclassed in every aspect of a game they absolutely needed. The Flyers may be the better team, but Buffalo had to be better and wasn’t.
What makes it so frustrating is that the game was right there. Tied up after 40 minutes, the Sabres needed a good third period to steal two points and stay with everyone else in the playoff race. How many times has this team been close with 20 minutes left, only to see the third period explode? I’m not sure the exact number, but the phrase “too many” comes to mind.
It took 27 seconds for the third period to explode. That’s almost record time for a team that has made a habit out of third period disasters. Sure, the effort was there for two periods, but that third period was embarrassing. The defense fell apart, the forwards didn’t get enough chances, and Lalime could always be better. Still, when you allow a goal on the first shift of a period you absolutely have to win you can’t expect to steal two points.
We’re starting to get to the point where you can say this team just doesn’t have it. It’s no longer pessimism, but the feeling you get watching a team get close and not have enough to get over the hump. If they can’t win a period, what should make me think they go 10-5 down the stretch against a schedule of mostly playoff teams? The trade deadline boost is gone, and there are too many teams playing above .500 hockey while the Sabres hover around mediocre.
There are still 15 games left, and I’m sure somewhere down the line Buffalo will get it together and make a run. Still, the feeling we all had last night is usually a strong indicator of the truth. It will take an improbable run to get where they want to be, and they have been pretty ordinary all season. They are also not getting any help from the teams around them, but when you can’t win games on your own how much help can you really ask for?
This team may have some fight left in it, but it’s going to take a lot for it to matter.