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Sabres Season: To Hell in a Handbasket

Filed under: Puck Stop, Sports

TORONTO…In a span of just over 24 hours, the Buffalo Sabres amazing run to a postseason playoff berth has taken a disappointing turn, as the team has lost back to back games to put them in a desperate position, heading into the final week of play. Tonight at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the Sabres dropped a 4-3 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team they are tangled with for the 8th and final playoff spot, the Washington Capitals, won in a shootout tonight to take a two point lead over Buffalo.

How bad was tonight? Consider that the Leafs have been eliminated from playoff contention, that they hadn’t won a home game since early February, that the team had just suffered a dispiriting 7-1 loss at Toronto two nights earlier, that the Leafs had swept the Sabres on home ice in a season only three previous times in these two teams’ history, and that the guy in net tonight was a career AHL’er. No matter.

Just about everything that could go wrong in this game did. On an early power play in the first period, defenseman Andre Sekera misplayed a puck at the point, which turned into a Leafs breakaway and the first Toronto goal. In the second period with The Leafs up 2-1, Toronto took the puck up ice with 5.5 seconds left in the period. It got to the net, and in, with 0.7 seconds on the clock, and just like that it was a 3-1 lead going into the dressing room. Buffalo made it close, twice, in the third, but couldn’t get the equalizer. Time expired as a mad scramble ensued around the Toronto net, and for the Sabres, two precious points lost in the standings.

It was somber and quiet in the Sabres dressing room following the game. Jason Pominville lamented the giveaways which cost dearly. “This time of year sometime it’s not what you get but what you don’t give up and we gave up too much. It doesn’t matter who you play but what you do and we just didn’t get it done.” Pominville mentioned that playing catch up hockey, as the team has had to do both tonight and last night against Pittsburgh, makes it that much more difficult. “That’s twice that we can’t find a way to win. It falls on us to be better.” Ryan Miller gave short, terse answers as he talked about the game with the media. On the second goal? “He went five hole.” Miller said that the winning mantra is the same that it’s been since the team’s magical run that began after the All Star break. “Just win. It’s been that way since two months ago. My story hasn’t changed. It’s going to take that much more of an effort. We put ourselves in that tougher spot not coming up with the games after Washington.” At that point Miller said “done” and left the room.

While the Sabres win streak and climb towards a playoff berth has been amazing to watch, they have also had a run of luck with the out of town scoreboard, with other teams in the East faltering when they had to and luck shining on the Sabres playoff drive. Following the team’s big win against the Capitals earlier this week, that run has stalled. Ottawa has found their winning ways once again, and Washington, aided by the return of Nicolas Backstrom, has begun piling on the points once again. Many of these points have been attained via the shootout, and Sabres fans hoping for some breathing room in the standings can only watch in disbelief as this playoff run has stalled at the most inopportune time.

So at all boils down to this – you can pretty much forget about catching Ottawa for 7th. Buffalo trails Washington by 2 points, and Florida by 4 points. One of these teams will be the division champ, while the other will be locked with Buffalo for the rights to the 8th seed. Buffalo needs to win all three remaining games, while Washington would need to drop 3 of their 6 available points in their last three games. Alternatively, Florida would need to drop 7 of 8 of their available points in their last four games. Got it? Dream and believe.

TARO SEZ…

-As if you really need more evidence that Toronto is the Gay Capital of the world… a Public Service Announcement ran on the Air Canada Centre video board promoting the You Can Play Project. This is essentially a movement promoting the notion that straight and gay athletes can share a locker room together, and share their passion and energy for the sport they love. Leafs GM Brian Burke was one of the spokespersons for the PSA. Many remember Burke losing his college age gay son Brendan in a car accident two years ago.

-Yep, then the extended Kiss Cam, featuring two peeks at a hot lesbian couple and then two guys, both couples eventually obliged with kisses and got the audience applause.

-Riding the press elevator down with Sabres color guy Harry Neale, he offered a rule change which had everyone in the packed elevator bursting out in laughter. “Why not do a shootout before each game. That way you know the game winner right away in case the game is tied in regulation.”