Sabres Give Up Ground, Still In 8th

A victory against the Carolina Hurricanes would have put some distance between the Sabres and the dogs biting at their heels. If they could have picked up even 1 point they would be ahead of Carolina by 3. Alas, it was not to be, and now there are four teams (the Canes, the Leafs, the Thrashers, and the Devils) nipping at Buffalo’s lead in an attempt to make it into the post-season.

That being said, there was no cause for the booing I heard at the end of the game last night. I understand that this team has high expectations since their awesome start to 2011, and I understand that even the most rational and calculated fan is pumped up about Terry Pegula’s ownership. Hell, I was shouting at my laptop to “stop nipping the corners!” when the boys in blue shot the puck. After the buzzer I needed a minute to cool off (something my girlfriend still doesn’t quite understand) because it’s infuriating any time the Sabres are shut out at home, but especially so when they’re in a dogfight for the playoffs. Then I remembered something…

Some Sabres have fun at the thought of hockey in the South. There’s something more acceptable about losing games to Canadian teams, even if we don’t enjoy the thought. Boston and New York and other hockey markets at least have a rooted history, and while it stings to give up points to anybody, there are some teams where it’s easier than others. Losing to Carolina is like losing to a younger brother…it just doesn’t feel right to many Sabres fans because we feel like their fanbase hasn’t earned any success that they have. In truth, it hurts because the Sabres have been Hard Luck Chuck’s for most of their 40 years of existence.

I felt better about the shutout (though I would never feel good by any means) when I remembered that Cam Ward is a really, really good goalie. It’s not easy to type that, to admit it, because I don’t want him to be good. I hate the fact that he’s won the Stanley Cup, that he won the Conn Smythe trophy, and that a lot of his fans have no idea what that means. I hate the fact that he has accomplished more than Ryan Miller even though we want to believe Miller is one of the best goalies in the world. Hell, I hate his two syllable name. Cam Ward. It mocks me.

To feel better about it, remember that he was an All-Star this year. In fact, he was the first overall pick of the All-Star Fantasy Draft, albeit because his teammate Eric Staal got the first pick. Still, you can’t take that away from him. He is a damn fine goaltender, and he showed it last night by giving up minimal rebounds, having perfect positioning, and oh by the way shutting out the hometown Sabres.

I felt better when I realized that Ryan Miller gave up exactly one goal. Did you realize that Miller was the third star of the game? He made 32 saves and had a .970 save percentage…I would take those stats any night. If you told me before any game of the year that Ryan Miller was going to let in one goal on 32 shots, I would take it every single time.

So what happened? Steve Montador made a bad decision and took on a penalty on something that shouldn’t have been a penalty. Happens. Connolly and Vanek had numerous chances and couldn’t bury the puck. Happens. Pominville shot it wide and various players missed the net. My God does that happen often. The lovely people on Twitter that participated in #TRUEHurricaneFacts and #WhatCanesFansThink had to eat crow, and we’re used to that. After it was all said and done the Hurricanes and the Devils gained ground and the Sabres fell from 7th to 8th. Tonight Carolina will play Toronto and either the Leafs will move to within 2 points of the Sabres or Carolina will tie them (Buffalo will still be in 8th place due to having a game in hand).

Maybe the only thing that changed was this Sabres team got a little more desperate. Carolina showed us that can be a good thing. Outlook is still positive, and a lot of good things happened. Don’t hit the #PanicButton just yet.

Tags: Atlanta Thrashers Booing Boston Bruins Brandon Sutter Buffalo Buffalo Sabres Cam Ward Carolina Hurricanes Conn Smythe Drew Stafford Eastern Conference Eric Staal Fansided Hockey Jason Pominville Lindy Ruff New Jersey Devils New York Rangers NHL Northeast Division Penalty Kill Pittsburgh Penguins Power Play Ryan Miller Sabres Save Percentage Stanley Cup Stanley Cup Playoffs Steve Montador Terry Pegula Thomas Vanek Tim Connolly Toronto Maple Leafs TRUEHurricaneFacts WhatCanesFansThink

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