You know how sometimes, a team will be struggling pretty bad, and then lose a game that it maybe should have won, and the team kind of hits rock bottom, causing one player to get so frustrated that he will say something to the media that lights a fire under his team’s butt and causes them to band together and go on a nice little tear?
No? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Well neither do I, because clearly that scenario did not play out before Buffalo Sabres fans tonight!
Instead, the Buffalo Sabres followed up Sunday’s gut-wrenching loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins with a devastating loss 2-1 to the Winnipeg Jets.
Yep, the Jets . . . losers of three in a row, boasting a record of 5-8-1, and owners of the absolute worst penalty kill in the NHL . . . skated into First Niagara Center, scored early, killed off every penalty they committed, and generally played the kind of desperation hockey you would have hoped the Sabres would have resorted to knowing that their chances of making the playoffs are rapidly diminishing.
Tonight’s game marked the beginning of a five-game stretch that every sports writer on the continent identified as the five most important games in Buffalo’s season. Win them all, or at least take four out of the five, and the Sabres would be at or even a little above .500 at roughly the halfway point of the season, putting the playoffs within reach. Anything less, and it will probably be time to start looking ahead to next year.
Suffice it to say, this was not the way the Sabres wanted to kick off this five-game stretch. Although they only gave up two goals, each goal was the result of . . . please don’t make me say it . . . failure to get the puck out of their own zone. Bet you didn’t see that coming! The Sabres are turning the puck over so much that I’m going to stop ordering my usual cherry turnover from Arby’s, simply because I;m sick of hearing the word. Once again, the score doesn’t accurately convey how bad a blowout this game could have been, because Ryan Miller yet again stoned opponents on breakaways and great scoring opportunities, giving the Sabres a chance to pull this one out late. Winnipeg even did their best to give their lead away, committing a penalty with under four minutes to go that put the worst PK in the league on the ice, nursing a one goal lead against a desperate team playing in front of its home crowd. Hell: the Jets’ Evander Kane even missed AN OPEN NET by flipping the puck OVER the crossbar. Thanks, Winnipeg, but we’re pretty stubborn in Buffalo, and we prefer to lose these sorts of games, so better luck handing a team a late goal next time!
Aside from the play of Ryan Miler, there were two bright spots tonight: Jason Pominville‘s sweet top-shelf goal with under a minute to go in the second, which allowed Rick Jeanneret to utter his “Top shelf, where momma hides the cookies!” line, and John Scott‘s going slightly airborne to take out Winnipeg defenseman Grant Clitsome. Yeah, I enjoyed those moments, but sadly, Buffalo fans are not getting a lot of satisfaction watching the boys in blue and gold this season. It’s back to the drawing board again, Lindy Ruff.