Prior to the Buffalo Sabres hitting the road against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, I was texting a couple of my closest Sabres buddies about the impending matchup. I had proposed to them that the Sabres should win tonight since they were playing a superior opponent and that I inversely felt that they typically lose to inferior teams, and rosters equally skilled as theirs.
My friend Bryan did not take the bait on my proposal. With tongue-in-cheek optimism, he simply responded: “I hope they win.” My lifelong pal Dave conversely replied “losing against bad teams, and beating better teams? They’ve had that down pat for years.”
I was feeling like a hockey genius after Buffalo jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, and a 3-1 lead seconds into the second stanza. Sam Reinhart was finally picking up some points, and Jack Eichel appeared as if he might be awakening from his recent slumber.
Robin Lehner was coming into the game riding a .944 save percentage in his last two outings and was making confident, quality saves. Things were looking up for the Sabres in this game early on. Then, the concerning cookie crumbling commenced.
Goals by Conor Sheary and Sidney Crosby (who was on an 11 game goalless drought) tied the game and succinctly sank my soulful sails. Until Benoit Pouliot came along and regained the Sabres lead with a powerplay goal in the dying moments of the second period.
Overall, Buffalo was looking pretty good. Spirited play. I have not been a fan of Josh Gorges over the past few seasons, but he was actually fairly good tonight. He was tossing the body with vigor, and had an exhilarating back-and-forth sequence with Ryan Reaves. Kyle Okposo earned a couple great scoring chances. Buffalo had only secured exactly one goal in three of their last four games, so, seeing four goals from the team in two periods was nearly the equivalent of a power surge. The game looked winnable. My prediction almost made me into a prodigious prophet.
As Buffalo fans are accustomed to, things fell apart. A Phil Kessel goal with just a handful of minutes left in the final period knotted the score at four apiece. Justin Falk was caught watching the game instead of playing it.
Of course, the Penguins sealed the win merely seconds into overtime.
If the Buffalo Sabres cannot beat the good teams, average teams, or bad teams, what can we reasonably expect for the remainder of the season? Time is running out with the same excuses - injuries, roster changes, coaching changes. I am not sure if I can bear another wasted season rooting for a top draft pick. As my friend Bryan said, ”I hope they win.” I guess, at this point, hope is all that we have as Sabres fans.