For months, I wondered if the Buffalo Sabres’ regular season success had gone to their heads. They were playing as if their talent would carry the day, and oftentimes it did.
Until they ran into the Ottawa Senators, the squad that last year did everything this Sabres team did – led the league in goals, favorite to win it all – until they were humiliated by the Sabres in five games. The Senators turned last season’s pain into a useful tool, and they have carved their way to the Finals with it.
So there I was last night with my friend Scott, watching a Sabres team that looked like it had completely lost its way. Players ran into teammates at the blueline. They shrugged at passes just out of their reach. For the first time this season, they failed to score a single goal. They wasted a gallant game by goaltender Ryan Miller.
Before the playoffs, fans wondered if the young goaltender was mentally strong enough. In the end, it was Miller’s teammates who looked like they needed serious time with a shrink.
Yes, the games are only 3-0, and it’s a best-of-seven series, but it’s over. Time for Sabres fans to start fretting about contracts and prospects, and wait for October.
I’ll be there, hoping that the Sabres that remain will learn something from this blowtorching, and will be ready – harder, sharper, smarter – next year.