At least for now. The Sabres were valiant in defeat last night, going down to the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-2, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. I’d love to say I’m happy with a “good season,” but I’m not. I’m pissed, depressed, irritated, sad, etc. What makes it even worse is to lose to a team whose “fans” couldn’t sell out Game 7 of a conference finals game without help. 8 seats together could be had for Game 7 as late as Thursday morning. Well, they only have to suffer through another couple weeks of hockey before they can get back to their NeckCAR races. BAH!
It has been quite a ride, though. The Sabres captured the spirit of Buffalo (which smells like hot wings, believe it or not) like no team has before. It’s sad to see that ride come to an end. It’s a miracle they were even in that game last night, let alone with a lead. Four of their top defensemen out with various injuries, including a freak strep infection to a cut on Jay McKee’s leg that developed Wednesday morning. Another disheartening entry for the pages of Buffalo’s checkered sports history. They were also without playmaker Tim Connolly, out with a concussion since the Ottawa series.
Despite all that, they were 18 minutes from a Finals berth, before it slipped away. It’s a tribute to all of the players on the ice that they were so close. Ryan Miller, Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Mike Grier, and Brian Campbell in particular are among the heroes on this team; they gave it every ounce of effort they had. It was a very special group of guys. Lindy Ruff put it well: “You can hold your head up. Those guys in the room are a special group that never used an excuse all year long.” Thank you for a great season, Buffalo. I wish I could be happy with just that. There’s a point where hopeful choruses of “there’s always next year” begin to feel more like resignation to a losing fate. I’m tired of “next year’s.” Sooner or later, I need it to be “our year.”