I have to admit, upon writing my post two weeks ago, I wasn't sharing the same excitement that the rest of the Sabres faithful seemed to find glory in then, but I honestly didn't foresee this team eventually playing the way they have in the past five games.
I guess I took the wrong approach to the post. While this team was obviously playing far and away better hockey at the time (more to the level they should have been playing all season), I felt that the focus was still more about "what everyone else is doing around you; their fates will determine yours."
I failed to mention the most obvious solution to success, something Lindy Ruff challenged his team with less than a week later: Just win the rest of your games.
In my own defense, I guess it would've been easy to just go out and say that. But realistically, who would have actually believed it? I remember not believing it when I read it in the Buffalo News that day. And if I could actually talk hockey to anyone on a daily basis down here in Texas, I'm pretty sure I would have found a way to incorporate Lindy's comments into a couple of jokes here and there.
But the team since has proved me wrong. They're doing all of the things I've bitched about them not doing since this blog started back in November. They've actually taken their own advice from weeks and weeks of frustrating post-game interviews and are now working for the solid 60 minutes -- Look what happens when you show up and give a shit once and a while.
It's a shame that the uber important showdown with the Capitals Tuesday wasn't the last game of the regular season. It would have been an extraordinary high to go straight into the post-season with, but beggars can't be choosers. Plus, that scenario wouldn't afford any time for Christian Ehrhoff to get healthy; and that guy is one of the more important pieces to the current puzzle. Now we just have to wait and see if this team can finish the job they started, without him.
It always seems like there's a setback in Buffalo though, with injuries or whatever it may be -- What would life be if we didn't have to hold our breaths once and a while? But this team is playing for each other right now, and it looks like they're having a hell of a lot of fun doing it. A characteristic I always saw with the Penguins throughout the latter half of the ten years I spent there.
So I really hope they can pull it off. As much as I've said in the past that this team would benefit greater in the long run from missing the playoffs, I'm still a true fan at heart. And April will be loads more exciting with the Sabres in them rather than not.
Year after year it seems that professional sports are going more the way of "the team that gets hot at the right time wins it all." In the NFL alone we've seen it 4 times in the last 7 years; with the Steelers, Packers, and twice with the Giants. When you look at the level the Sabres are playing at right this moment -- and the projected first-round playoff match-ups -- it isn't hard to think that teams like Buffalo could share that same fate.
Still, I'm not totally pumped. But I can't keep myself from becoming a little more curious [excited] as each new day passes.
Let's just make sure we get there, because the possibilities are endless once you're in.