Game 7: Embracing Uncertainty

Today won’t be easy.

Everyone’s going to spend their day at work or school, but it will be mindless. The clock will drag. Patience will be a rarity. That’s not your fault. Tonight is weighing heavy on your mind.

At 7:30 PM eastern time tonight, the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers will play for their seasons. One team moves on, one team goes home for the summer. Looking at the series from the start, there can’t be too many Sabres fans who would’ve turned down this proposition for their 7th seeded team. One game.

Looking back at the series, it might be a shame that Buffalo didn’t close it out sooner. They had their chances in Game 6. Philadelphia has left the door open enough, but the Sabres haven’t taken advantage.

Sure, there’s no Jason Pominville or Tim Connolly, both injured. It’s unsure what can be expected of Derek Roy, their leading scorer at time of injury, who will make his first appearance in a Sabres uniform since the calendar said 2010. Buffalo’s defense has looked sometimes solid, inexperienced at others. Ryan Miller has stolen two games in this series. Should he really have to steal three?

The Buffalo inferiority complex in your head may already be spinning ways it will go wrong or justifying the loss. Not surprising. The expectation of losing is passed down generation-to-generation in western New York. It’s just a defense mechanism.

For many Sabres fans sitting nervous today, 2006 looms large. “What if?” scenarios don’t go away. The Sabres have a relatively “fresh” fanbase, people who have latched on since the lockout. That day in Raleigh is the most painful thing they’ve dealt with. For me, 2001 is the painful memory, seeing a wrist shot from the circle end your season in an instant.

When a series gets to seven games, the margin for error is small. Which is why Sabres fans still hate Brad Park. The same reason we smile when we hear the name Derek Plante. Why we wish Doug Gilmour would’ve backchecked or Brian Campbell could’ve rang the puck off the glass instead of clearing it. It can be one play.

This isn’t like the regular season, where there’s permutations abound as to what can happen, whether you win or lose. There’s two results here: win or loss. Someone is going to have their name in the box score with the game winning goal. Whether they’re wearing orange or white jerseys with navy shoulders, someone’s going to get credit for being the hero.

It could be anyone. It could be Thomas Vanek putting the team on his back. It might be a storybook comeback for Derek Roy. It could be a young guy like Tyler Ennis or Nathan Gerbe making a name for themselves. It could even be someone you wouldn’t expect, like Chris Butler or Mike Weber. It might just be Ryan Miller deciding that no one’s going to score.

But we won’t know until tonight. There’s sixty minutes to play, maybe more. This will either be the last game the Sabres play until October or until this weekend. Thinking ahead? You can’t. You’re as close to worrying about who the Bills will draft on Thursday as you are looking for tickets for Games 3 & 4 next week.

Looking back to the path that brought us all here right now, there’s part of you that should say it’s incredible that they got to this point, and another part that should think there’s no way it can end now. Since Terry Pegula walked out of our dreams and into our lives, it’s been an amazing swing. When we first heard his name, things weren’t looking good. The playoffs weren’t even a realistic expectation. Then Derek Roy, our best player at the time, went down, and we figured he’d be gone until next season.

But the Sabres turned it around, and snuck into the postseason. Now, here we are, and oddly enough, it’s Derek Roy who could step in and keep this thing going.

We heard a story from a game late this season where during a break in play, Lindy Ruff implored the team not to be scared. One unnamed player spoke up and said, “I’m not scared.”

You shouldn’t be scared, either.

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Posted on April 26, 2011, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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