Saturday, May 19, 2007

GAME 5: Senators 3, Sabres 2, OT

The dream died tonight.

From the very moment the Sabres lost game 7 in Carolina last June, everything was geared towards this season - the perfect storm of keeping this team largely intact, a year of maturity, of seasoning, a mantra of "One Team. One Goal." The energy began early on... the winning streak in October set the tone, fans snapped up every remaining available ticket and for the first time since the 70s there is a "waiting list" for season tickets.

In February adversity hit the team with injury after injury, yet the team worked through their troubles, and by March the run for the division banner and the President's Trophy was on.

By playoff time there came that queasy feeling - the stumbles against the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers, and somehow just the feeling that this was not the same as last year.

Then came the Ottawa Senators.

Said Daniel Alfredsson, "I think they ran into us at the wrong time."

Alfredsson was right on the money. His team played like they were possessed through the last two months of the regular season. That epic brawl in Buffalo on February 22 set the tone for the coming playoff matchup. Was anyone in Buffalo really looking forward to seeing Ottawa in the playoffs?

After the game, a dejected Lindy Ruff looked like he was fighting back tears as he saluted the fans. "The positive was how energized this city was. How much fun this whole area and city had. We had a lot to be proud of." Then choked up he added "We let the fans down. The expectations were so high. That room was as quiet as quiet can be."

Chris Drury's comments sounded more ominous. Sporting eight stitches below his lip and three more inside his mouth from a puck to the face he took in the third period, Drury remarked "great chance we're not going to be a group anymore. We know there will be changes made. Ultimately that's what we do."

Uh boy.

Our guy Mike Harrington from the Buffalo News broke up the room when he asked Ray Emery this question: "Greektown or Disneyland?" Emery replied, "I got into a lot of trouble last time I talked about this so I don't think I should answer." Harrington pressed on, and Emery cracked back "I'll be in the hotel either way."

Pete missed this game as he worked his USPS shift plus overtime so I was furiously sending him text messages throughout the game to keep him updated. I'm sure he will have his own thoughts to post here, but for now I will post mine.

This was another amazing season. It's been an amazing two years and I can wrap myself in the great memories of the post lockout era and how much being a Sabres fan means to me. We have every reason to be proud of this city and I am prouder than ever of my community and how they have embraced this team. Yeah, we're going to lose players. But so are other teams. This organization is positioned to compete next year and beyond for the Cup.

Thank you Sabres. I am looking forward to next year already. Can't wait!

And yeah, Ottawa is now our bitter rival, and next season I will start hating them again. But for me, right here and right now? "Go Sens Go!"

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