Well, here we are Sabres fans. At the crossroads where we seperate the believers from the band-wagon jumpers. Speak now or forever hold your piece.
Since I've gone on record as believing that the Sabres will take this series, it goes without saying that I think they are capable and likely to win Game 4 in Buffalo tomorrow night. But that being said, last night was a tough pill to swallow. The effort was there, but the execution wasn't. Whether it was Butler's bad giveaway that led to Daniel Briere's roofer from 2-feet away or the handful of stupid penalties that absolutely, positively HAVE to stop, the Sabres left opportunities to take a 2-1 series lead out on the ice.
Having said that, let me properly backup my moniker by giving you 4 reasons why I think the Sabres have nothing to fear going into Game 4...
1) This is where the Flyers are supposed to be.
For all the speculating on how poorly the Flyers were playing leading into the playoffs, I don't know a single fan who thought this would be an easy series. If you're a team that's not playing particularly well down the stretch, but you still wind up with the second best record in the Eastern Conference, chances are you're a really talented team. And goalie issues notwithstanding (or not existing), they've proven that. A 2 seed is supposed to get the upper hand in the first three games against a 7 seed. Having said that...
2) The Sabres have proven they can hang.
This is no late-season fluke of a team. Physically and mentally, the Sabres have shown that they're for real. If the Flyers had any illusions about the level of play this team was capable of, they were snapped back to reality after the 1-0 shutout to start the series. Players from Montador to Gerbe have been laying Flyers out every chance they get. And even Connolly and Pominville have proven that they're willing to get into the corners and scrap it out. In the past, this was our biggest disadvantage was our inability to hang with physical teams. But if anything, the Sabres need to start getting a little less physical to cut back on the penalties. Which brings us to...
3) Penalties and mental errors are correctable.
Is it easy to fix these kinds of mistakes? No. But is it possible? Of course it is. At this point, the Sabres need to realize that the refs simply aren't going to let them get away with anything. They saw what happened when they let things get chippy in Game 2:
4) The Sabres' stars are playing like it.
Yes, Millsie had a regrettable outing in Game 2. It's hard for me to say he's playing like a star after he gives up 5 goals in a game. But again, I expected the Flyers to come out and win Game 2. To go down 0-2 at home to a much lower seed is just embarrassing (COUGH-Boston-COUGH-choke, choke, choke-COUGH). And if you take that game away, he's got a shutout in Game 1 and a loss in Game 3 where 2 of the 3 goals simply weren't his fault (not counting the empty net, obviously). Turnovers in your own zone in the playoffs will kill you 100 times out of 100. And beyond Captain America, we're seeing results from the people we've come to depend on and then some. Last season when we needed our goal scorers to contribute, they were nowhere to be found. This year, guys are attacking as a team and goals are coming from everywhere. Gerbe, Vanek, and Stafford have all contributed at extremely clutch times. But they're also raising the level of their teammates, creating opportunities for the likes of Kaleta, Sekera and McCormick.
And it's with all of that in mind that I was able to fall asleep just fine last night. I know Lindy knows what's wrong out on the ice, now it's just a matter of addressing it. Through 3 games, we've shown flashes of being the superior team. Now it's just a matter of turning that flash into a beacon.
Ok, super lame analogy. But I'm rocking a 7-day hangover, so LAY OFF ME, I'M STARVING!