|Wennberg makes a play on Anton Forsberg in 2014|
Strategically, however, this is huge. The first period and a half could be characterized as 'mistakes in the net'. The first two were soft/mistakes by the young goal tender. The second two were on the team, where unchallenged players had open looks on a vulnerable goal tender. Shockingly [sarcasm] those ended up in the net. The good thing was that the players responded with anger and frustration, scored two goals, and pummeled the net with pretty good opportunities, But Neuvirth, the Buffalo goal tender, given a new lease on life, responded with some nice stops. But, back to strategery, the Sabres took two standings points from us, which helps to keep New Jersey and Ottawa to sinking to our level, and thus stealing a really good draft pick. Toronto is a mere three points back in the suck column and they may yet do some stupid winning down the stretch, in spite of them being a basket case.
This is the type of game that good teams lose anyway. First home game coming in off of a road trip is not often advantageous to the home team, and while the coaching staff correctly identified it as a trap game, it is only a trap game because a team with a horrible record is playing ok. Much like ourselves, except not tonight. Our team was willing to accept the mistakes by the rookie goal tender, but it was only after they hung him out to dry on brutal coverage mistakes that they got mad and really started taking their game to Buffalo, which resulted in numerous beautiful chances, as well as two goals. However, Neuvirth was loath to surrender rookie mistakes, and that ended up being the difference in the end.
Tonight was a near perfect game by our squad, for their circumstances. That is measured only in the outcome, because I feel confident that their plan was to lay an ass beating on Buffalo. But the best laid plans of mice and men.....
At any rate, I have watched a lot of CBJ teams play out the string in Nationwide Arena. I've been a season ticket holder since 2005-06 (next year is 10 years!). There is some brutal hockey in that run, I can assure you. This team does not resemble those teams. There is an anger with tonight's game that is palpable even in the upper bowl. I look at that as a huge positive.
This team is damn good, they are just in a really weird situation. The whole trade deadline thing is, I think, hugely unsettling to them. You don't win anything significant unless you have a little luck. This team, this year, has none. Next year is a reset, and look out. This is a team that will enter 2015-16 with a chip on its shoulder, not with the satisfaction of achieving something significant for the franchise. That will serve them well.
These losses at this juncture are huge, to keep us in position to restock with very good talent, while preserving the will and confidence of our players. There has never been a more delicate stretch run in the franchise's history, and we have blown some of these opportunities with late runs. A simple .500 record from here on out will do wonders.
This is a good team, with players that have a lot to offer. But I wouldn't stand next to them in a lightening storm this year. Next year is a new year, and I think we, as fans, will see something very pleasing. But for now, it's picking 6th, with a lottery chance. We want to preserve that, while preserving our dignity.