The Buffalo Sabres’ season ended this past Tuesday with a 5-2 loss. It was somewhat unexpected but not entirely. Unexpected because they won the first game of their series with the Philadelphia Flyers and led the series 3-2 just five days before being eliminated. Unexpected because this was Game 7 and none of the other games were true blowouts. Unexpected because the Sabres used two great goalies during the series and the second one only saw action in the second half of Game 7 while the Flyers used three goalies and calling any one of them truly “great” is an insult to legendary Flyers netminders Bernie Parent and Ron Hextall.
Nevertheless, the outcome was expected because the Sabres had to stage an epic rally just to make the playoffs and couldn’t manage anything better than the No. 7 seed. Expected because two key players, Jason Pominville and Tim Connolly suffered nasty season-ending injuries in Games 5 and 6 respectively. Expected because as much as the team seemed to spring to life after Terry Pegula took over as owner, they just didn’t have enough gas left in the tank to move on to the second round. And so it is that at the end of my fifth season of die-hard Sabres fandom, for the fourth straight season since beating the New York Rangers in a thrilling, six-game 2007 series, my favorite team is going home early.
I don’t mean to insult any Flyers fans or bore anyone who couldn’t care less about the Sabres and/or hockey (though you’re really missing out on something this postseason if you’re one of the latter). I really don’t. It’s just that even though I’m in college, haven’t cried over New York Giants losses in over a decade (believe me, I’m more embarrassed about it than you are) and take classes every semester that point out how little influence over events us fans really have, it still stinks to see your favorite team’s season end.
Even if the Detroit Lions had a better chance of winning it all than your team, even if they vastly overachieved, even if they won the title the year before, even if they actually missed the playoffs, being a devoted sports fan requires so much time and effort that you can’t help but be disappointed when the show’s over and it’s time to go do something else for a couple months. And we’re not even the ones actually playing the games, for crying out loud. Ah well, to quote every Chicago Cubs fan every year since 1908, “there’s always next year.”