Game 34: The absence of fear
Going from allowing nine and getting embarrassed at home to scoring nine and leaving the rival Maple Leafs befuddled, the Sabres learned to stop being afraid at last.
BUFFALO — Perhaps the most common reaction to seeing the Buffalo Sabres rebound from a 9-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 9-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs was that it made the Sabres the most confusing team in the league.
For a team that’s had nothing but a roller coaster when it comes to results, where a win was followed by a loss or two or three before winning again, going from giving up nine and losing to scoring nine and winning in a walk was arguably the most sensible way things could’ve gone.
But Thursday’s win against Toronto had some sizable differences. The obvious ones were the returns of Jeff Skinner and Jordan Greenway to the lineup after stints on injured reserve. Getting an elite goal scorer and a top forechecker/penalty killer back on the ice do make a big difference and that was more than apparent.
But the biggest difference was in the way the Sabres played all game long. In a game which they again grabbed the lead early on but fell behind shortly thereafter, instead of collapsing in on themselves they punched back harder, emotionally speaking.
“To play with a fearless intent, you have to be able to enjoy what you’re doing without repercussion,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I think we got a group that cares so much, and I’ve been around groups like this. You care so much sometimes you don’t want to be a guy to make a mistake. That consumes you at times. Then it’s hesitation, and that can interfere with the love of the game. Decisions made on that ice are so damn fast. Any inhibitor up here, any conscious or subconscious fear is going to be hesitation on the ice, and it’s going to look like you’re not working. We had one good game tonight. You can’t get too low; you can’t get too high. But we have to play with more passion.”