Game 69: Sabres stress test is failing
After a 7-0 loss at home to the Bruins, the Sabres are showing their youth and inexperience and the anxiety of the situation takes a toll.
BUFFALO — Before this afternoon’s game, Buffalo Sabres coach Don Granato spoke about how the experience of the team is changing late in the season from a psychological standpoint. The team has been battling for a spot in the playoffs and as the number of games on the schedule have whittled down, the pressure both inside and out has increased dramatically.
“Lots of guys are feeling that heat and that pressure, and that’s a privilege to be in a situation where you have to deal with heightened pressure,” Granato said. “It’s what we hoped would happen when we started the season, that we would be in a position that, being as young as we are and thrusting guys into positions with that heightened expectation, that we know it takes experience. To have them gain the experience they’re going through right now, having to battle through physical adversity, psychological adversity, through the long run is going to be healthy for us, it’s going to move us forward, but it is a battle right now.”
That pressure is a talking point because of how their 5-4 shootout loss to Washington played out on Wednesday and how their 5-2 loss to Philadelphia went on Friday. Sunday afternoon offered an opportunity to right things. It was a home game against the Boston Bruins that was the final game of a five-game road trip for them and came a day after playing in Minnesota. Sabres fresh legs against a veteran team (granted the best team in the NHL) that could be road weary and tired after a hard 60 minutes in a different time zone was the perfect setup to get back on the winning side.
It proved to be another opportunity in which the size of the situation proved to win again. The Sabres were humbled by Boston 7-0 and for large parts of the game they played a sort of panicked brand of hockey. It’s the kind of hockey that spoke to how the team is handling the situation with nervous hands and when it spills out in the moment, the puck is in the net and the snowball starts downhill again.
This isn’t an indictment of the team and how it’s been built and how things are going at the moment, it just shows how inexperienced this group is as a whole in dealing with the stress of a playoff race, one which no team seems to want to grab and run away with, and what it’s like to have every game mean a whole hell of a lot more than they seemed to earlier on in the season.
The psychological stress on a young team can manifest itself in the sense of fragility that played out on Sunday.
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