These are tough times to be a Buffalo Sabre.
You're in tenth place, five points behind Montreal for the last playoff spot. The team hasn't played well down the stretch, going 4-7-2 since starting goalie Ryan Miller was hurt.
But even winning doesn't seem to quiet the barbs fired at the team by the writers of The Buffalo News.
Bucky Gleason titled his column following the Sabres' victory over the Panthers, "Sabres' win not that big a deal."
I hate to think what he's going to say after tonight's victory. Probably some snide remark about how Leafs scored three goals before the Sabres put them away.
Another columnist, Jerry Sullivan, inaugurated a fictional doghouse in a recent column in which he proposed to put "a player who has been struggling (or) a coach who has gotten under my skin." His first nominee was Sabres' center Tim Connolly, who recently signed a new two-year, $9 million deal.
Sullivan was upset that Connolly hadn't scored during the Sabres' recent string, and appeared even more irritated that Connolly has suffered a variety of injuries that kept him out of the lineup much of this year and last.
The fact that Connolly had scored 37 points in the 40 games he has played this year and that players who score a point a game are paid as much, or even more, than Connolly doesn't seem to matter to Jerry—Connolly's a bum.
Ohhh. He did score a goal and assist in the win against Florida and added another two goals against Toronto tonight. Must have been because Jerry called him out.
Clearly the Sabres are not immune to the constant negativity.
In his article titled "Tellqvist defies critics after first win," News writer Mike Harrington quoted Tellqvist, who Buffalo acquired from Phoenix to fill in for Miller, as saying, "Not bad for a team with no character, eh? Everybody was counting us down, saying we were going to lie down."
Interestingly, Harrington is among the worst of the finger pointers, writing in his own pre-game blog today, "Hey I call 'em like I see 'em, folks. Thoroughly unimpressed by that victory as you might have noticed."
Harrington and his fellow Sabres beat reporter John Vogl have criticized the Sabres for not beating up Scott Gomez after his collision with Miller resulted in Miller's sprained ankle. They've called the team soft and gutless.
Tonight, when the Leafs Alexei Ponikarovsky ran into Miller, Paul Gaustad confronted him after the whistle and ended up planting a few fists on Pavel Kubina's face.
Tonight, the Sabres jumped to a four goal lead. Leafs' goalie Curtis Joseph was not playing his best, but is that any reason to fault the Sabres for scoring?
Tonight, the Leafs came back and scored three goals to make it a game. They are a team with nothing to lose.
They hate Buffalo.
Every player on the Leafs' roster is trying out for a spot on next year's roster. Harrington would have you believe the Leafs are just a lousy 11th place team. They had won four of their last five games.
Tonight, when the game was on the line, the Sabres stiffened and scored a hard working goal to give themselves a 5-3 lead. (Harrington still denigrated the goal by saying the Leaf's goalie misplayed it).
Tonight, the Sabres won the game, their second in a row. They face Montreal in Quebec tomorrow night, the second of back-to-back games.
To get in the playoffs, they probably have to win that one and just about every other one after that.
I'm not sure they're going to do it. And even if they do somehow manage to squeak in, I'd be amazingly surprised if they advanced past the first round.
The Stanley Cup? Only in my dreams.
This has not been the Sabres' greatest season. Several of their key players have had bad years. They haven't played as hard as I would have liked every game. But I'm a fan. And as a fan, I'm disappointed by the constant negativity and dripping sarcasm of The Buffalo News hockey writers.
The Sabres haven't won the Stanley Cup, but I haven't seen any Pulitzer Prizes on those guys' desks, either.