The playoffs are definitely making me soft on the Sabres. On Saturday I pretty much forgave the Sabres for being all flail-y and lame while they were being flail-y and lame. I forgave them for freaking out, because I was freaking out too.
The fact that the Sabres unraveled after Vanek’s injury was, of course, super disappointing. It would have been nice if someone in a leadership position could have settled everyone down and reminded them that they won PLENTY of games with Vanek either injured or slumping this season. Obviously, winning without him can be done. But, I was sympathetic to the situation, because when I saw Vanek struggling to get to the bench, even though the score at the time was 2-0 in favor of the Sabres, I still wanted to lay down on the sticky HSBC arena floor and whimper.
It’s not that I don’t think the Sabres can win the Boston series without Vanek. Even if he doesn’t return at all, I still believe the Sabres can win this series. The problem with losing Vanek now is that we just got him back. I don’t know what’s been going on him this year, but he hasn’t been good. Then, a few weeks ago he came back from a mystery injury and suddenly, he was back back.
Atlas Vanek makes you feel like anything is possible, and to have that taken away, even when we’ve only had it for a few days, is upsetting. Entering the playoffs with Vanek chugging away at full strength made me feel like I could let my hopes run wild. I bet it felt that way for the players as well.
So, I’m not surprised they were rattled, but the fact of the matter is, they can’t get rattled anymore. The word on the street (and out of my radio) is that Vanek is expected to return before the series is over. This is wonderful news. Maybe when it’s all said and done, Vanek’s injury will just be a little glitch to remind everyone not to get ahead of ourselves. The Sabres might need Atlas to win the Cup, but they don’t have to win the Cup tomorrow. Tomorrow, they just have to beat the Boston Bruins.