The purgatory of the Buffalo Sabers and their fans continues, with the team officially banned from the postseason playoffs for the 11th consecutive time, a dismal National Hockey League (NHL) record.
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The Washington Capitals’ win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday marked the end of the game for the New York State team, which ranks 14th in the Eastern Conference with 63 points. Still, the early days of the campaign offered a ray of hope in the darkness that has surrounded the organization for more than a decade. The club began its career with a 5-1-1 record, but followed it up with a terrible run of five straight wins in 28 games.
Certainly, some traps have hurt Sabers a lot. The Jack Eichel saga, eventually changed to the Vegas Golden Knights, was an unavoidable source of distraction. The picture on the net remains murky as six goalkeepers have had playing time so far this year.
The sources of comfort are, however, very present in training. Acquired from Las Vegas, Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs have proven their worth and should be safe bets in 2022-2023. Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens and a few others will also be able to guide their teammates. Veteran Kyle Okposo, who will be eligible for full autonomy next year, seems to agree.
“This year, we planted the roots a bit. Our collective attitude here is good… I haven’t talked to the guys about this, but I don’t want the season to end. It was a lot of fun and I think a lot of players here feel the same way. We want that to continue and for us to be able to move forward; we’ve believed that for a while. Nobody says to themselves: “Let’s finish the season as soon as possible and get some wins here and there.” No, every day we work,” Okposo told The Buffalo News this week.
“It’s a nice feeling to feel. Our way of building relationships and a winning culture will go further.”
get life back
Individually, Okposo has bounced back after a few years plagued by injuries and health problems. Before Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, he had scored 41 points, including 18 goals, in 65 games. Thus, he was able to top his two best point harvests offered to the Sabers; the striker accumulated 45 in 2016-17 and one less the following year.
Still, many fans are exasperated by the Sabers’ endless struggles on the ice. The last time they played in the playoffs, in 2010-2011, Lindy Ruff was the head coach. A sign that time flies, the group of players at the time included Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and goalkeeper Ryan Miller.