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Monday, June 17, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

The blame game

Let's just blame it on the referees.
It's a lot easier that way, isn't it? As adoring fans, we hate to think for even a second about our beloved team's inadequacies. If the referees make one questionable call, they become an easy scapegoat for the losing team and its fans.
In Buffalo, we're used to resorting to such tactics. There are many Buffalo sports fans that are legitimately convinced that referees across all sports have an unwritten vendetta against the Queen City.
Wednesday night's playoff game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Boston Bruins was the latest addition to the ever-growing sports statistical category of referee-induced Buffalo playoff failures.
Although most of the hockey world will remember the contest because it went into double-overtime and featured two of the sport's best goaltenders at the top of their games, many in Buffalo will recall the crucial penalty call during the third period.
With Buffalo leading two goals to none, Sabres center Cody McCormick went hard to the net through a crowd of Bruins defenders. He got pushed into the goal along with a player from Boston, unintentionally taking the goal off of its moorings as the Boston player took out his own goaltender, rookie Tuukka Rask. Inexplicably, McCormick was called for goaltender interference, giving the Bruins a power play.
With the man advantage, Boston proceeded to score quickly, making the score 2-1. After that, it didn't take long for Buffalo to allow the Bruins to tie the game on a fluke goal by center Patrice Bergeron.
The game went into overtime, and despite numerous "did-he-really-just-do-that" saves by Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, Boston prevailed and now leads the first-round playoff series three games to one.
Sure, the Sabres had a much better chance at winning the game had the questionable penalty not been called. Sure, we're all getting sick of these tough breaks, and it makes sense to lump this into the same category as No Goal and the Music City Miracle (I'm sorry to those who just cringed).
That's too easy, though. Yes, it was a bad call, but it didn't solely lose the game for the Sabres—after all, they were still winning even after the original power play goal.
If certain embittered fans insist on blaming the officials, that's fine with me, but I'm sure of one thing: If the Sabres are thinking that way, they have no chance of coming back and pushing this series to seven games.
Buffalo's players and coaches need to forget about the things that they cannot control and realize that they have now lost two games in this series after going into the third period with the lead – something that they did not do once during the regular season. They need to realize that if they played with consistent toughness and took advantage of precious offensive opportunities, this series could have been a sweep in their own favor.
Instead, they are on the brink of elimination and need to win three games in a row against the only goaltender in the league with better statistics than Miller.It may not be likely, but it's certainly possible. Miller said it himself; if the Bruins can win three in a row, why can't the Sabres? They won't give up until they're officially eliminated. The key is to play mistake-free hockey and remain focused.
Some better officiating wouldn't hurt though, either.

E-mail: luke.hammill@ubspectrum.com


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