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Sabres know the taste of sour grapes

You don't get in the food-stamp line and complain about the dent in your Lexus. You don't knock on the doors of the City Mission to find a light for your Cuban cigar. And you don't get into a playoff series with the Buffalo Sabres -- with any Buffalo team, for that matter -- and start ranting about how you just can't get a fair shake.

Pull up a chair, Teddy Nolan, because our tales of woe are top shelf, where mama hides the cookies.

If you're angling for sympathy, Ted, you've not only come to the wrong place, you've come to the worst place. Buffalo is, by decree of a Sports Illustrated headline, the losingest city in sports. I'm not sure if losingest is really a word, but if it is, we're its rightful owners, although, truth be told, we're forever hopeful of relinquishing possession.

Fans on the Island lament that it seems like eternity since they last won a Cup, that string of four in the early '80s amounting to ages ago. Must be nice to have a point of reference. Here in Buffalo, we've never forgotten the taste of champagne because we've never sipped it. Our plight has, indeed, been eternal in that it dates to the birth of the franchise. And the (blues) band plays on.

Don't be telling us Thomas Vanek's goal in Game Three shouldn't have counted, or that a replay discovered on YouTube confirms Brendan Witt was denied the tying goal late in Game Four. What? You didn't get the league's midseason memo addressing such matters? Stop implying there's a conspiracy at work to ensure the Sabres advance and your Isles go home. Because even if that were somehow true, we don't care. Been there, bemoaned that.

Teddy, old pal, you're grousing about a 15-minute oil change taking 16 minutes to a city that's had its tires slashed. You want to talk controversial goals? Try Game Six of the 1999 Stanley Cup finals. Third overtime. Brett Hull's skate in the crease when the decider is scored. The Cup being presented to the Stars while replays show the goal was tainted. The NHL citing a memo allegedly released during the season claiming such goals would be construed as legit. Yeah, we'll get over it . . . in three generations.

Buffalo suffered the ultimate hockey wound, took a dagger to its psyche, and here you are carrying on about muddled and piddling first-round stuff. I asked Ruff on Thursday whether when he hears you rail on he thinks, "Man, you have no idea."

He smiled. "I said the other day," Ruff recalled, " 'My, how times have changed.' "

Now you'd have thought that given what happened in '99, Buffalo would be in for a decade worth of make-up calls. So what goes down the very next season, against Philadelphia? The Flyers' John LeClair puts one home through the side of the net and Philly wins by a goal en route to taking the series. Right through the side of the net. Plain as plain can be. And here you are, arguing about a complex convergence of time and space in which the referee's whistle and the (illegal) jostling of goaltender Ryan Miller stripped the moment of definitive clarity.

Thing is, there is thought that all this grousing might be buying you some leniency, that maybe you're being thrown a pacifier to stem your incessant crying.

"You know, you can look at it, we only got three calls last night when it came to penalties," Ruff noted. "I think part of the complaining maybe had a little bit of an effect because I thought there were situations we could have got more calls."

Deal with it, Ted. You see mirages, we see Tom Poti and Marc-Andre Bergeron fumbling away the chance you had left on Jason Pominville's late goal.

Unjust? Unfair? Go chew nails. We know what those taste like. Might want to go heavy on the ketchup.


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