Sunday, May 13, 2007

GAME 2: Senators 4, Sabres 3, 2OT

Maybe it's just not our time.

I am thinking about how exciting and electric these games were a year ago, heart stopping, edge of year seat moments, magical outcomes. When Dan Briere scored in the frenzied closing seconds and the arena erupted in joy, could this be yet another improbable finish in the making?

But here is the painful fact - the Sabres should have never put themselves in that position in the first place. Once again, this team got their "A" game back, came out smoking, dusted off the disappointment of the disallowed Vanek goal ("You hope they get it right" said Lindy Ruff again), and scored two goals. Two goals! Several more scoring chances went for naught; Lydman's bouncer clanged off the post. This game should have been over early.

But the Sabres attack mode seen in these playoffs in occasional spurts was gone by the second period. Shots on net, scoring chances were few and far between. And AGAIN the Sabres found themselves shorthanded by two men, and when Ottawa seized the opportunity late in the second that goal was a real crusher.

Lindy referred to this power player scenario two separate times in his post game comments. "They got handed another five on three. I'm disappointed with that." Then later..."Give us a couple of five on threes. We've had tough calls that leaves us five on three. Zubrus lifting the stick. Campbell with the nudge..."

The third period was dreary, depressing and painful to watch... on several rushes the players seemed out of position. In one sequence to the left of the Buffalo net Afinogenov checked his own player; Once again shots and scoring chances were virtually non existent, and dare I say it, but it was actually fun watching Ottawa win every little battle, making the smart plays, moving the puck to a safe place time and time again. I could only watch in frustation knowing deep down who the better team was.

Once Buffalo scored to tie it, you had to wonder if this would be a deflator in the Sens locker room, just as the Rangers had gone through almost the identical scenario just eight days earlier. The Sens Jason Spezza replies, "We knew we had to put this one behind us fast and regroup. Nobody here panicked. We're figuring we had the upper hand in this one."

Spezza was right. The Senators came out smoking in the first overtime, controlling tempo of play and keeping the puck bottled in the Buffalo zone for most of the period. By the second overtime, they had darkened the shot clock at HSBC Arena. Perhaps it was another errant squirrel that chewed through the wiring, or more likely the team had had enough of displaying this embarassing stat for all to see. Nonetheless, the Sabres started throwing every puck in front of Ray Emery, and at last perhaps something good would happen! But when Spezza won that draw and got it over to Corvo...just like that the Senators had won the game. Said Joe Corvo afterwards, "This was the biggest goal of my career... by far."

Everyone in Buffalo is so heart broken and so disappointed this morning. Since September we have all geared ourselves up for these days, these games, and nothing short of a Stanley Cup parade will suffice. Is this team really that bad? Do these guys really lack what it takes? Yes Ottawa is the team that is "scary good" in these playoffs, but didn't I see the Buffalo Amerks take it to these same guys back in February?

So I will wrap myself in the warmth of this thought - Scotiabank Place is not Buffalo's house of horrors, but the venue of some of our greatest triumphs - 1997, Steve Shields stonewalls the Sens in game 6 to send the series back to Buffalo; 1999, Hasek stops 40 plus shots to secure the opening game 1-0 win, then Miro Satan with his 2OT game winner in game 2; 2006, the crazy track meet in game 1 and a 7-6 overtime win, then Jason Pominville's shorthanded goal in overtime to take this series.

Yes it will be noisy and loud come Monday in Ottawa. They are awesome fans there and love their team and they should be loud.

That being said, see you in Buffalo next Saturday - 2PM faceoff. I will have the AV pressbox chair. Believe.

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