Game 5 of the Sabres/Rangers series was last night. That game, to me, was an out-and-out thriller that almost got ruined by the number of penalties called. The Sabres seemed a little like sprinters trying to run with bowling shoes on; they just didn’t seem to be able to get going properly in the right direction until very late in the game indeed. I suppose it’s not surprising that they had a little trouble getting the bow up on plane because they spent so much time killing penalties. Their own forays on to the power play didn’t seem to help much either – the Buffalo power play may be one of the most inept I’ve ever seen at recovering loose pucks in the opposition zone. This last feature of the Sabre man-advantage unit has allowed the Rangers (as Pierre McGuire has ably pointed out on many occasions during the TSN telecasts of the series) to overplay the Sabres defence and virtually eliminate at times the “D to D” pass option. Obviously, it becomes that much harder for the Sabres to move the puck East-West if that passing option is curtailed, which means that Lundstrom is not required to move laterally very much. Combine this lack of functionality with an apparent reluctance on the part of the Buffalo forwards to get in front of the Swede and set up a persistent screen, and the result is a power play that coughs up the puck at the offensive blue line and spends a lot of time retrieving icings.
The State of New York is holding its breath tonight . Tomorrow, round 2 of the National Hockey League playoffs begins in earnest as the Number 1 seeded Sabres meet the 6th-ranked Rangers in what promises to be the most interesting of the two Eastern Conference semi-finals. Don’t worry, Connecticut, your big Empire State brother is not suffocating – go back to spawning insurance companies and please continue ignoring hockey completely.
I have prepared a preview of the Rangers/Sabres series to help fill the empty spaces in your life. It has also helped fill certain empty spaces in my life, given the complete absence of my Leafs from the tournament once again this year. (*Sigh*)
The Skinny: Fear not, good citizens of Buffalo – revenge of a rather unsatisfactory sort will soon be yours for Scott Norwood’s missed field goal effort against the Giants in Super Bowl XXV. The Sabres will win this series in six games. Oh, and sorry for bringing up that thing about the Super Bowl. Hey, at least I didn’t mention Brett Hull’s foot-in-the-crease overtime winner.