Friday, May 05, 2006

Buffalo 7 Ottawa 6 (OT)

I can hear you panicking now Ottawa Senators fan. Calm down. Breathe.

Take relief in this fact: Ottawa was the much better team. They outshot the Sabres by a wide margin. Buffalo had the lead for less than 3 minutes for the entire game.

Basically, the game story is that Ottawa had the W and let it slip away, not once but twice. They were counting their lucky stars when Bryan Smolinski regained the lead, but allowed Buffalo back in with bad plays.

This series was advertised as everything the new NHL wants to be. I’d have to agree. I didn’t like a few of the calls, and some of the non-calls (you know which play I’m talking about, Dimitri Kalinin), but on the whole, the game was very exciting. To be on the losing end sucks very much, let me tell you, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

THE GOOD:

The first 18 or so minutes of the third period. When Buffalo scored with less than a minute left in the second period to tie it at 4-4, I was concerned. Often goals in the last minute of a period deflate the team that got scored on and shift the momentum in the favor of the goal scoring team. That didn’t happen as Ottawa came out guns a blazing in the third and dominated the Sabres.

Mike Fisher. Ottawa’s best player on the night, he led all forwards in ice time, hits, and scored a big goal. It seemed as if every time Fish took the ice electricity occurred.

Peter Schaefer. Everything said about Fisher could be applied to Schaefer, who continued his point streak.

Chris Phillips. Great with the body, smart with the puck, good positionally, Phillips did not look a bit rusty nor hurt.

The penalty kill. Buffalo was not able to mount much with the man advantage and the sole reason for that was because of how effective the penalty killers were. Especially Antoine Vermette, Peter Schaefer, Chris Kelly, and the aforementioned Mike Fisher. They routinely stopped the Sabres from entering the zone at the blueline and seemed to generate more opportunities than Buffalo did despite the Sabres having one more man on the ice.

Christoph Schubert channeling Wade Redden on Martin Havlat’s goal. I could’ve sworn #6 made that pass. A solid game from the German who, with some of his teammates struggling, might get more ice time in games to come.

THE BAD:

Anton Volchenkov’s giveaway. Goes without saying, I know. After a much improved game, the A-Train did the unthinkable at the worst possible time. It was terrible, but let’s not make him the complete scapegoat. This game should not have went to overtime in the first place.

Allowing odd man rushes. 5 of 7 Buffalo’s goals came on these. If you turn the puck over to this team and allow these situations to develop, they will murder you. Every time. Hopefully the lesson was learned.

Andrej Meszaros. Throughout the game, I was beginning to wonder if the rookie rearguard was playing hurt like his fellow freshman phenom Dion Phaneuf was in Calgary’s first round. He was not skating with the same velocity he usually does, yet still joined the rush with regularity. See the problem? Meszaros also made a number of absolutely boneheaded decisions out there. Throughout the season, one of the most amazing things about him was that he played like a 10-year vet of the NHL. That has disappeared in the playoffs. What the fuck he was thinking when he thought it wise to pinch, with less than 2 minutes left in the game and Ottawa up a goal, is beyond me, but as soon as he did, I smelt that red line coming. If Meszaros continues to struggle Murray must consider diminishing his role. He does not look like a top four d-man, so continuing to play him as such, hoping and praying he’ll snap out of it, seems pretty misguided to me. Of course, they did do that for the OT, putting Volchenkov back with Redden, and that didn’t go so well. Filip Novak, you game ready?

Not shooting on the empty net. When Bryan Smolinski scored to make it 6-5, Buffalo pulled their goalie. Ottawa got possession of the puck, carried it into the Sabres zone, and yet did not send a shot at the net. It turned out to be costly. You have to bury your chances instead of trying to be fancy.

Allowing two short handed goals/the powerplay. Unacceptable. I said special teams might be the deciding factor, but I could not foresee the Sens losing this way. The powerplay did not get shots through with any regularity, as once again, they fell victim to trying to be too cute with their plays. Get a guy in front of the net, park him there, and fire shots at the net. It’s not difficult. Now that Martin Havlat has been put on the powerplay with his return, Patrick Eaves sat on the bench, and that’s his role. Havlat is a marvelous player but he’s not the type to stand in front and take a beating. Dany Heatley isn’t. Jason Spezza sure isn’t. Daniel Alfredsson tried but he’s not built for that job.

Ray Emery. Emery was not the reason Ottawa lost, so let’s not start that nonsense, but he also didn’t make the big saves when they needed him to. The OT goal was not a good one and Tim Connelly’s should not have gone in when you remember he was on the goal line. The goals have to shine in this series, and Emery did not. He was mediocre. Perhaps he was rattled by Buffalo scoring so early because he never quite looked right.

Not being able to build a lead. A lot of credit has to go to the Sabres, who bounced back and were relentless in those final minutes, and it’s not as if Ottawa didn’t get a ton of chances, however these are all excuses. They gave up the lead too often.

Daniel Alfredsson’s production. I’m sure you’re getting sick of me bitching about this but I will continue to do so because it’s driving me nuts. Get this man on a line with some people who will do something. Bryan Smolinski finished with two goals, and deserves full marks for the first as he went hard to the net, but the second was just a result of Alfie, as he drew the Sabres to him, leaving “Smoke” alone in the clear to net a goal. Patrick Eaves was not a factor and joins a long list of rookies who have folded like cheap tents in the playoffs. Alfredsson is making the best of what he’s got but when he’s on the third line you can’t expect him to be the MVP.

THE OPPOSITION:

Buffalo were outplayed in every way, but got the timely goals when they needed them and lead the series 1-0. That’s all that matters if I’m a Sabres fan.

I talked about how it was wise to neutralize the Daniel Briere line and the Senators did so. The pesky little Gatineau native wasn’t much of a factor. However, the other guys stepped up when it counted. Tim Connelly had a great game, Chris Drury was terrific, Mike Grier played his role, and Derek Roy had the game of his life in front of his friends and family. On the blueline, Henrik Tallinder was terrific, and is much faster than I ever remember him being.

There were a lot of things Lindy Ruff will want corrected. Bad penalties from the Sabres occurred throughout the game and Ryan Miller wasn’t sharp.

UP NEXT:

Dora The Explorer comes to town, so no games until Monday. Whether or not that’s a good thing I can’t decide. On the one hand, I’d think the Sens would want to get right back out there and make good on their fuckups. However, maybe it’s good to have time to reflect on all the things they did wrong.

Game 2 will be another one of those characters tests, because I am positive a whole lot of people throughout the hockey world will jump back on the “Ottawa can’t win the playoffs” bandwagon after tonight.

It's going to be a long series.

14 Comments:

At 11:12 PM, Anonymous SensGuy said...

I feel so bad for Volchenkov. He played great and then a fluke in overtime and he's now going to get a lot of shit. I think it got stuck in the water too.

Meszaros was just brutal. This game doesn't go to OT if he doesn't suck.

 
At 11:22 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Great might be stretching it for Volchenkov. I know you're a fan, but let's call a spade a spade. He had a decent game. And then made a colossal error.

It happens. How he bounces back will be the measure of him as a player.

 
At 11:26 PM, Anonymous SensGuy said...

Yeah, great was pushing it, but he was playing his game tonight and looked much better.

Meszaros' poor play forced Murray's hand to put Anton with Redden in OT and it backfired. Also, Redden needs to get better at the 2 on 1's. He got schooled twice.

 
At 11:38 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

How would you prefer Redden played them? Emery's not a great one-on-one goalie so if he plays the pass then that's playing with fire.

Redden finished -4 but I thought, besides Phillips, was their best D man.

 
At 11:53 PM, Anonymous jck said...

Allowing the pass after seeing how Buffalo ravaged Philly is playing with fire too though.

I'd rather the chance not be to an open net.

 
At 12:03 AM, Blogger The Universal Cynic said...

Not capitalizing on the empty net chance infuriated me. Killer instinct or not, any attempt was simple common sense, based on the come-from-behind nature that Buffalo demonstrated all night.

 
At 12:33 AM, Blogger James Mirtle said...

It's really, really hard to say Ottawa badly outplayed the Sabres when the Senators allowed seven goals. In the context of this game, you could say they were the better team, but no one badly outplayed anyone in this mess.

 
At 2:08 AM, Blogger Craig said...

Dude, I just found your Blog. Thanks so much for the low down. I was at work tonight and unable to watch the game. I nearly was out of my skin as updates were coming in regularily from so and so's family member. I nearly strangled her when she said those god awful words, "they lost".

Keep up the great writing. What the hell do you do, make notes as the game is on? lol

Thanks again,

Fellow Blogger, Ottawa Fan

 
At 4:06 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

It's really, really hard to say Ottawa badly outplayed the Sabres when the Senators allowed seven goals. In the context of this game, you could say they were the better team, but no one badly outplayed anyone in this mess.

Ottawa outshot them by a wide margin. They badly outplayed them. They had more chances, again, by far. They worked harder, were the more physical team.

The difference is, Buffalo capitalized on the mistakes Ottawa made and got the win.

As I said, five of the goals were odd man rushes. That says it all.

Take nothing away from the Sabres. You have to win games like this if you plan to take the Cup.

But they were outplayed, "mess" or not.

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger LC Scotty said...

Hi Chris,

Sabres fan here who found you blog through bfloblog. I think your assessment of last nights game is fairly spot on. While watching the game with a few friends, one of the most frequently heard comments was "We ARE on the power play, aren't we?"

Honestly, it seems like almost every one of the 13 (!!!) goals was a capitalization of a mistake, whether it was a bad giveaway or failure of netminders to control rebounds and subsequent failures of the defense to stop attackers from getting 5 shots off said rebound etc.

It does promise to be an exciting series, almost like the all star games ought to be. Good luck, guys, and go Sabres.

 
At 9:56 AM, Anonymous KevinP said...

I can't agree with the "badly outplayed" part, but the Sabres surely were outplayed. I was surprised by the Sens willingness to hit, and I think the Sabres wee as well.

A VERY lucky win for Buffalo, but to take game one on enemy ice is huge.

 
At 10:21 AM, Blogger Tom L said...

Chris,

If you're going to complain about the non-calls on Kalinin, then you better start doing so for the multiple infractions away from the puck committed by the Sens all night. Phillips blowing up Vanek, I think, next to the goal before the puck even gets there, hold-ups at the blueline on dump-ins... etc. The high-stick by Redden on Gaustad... the elbow by Phillips. Plenty of stuff for Sabres fans to be upset with as well. You were given a gift 5 on 3... don't complain.

Ultimately, the game was as well officiated as one could expected from VanMassengill, who didn't, btw, make the call for hooking on Kalinin with 4 minutes left even though there were 2 sticks parallel to the ice and dragging him backwards (even if it was slight).

Let's try to stay out of this area during this series. The officiating is going to be inconsistent and that's that. I've given up getting mad about it anymore and have really just come to accept it as part of the game.

Tough way to lose a game, but there it is.

Ta,

 
At 1:09 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

If you're going to complain about the non-calls on Kalinin, then you better start doing so for the multiple infractions away from the puck committed by the Sens all night. Phillips blowing up Vanek, I think, next to the goal before the puck even gets there, hold-ups at the blueline on dump-ins... etc. The high-stick by Redden on Gaustad... the elbow by Phillips. Plenty of stuff for Sabres fans to be upset with as well. You were given a gift 5 on 3... don't complain.

Of course, stuff was missed both ways, but the difference is, that Kalinin tackle on Fisher directly lead to a goal. And if you want to conveniently forget Tallinder putting his hand on the puck in the crease, so be it.

Ottawa got away with some chippy shit I'm sure, but the ones Buffalo did were much more significant.

Again though, that happens. Not an excuse. That's certainly not why Ottawa lost.

 
At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got to say Ottawa giving up those 2 goals in the last 2 minutes just proved once again they choke under pressure and I think it's because the players on the team are all too young and have no experience, Eaves hasn't dont anything, meszaros did great all season and now doesn't do a thing, and why don't they just put Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson back together?

Alfredsson hasn't dont anything with Smokey and Eaves and Vermette is invisible when playing with Heatley and Spezza.

Better to have 2 great lines (spezza line and havlat line) then to have one great one and 2 so-so ones.

And I'm writing this after Ottawa's 2-1 loss so no offence to Ottawa or anything but this is such a huge reminder of every other season they make the playoffs and are the top pick to win the cup.

Personally I'm a HUGE sens fan but I also give up faith on them pretty easily.

My Prediction : Buffalo in 5

 

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