First, let me get the negativity out of the way.
I can't even tell you how impressed I've been with Ryan Miller during the postseason thus far. On the ice and off the ice, he's conducted himself as a real leader. He's stood up after every game and answered every question, he refused to get into a war of words with any of the Rangers even when reporters were obviously trying to drag him into one, and he's played at a level that many of his teammates have yet to find from the beginning of the playoffs. He's the one guy who has played like he wanted to win from the word go. But his griping about the penalties last night was unbecoming. The calls on Campbell and Zubrus that led to Ottawa's 5 on 3 were not great calls. And the non-call on Alfredsson, especially in light of the previous calls, was HORRIBLE. But honestly, what was the team going to do with another powerplay? You cannot go 0 for 7 on the powerplay and complain that the refs lost you the game. One powerplay goal turns the game around and neutralizes Ottawa's much more efficient special teams.
One of the biggest differences between last season's playoff run and this season's playoff run is the play of Derek Roy. He was a fiery little dynamo last year and this year he's been playing some really stupid, ugly hockey. He was a little better last night if you overlook the dumb high sticking penalty, but overall I feel like he's killing his line. Max and Vanek were both strong last night, but Derek is just not playing at their level. I don't know if you bench starters at this point, but I'd really like to see Stafford in the game somehow. Atleast he'll play hard for 60 minutes and we know he'll punch Chris Neil in the face if need be which is always a nice bonus.
I heard it mentioned again last night that the Sabres often feel pressure to "perform" for the home fans. Guys, listen... I love a pretty goal as much as the next fan, but all I really want to see is the puck go in the net. I feel pretty good saying that most of Buffalo agrees with me. I don't care if you bounce it off someone's head, if it goes in, I'm a happy, satisfied fan. Which reminds me, please for the LOVE OF GOD, SHOOT THE PUCK. You put lots of shots on the net in the first period. You put a pathetic number of shots in the next two periods and on all the powerplays. THAT SHOULD TELL YOU SOMETHING! Shooting a lot on Emery ----> Good things happen. Not shooting a lot on Emery ----> Nothing happens.
I still do not understand the startling lack of effort or desperation in most of the third period and the first overtime. If we lose this series, it's going to be pretty tough to say we didn't deserve to.
All that said, for some reason I'm still feeling very optimistic. (My husband: "You obviously didn't grow up in Buffalo.") I have no doubt that this team is totally capable of taking two games from Ottawa, even in Ottawa. Both of the first two games could've gone either way, even with us playing poorly for large stretches of time. If the Rangers can tie up a series after going down two games, by golly, so can we.
Which leads me to the silver lining portion of my post:
Danny Briere finally looked like Danny Briere last night. Even before the game-tying goal, he was buzzing around and looking for the puck in a way he didn't seem to be doing in the last few games.
Max has clearly taken his benching to heart. He had one dangerous turnover last night which is a great night for him. Vanek also looked really good. Ottawa has no answer for this line so if we can get Derek to stop taking dumb penalties, they can make a huge difference in the series.
Ryan, despite the (justified) criticism of a couple of the goals last night, is still playing very well. For the two soft goals he let in, he made three or four major saves. He's the only reason the game didn't end in the first overtime because Ottawa really controlled the play and he stood up to them. When the rest of the team finally realizes that Ryan alas, can't score goals as well as stop them, they might be okay.
Tallinder played Alfredsson more aggressively after the boarding. He didn't give him quite so much room to work with and he even shoved him around a little bit. Hopefully that carries over into the next game because the only weakness in Hank's game is that he isn't very physical and while we're hitting Ottawa, we're not hitting them when it matters.
Last night showed again that we are a better team 5 on 5. Let's work on staying 5 on 5, shall we?
So bandwagoners, get lost! Pessimists, go cry in your beer in private! For all you believers, let's go Buff-a-lo!
ETA this preview of Chris's lockerroom pep talk Monday. Totally ridiculous but it gave me a much needed laugh.