Friday, May 18, 2007

You Never Know...

The Buffalo News has been printing full page posters of the Sabres throughout the playoffs. I have all of the weekday posters hanging outside of my classroom at school and one of the teachers in the building (I'm but a lowly aide) laminated and hung some of the posters on the columns in the cafeteria. When I sit in my usual seat at my class's table, I'm looking right at Derek Roy. At breakfast Wednesday I turned to Dylan, one of my students, and said, "Dyl, I cannot look at Derek Roy for another meal. He's making me nauseous." Dylan, who really follows the team and understood my frustration with Roy, laughed and then suggested that after everyone left the cafeteria we change all the posters on the column next to our table which sounded like a great idea to me. We switched Derek Roy for Ryan Miller (an excellent trade if I do say so myself) and also moved Campbell, Afinogenov, and Drury to our column. (No Tallinder or Connolly available or I would've insisted on them.) In the process of all that switching, tons of players moved all over the place. So clearly Dylan and I are responsible for the awesome penalty killing, the surprise power play goal, and the victory. We won't take credit for the amazing goaltending since it's been there all along. The dilemma today was this: Was the victory a result of the posters all being in the perfect spot or the result of the moving around itself? Should we leave them as they were or move everyone again? We decided to leave them all where they were so if the penalty kill suddenly sucks on Saturday, I'm ready to take full blame. The great thing about sports fans is that almost everyone I talked to about the game today had some story like the above - the one little thing they did that absolutely changed the course of the Sabres and will therefore not be changed before Saturday. We're ridiculous sometimes, aren't we?

Twenty-four hours ago I was just hoping the Sabres wouldn't be embarrassed while they were being eliminated. Now I'm actually feeling like they might have a chance. If we win on Saturday I think the pressure moves from us to Ottawa. Everyone will want them to wrap up the series in game 6 before the series is tied and back in Buffalo for game 7. How sick am I? I know I'm setting myself up for disappointment but what can I say? Hope springs eternal.

Good things that happened in game 4:

Ryan Miller continued his phenomenal play. I don't know if there's anything I can say about Ryan that I haven't already said. Unlike the rest of the team, he's been bringing his A game for the entire postseason. I definitely feel a Ryan-centric post coming on after the season is over. Regardless of what happens in this series, Buffalo fans have to feel good about having him between the pipes for the next few years.

We scored a powerplay goal! Yes, it was on a 5 on 3, but that hasn't really meant a whole lot to us this season. In fact, we were often twice as bad on 5 on 3s. At this point any positive that happens with a man advantage has to be considered a morale booster.

Derek Roy finally looked more like the Derek Roy I love watching. I've said before that I felt part of the team's struggles this postseason could be attributed to the difference between Roy's performance in the playoffs last season and his performance in the playoffs this season. In game 4, from what I saw which was admittedly not a whole lot since I was at work (grrrr), he was a bundle of energy, skating all over the place but without constantly turning over the puck and taking dumb penalties. I'm sure it was hard to even think about breaking up the RAV line while it was rolling through the regular season, but I really like Roy on Drury's wing. He should be stapled there next season. Welcome back, Derek!

The penalty kill was freakin' awesome. Ottawa is now 0 for their last 12 on the powerplay. Special teams have been the difference in every game in the series - one more powerplay goal for us or one less powerplay goal for Ottawa and every game is potentially different - so the penalty kill playing well is huge.

The Spezza line was kept off the scoresheet for the first time in quite a while. I don't expect that to happen every night - I'm optimistic, not crazy - but again, considering how dominant that line has been throughout the playoffs, shutting them down for a game has to be considered a confidence booster.

We finally scored a ridiculous goal on Ray Emery - the game-winner no less. Hopefully that will kick us into gear, reminding the team that, "Hey, this guy isn't really that good. Why aren't we shooting on him more?" I know some Ottawa fans are having a coniption fit right now, but come on. Are you honestly going to tell me that Emery has had even one great game this series? He's getting the wins and in the end I suppose that's what matters most, but he's largely a product of the teriffic defense in front of him. Right now he's also getting a lot of help from a Buffalo team that would rather make a pass than take an imperfect shot. I can't count how many times a defender has bailed Emery out while he was lying on his back or out of position while the puck was still kicking around. Before this series I kept hearing Ottawa supporters argue that Miller isn't that much better than Emery. No matter what happens in game 5, I think we've established that yes, Miller is that much better than Emery. That much better and more.

Best thing about Saturday's game? I'm going to be watching it live from HSBC Arena! No more of this "straining to hear the radio while ringing up groceries for freaks who shop during playoff hockey" garbage for me!

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