As I mentioned in my first post the next couple of weeks are going to be sheer madness with finals and graduation so while I’d love to put up a new post everyday it just is not in the cards. After having spent the weekend at home in Buffalo I am now back in the Bean to finish up what’s left of my college career…sad I know 😦
Anyways enough blubbering…on to some hockey analysis!
I was very excited after game 1’s win if you read my previous post, but I also knew it was going to take much smarter hockey to continue winning in this series. I was not expecting a 4-2 loss in the third game of a playoff series, especially after the Sabres stole one of the first two games in Philadelphia, bringing home the split. I also didn’t expect Miller to go from “Superman” to Super-human…While the past 2 losses cannot be placed on Miller’s shoulders, just as the game 1 victory couldn’t be solely contributed to his play, whether it’s fair or not the goalie’s play tends to receive most of the attention.
Moving the series back to Buffalo I figured maybe this is the spark the Sabres needed to get their act together after letting a very winnable game slip away with sloppy play (defense, offense AND goaltending) in game 2. The atmosphere in and outside of HSBC Arena was ROCKING! Fans inside were excited for the first playoff game of the Terry Pegula-era and those who didn’t have a “golden ticket” (yes this is a Willy Wonka reference) battled through cold, wind and snow (you heard me, snow in April…insert Buffalo weather joke HERE) to show their support at the Party in the Plaza.
Unfortunately, the Sabres spoiled all the fun and excitement by dropping game 3 4-2 on what seemed like a night that was never really theres.The Sabres blew a glorious opportunity to seize control of the series. They could’ve gone up 2-1 with a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead at home on Wednesday, but instead will be fighting to return to Philly with the series tied at 2 games a piece. As frustrating as that is, fans need to realize that this series is far from over. While a loss Wednesday (I know, I know don’t even mention that possibility) could be a nail in a premature coffin, that hasn’t happened yet and being down 1-2 with game 4 in your building means one thing and one thing only…there is plenty of hockey left to play.
If you exclude empty-net goals (which I shall for the purpose of this point), each game in this series has been decided by one goal. That proves that the Sabres can stick with the boys in the Black and Orange sweaters. Even though it now feels like a different season, the Game One victory shows that they’re capable of not only sticking with the Flyers, but beating them. Buffalo gave Game Two away by committing 13 penalties and costly turnovers, which led to easy goals. If you follow me on twitter I basically narrated the entire game with my thoughts plugged in throughout (essentially if you compile the tweets you’d have yourself and in-game blog post…hmm what an idea). My tweets grew angrier and angrier as the Sabres did a wonderful job of killing off penalties UNTIL they exhausted themselves and their beloved goalie past the point of reasonable expectation. In other words the Sabres have handed the Flyers games and still managed to keep them close.
So why aren’t the Blue and Gold up 3-0 and further more why are they behind in this series?
Well aside from the poor play on their own end and giving up too many chances, we tend to forget that the Flyers were one of the best teams in the league for the majority of the year and that the Sabres needed a lengthy and tremendous run to sneak into the playoffs. That and the sheer size of this Phili team (yes even without Pronger) makes them very hard to handle. Even though Buffalo has done their best to be physical and set the tone, when you’re built on speed and inexperience the physical matchups are going to be tough. It’s been great however, to see Grier, Gaustad, McCormick and Kaleta all step up and give this team a physical presence that has been lacking in past playoff years, now if only a few other players could take notice and help out (STAFFORD *cough cough*). I know he had a goal in game 3, but come on the guy needs to use his size…when Gerbe makes you look finesse you know you’ve got a problem.
Fans who are ready to give up on Buffalo after the two straight losses need to take a step back and realize that the Flyers have a very good team and that losses will happen.The Flyers went to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring and they are loaded with playoff experience along with one of the deepest rosters in the NHL.The Sabres rely on plenty of young players who don’t have very much playoff experience (Niedermeyer is the only Sabre with a Stanley Cup ring). Even though I too get upset when this team loses, my prediction was Buffalo in 7, not 4 or 5. I have to remind myself that in order to get to a game 7 the Sabres have to lose 3 times and they are currently only at 2, which means (yes I can do math!) still one more loss to go. Game Four is a must-win for Buffalo. A win creates a best-of-three series while a loss puts them in a DEEP 3-1 hole. That being said the youngsters will have to step up to avoid that scenario and Miller will have to be closer to his game 1 heroics.
My prediction for what it’s worth is that Buffalo will indeed bounce back behind the energy of the arena and a real sense of urgency after crashing back to earth (especially for Mr. Miller). I think the Flyers will then take game 5 back in Philadelphia, but that’ll be it. Miller will hoist this team on his broad shoulders for a game 6 win back at HSBC arena and then an all out brawl in game 7 back in the Wells Fargo Center will result in the Sabres moving on. I think game 7 will be a true battle and while it’ll be in Phili and it’ll be a team with experience vs a team with youth, Buffalo’s momentum and road winning prowess from this season will carry this Sabres team on to the second round. I know this is getting ahead of myself and we need to worry about taking game 4 before any of this, BUT I just wanted to test out my fortune-telling skills in case this whole career in Marketing doesn’t work out 🙂
One point I’ll leave you with that I mentioned in my series preview: In the history of the Sabres/Flyers playoff meetings, the winning team of Game One has never lost the series. Let’s hope history repeats itself.
LET’S GO BUFFALO!!!
Game 4: Wednesday, April 20 at Buffalo, 7:35 p.m. MSG, VERSUS, TSN