Thursday, May 25, 2006

Eastern Conference Final
Sabres 4, Hurricanes 3

Buffalo leads series 2-1

“I don't think Lindy needed to tell us anything about the way we played in the second game. We weren't moving our legs.

“It's something we knew coming into [last night's] game.

“As a team, we just have that confidence we can bounce back from bad games. We just believe in ourselves.”

Doug Janik wasn't the answer for the Sabres defence in Game 2. Coach Lindy Ruff's Game 3 solution? North Smithfield, Rhode Island native Jeff Jillson. Ahh, North Smithfield, how I know nothing about you.

I didn't see enough of the game to weigh in, but The Globe and Mail's David Shoalts was in Buffalo and he liked the move:
Jillson played well enough for Ruff to spread the ice time more evenly among the other five defencemen. His ability to take shifts on the power play was a benefit as well.

Jillson also stepped up with a tremendous hit in the second period, just after Brière scored his second goal to put the Sabres ahead 3-1. That check followed one by forward Paul Gaustad. It gave the Sabres a lift and increased the decibel level in the building considerably.

“He was stepping into a tough situation coming home here and he really responded,” Ruff said of Jillson.
Jillson, 25, has 140 games NHL experience, mainly with San Jose and Boston, and was first-round pick in 1999. He only played 10:31 last night, but given the Sabres defence may have run into more injury troubles with workhorse Henrik Tallinder going down with some sort of arm injury, Jillson may yet have a bigger role in this series.

Although that may not be a good thing.

One last thought on the Sabres: After seeing him score yet another two goals tonight, Briere's officially arrived among the NHL's elite. All that heavy lifting with Hugo Girard has really paid off.

As for Carolina, well, this seems strange to be saying, but I think Peter Laviolette is being outcoached in this series. The fact that Ruff has so much more confidence in his bench is really coming through, as four Hurricanes barely saw the ice last night. Sabres rookie Jiri Novotny, who played just 14 regular season games, saw far more action than experienced Carolina vets like Craig and Kevyn Adams. Doesn't make a ton of sense to me.

Laviolette pulled rookie netminder Cam Ward, and Martin Gerber came in for the second half of the game, but given how big a part Ward has been of the 'Canes success thus far, I'd be rather shocked to see Baby Food in goal in Game 4. Then again, CasonBlog says Gerber should get a chance to redeem himself following his Round 1 implosion.

Final thoughts go to Ron Francis:
The Canes needed only to win one game in Buffalo and still have that opportunity on Friday night, where as Buffalo needed to win both games in order to maintain home ice advantage in the series. The Canes need to stay out of the penalty box and avoid a lull like they had in period 2 tonight and they will be fine. I think we are still okay.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement. I'd say going down 3-1 to this Sabres club is a death knell — meaning Carolina has to win Game 4 tomorrow.

Which means it's time for Erik Cole.


At 1:17 p.m., May 25, 2006, Blogger Tom L said...


Of course Laviolette is being outcoached in this series... Ruff is the master of adjustments. It comes as absolutely no surprise to me. I've been saying it for a long time privately and a short time publicly that Lindy Ruff is the best asset the Buffalo Sabres have. Bar none.

As for the defense situation, if Numminen can't go on Friday we're just going to have to outscore Carolina by a lot to win because we'll be left with 3 NHL quality defensemen for the game.

My hope is that Paetcsh and Jillson can handle 8-10 minutes and that Tim Connolly returns to solidify our offense. I think with that defense we'll need to score 6 to win and we won't score 6 without Timmy.

To say that I'm pessimistic right now is an understatment. Tallinder and Roloson are my front-runners for the Conn Smythe at this point, and you just don't replace that kind of player.


At 7:08 p.m., May 25, 2006, Blogger jamestobrien said...

I LOVE Erik Cole. More than any heterosexual man ever should.

That being said, rushing Cole back smells like the Phoenix Suns rushing Amare Stoudamire probably isn't worth it for such a severe injury.

If they plan on bringing Cole back, they should play it safe and have a "If We Make it to the Cup Finals" policy.

They'll need him, as ridiculous as Oilers are.


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