Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sabres stay alive

2007 Eastern Conference Final - Game 4
Sabres 3, Senators 2
Ottawa leads series 3-1

"We've been on a good little run, so you have to expect there'll be a bump in the road. When they got that early one it kind of shocked everyone, but we still like the position we're in."
"You have to carry that momentum into the next game. It's up to us to do it. We put ourselves in a situation where I don't think [the Senators] are going to want to go back and get in a Game 6 situation. But getting one [win] gives us the chance."

The most interesting thing about Wednesday night's game (and I'll confess I didn't see a ton of it) was just how dramatically Ruff shortened his bench, finally pinning his under-performing players to the bench and going with his studs now that his team is up against elimination.

And it worked.

Ruff severely limited the ice time of several forwards, with Ales Kotalik playing 10:39, Max Afinogenov 9:43, Thomas Vanek 8:21 and Dainius Zubrus 4:06, and the team's third defensive pairing entered the witness protection program, with Jaroslav Spacek getting 8:22 and Dmitri Kalinin just 4:23.

The Sabres coaching staff had been extremely liberal with ice time all season, and especially in the first three games of this series, and Vanek and Zubrus both averaged more than 20 minutes per game in those three losses. Afinogenov played 19:09, Spacek 17:09 and Kalinin 16:27.

In fact, only two Sabres averaged less than 11 minutes per game through Games 1 and 3 (Paul Gaustad and Adam Mair); seven fell below that mark on Wednesday night.

Ruff took a ton of criticism in the interim between Games 3 and 4 for sticking with the line-up that got him and his club to the conference finals, but one of the great things about having as much team depth as the Sabres do is that you can go with your hot hands. Ruff rode the likes of Brian Campbell (29:32), Henrik Tallinder (27:05) and Chris Drury (21:21) hard in Game 4, and especially in the late going, and he will likely do so again on Saturday afternoon.

And if the big guns continue to show up, just maybe we'll have the beginnings of a series.

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5 Comments:

At 8:41 AM, May 17, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

And if the big guns continue to show up, just maybe we'll have the beginnings of a series.

The Senators obviously still have control of this series but if the Sabres win on Saturday things will get interesting. With a win on Saturday the Sabres may put some doubt into the minds of the Senators players and at the very least will take that sense of inevitibility away from them and their fans. It will also, for the first time these playoffs, put some real pressure on the Senators to win because they know it will not be good having to go to Buffalo to play game seven having lost three in a row. Then the question will become, how will Ottawa handle that pressure? Will they stay on their tight defensive team-oriented game or might some of them try to do too much individually?

Lets hope for a Sabres win Saturday because we could use some interesting storylines, twists and turns these playoffs which has generally lacked any interesting storylines.

 
At 9:12 AM, May 17, 2007, Anonymous Tom L said...

David,

That scenario would be great if it unfolded, but even the most unrealistic Sabres fan realizes that there's little chance of thembeating Ottawa 3 times in a row to force a Game 7. But, yes, it would finally give us something wroth sinking our keyboards into.

Ta,

 
At 9:12 AM, May 17, 2007, Blogger Kevin said...

To be fair, Zubrus only sat because he is hurt.

He's been one of Buffalo's best players in the playoffs and would have been out there if he could have gone.

 
At 10:04 AM, May 17, 2007, Blogger Road Apples said...

while I'm happy to have Lindy adjust on the fly and screw the "rolling 4 lines" gameplan...going with four defensemen is going to bite back, and hard. Benching Dmitri Kalinin I can understand - that guy is an enigma if ever there was one; his lack of on-ice confidence is there to see by any neophyte viewer. But Jaroslav Spacek I don't fully understand, especially in light of the ice-time given to Brian Campbell - nearly 30 minutes worth.

Is Campbell that much more defensively sound than Spacek? No way. Yet Spacek gets roughly 8 minutes (and just 22 seconds of special teams play). That difference I don't understand.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Nathan Paetsch on Saturday.

As a Buffalo fan, and it pains me to witness this, Thomas Vanek has sadly retreated to his 2006-postseason-persona and deserves a stint in the Ted Darling Memorial press box on Saturday.

 
At 3:57 PM, May 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously Ottawa's in charge here, but here's why I think the odds about how often teams down 3-0 or now 3-1 come back don't apply.

Usually, a team down 3-0 has little business being in a series. They're just outmatched. That's plainly not the case with Buffalo. Their problem is simple: They're freezing up.

No they have little to lose and tons of talent. Ottawa's still in control, and they're plainly a different team than in the past, but Buffalo's not out.

 

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