Shows how much I know.
Last week’s preview of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators was rife with wisecracks about John Muckler, Ray Emery, Daniel Alfredsson and even the Roman Senate.
All wrong, as it turns out, with the possible exception of the bit about the machismo exhibited by ancient Rome’s legislative body.
I was not, however, the only one in these parts who badly underestimated Ottawa, judging from Buffalo’s performance during the first two games.
Instead of being well on their way to the five-game triumph confidently predicted here and the shot at the Stanley Cup that goes with, the Sabres go into tonight’s Game 3 in Ottawa simply trying to stay alive.
Co-captain Daniel Briere — whose goal with less than six seconds remaining tied Saturday’s game, only to have Ottawa win in double overtime to claim a 2-0 series lead – is still saying the right things.
”Last year we won three games here in Ottawa,” said Briere, whose team has won three of its five games on the road in these playoffs. ”We had the best season this year on the road, so we know we can play well on the road.”
They’d better. The Sabres are in a hole, but not an inescapable one. As catastrophic as opening the series with two losses at home might seem, it can be overcome by winning twice in Ottawa.
All they need to do is put more pressure on Emery, pass to each other instead of the Senators, sharpen up the power play and memorize the definition of “penalty killing.”
Damien Cox wrote a solid breakdown of Buffalo’s breakdowns after Thursday’s opener, which the Sabres did little to refute on Saturday.
… the Sabres just can’t seem to find their A game.
You know the one. The crowd-pleasing, rollicking circus show that roughly approximates the rat-tat-tat-tat effect once produced in these parts by Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and the rest of the bickering Bills when NFL defensive coordinators lost hours of sleep trying to figure out how to stop them.
Of course, given the way that particular sporting venture turned out — four times to the edge of immortality, four steps back — it’s not necessarily a comparison these Sabres would invite.
Still, here we are at the conference finals stage of the NHL postseason, and we’re still waiting for the Sabres to start playing with the edge, panache and style that captured the NHL’s regular-season crown over an 82-game grind.
And for those who were fired up by Emery’s pre-series comments, the Ottawa goalie – who hasn’t looked anything like the jittery novice Buffalo beat like a piñata during last year’s second round – clarified his lamentations about the local nightlife, or lack thereof.
“I never said it was really bad,” Emery said Friday, a day after Ottawa beat the Sabres in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. “I just said there were more things to do on a day off in Manhattan.”
Unless Buffalo figures out how to solve Emery and the rest of the Senators, and quick, the Sabres are going to have plenty of off days to ponder what went wrong.