This is it Sabres' fans. We have been waiting for this since we watched the Hurricanes raising the Cup last year. I think the team has been waiting for this since THEY watched the Hurricane's raise THEIR Cup last year.
In my second blog, I wanted to just take a brief look at the series.
I think every publication has already made the world aware that Buffalo have a distinct advantage in personnel. What then must the Sabres be cognizant of in order to avoid being upset?
1. Yashin/Satan - Both of these guys can be taken out of games/series. I remember Michael Peca doing a number on Yashin back in 1999. Both of them can also be difference makers if they somehow become inspired. Can Ted Nolan bring out the best in them?
2. Smothering Defense - If the Isles can get a lead in any of the games and really muck things up and slow the game to a crawl they can stay in it. If they fall behind and have to open things up it could get ugly.
3. Physical Play - The Sabres are smallish up front (especially at center). If the Isles can make it a physical series it will be interesting to see how the Sabres respond. Of course, a lot of this depends on #2. If the Sabres get early leads that will limit what the Isles can do in this regard as well.
4. Special Teams - The Sabres lead the league in goals scored with 308 - and that was with a horrible powerplay. The Sabres PP clicked at 17.4% (71 goals/407 chances). They scored 101 powerplay goals in 2005-2006. That being said, the Sabres powerplay was only 16.2% efficient in the playoffs last year. More importantly for the playoffs, the Sabres killed off only 81.3% of their penalties this year as opposed to 86.6% (2nd in the league) last year. If NY can score on the powerplay it will force Buffalo to be less aggressive.
What do I think? I think the Sabres might struggle a bit in all these areas, but they are such a better team at 5-on-5 that it might not matter. I think the Sabres win in 5 or 6 games, but I bet all of the games are close.
I think Chris "Bulldog" Parker summed it up best last night on WGR550 - I'm paraphrasing - "The playoffs make me feel like I'm a kid spinning aournd and around until my stomach is so sick I can barely stand it."
Me too, Chris. Me too.