I believe that some of us, as Sabre's fans, have been spoiled by the most exciting team in hockey and, quite possibly, all of sports. I actually heard some disgruntled people calling into the local radio sports-talk shows complaining about last night's Sabre's convincing 4-1 victory over the Long Islanders in game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarter finals. Apparently, their gripe was the 'fact' that the game was boring and wasn't as exciting as they had anticipated. And, on one hand, I guess I can understand that as I've seen all but 3 games this season and was fortunate enough to be in the building on that friday night 3 goal comeback against the Leafs. Not to mention the first game of last year's playoffs against the Flyers going into a few overtimes and featuring "The Hit". However, on the whole, I couldn't disagree more. I mean, c'mon here, we're talking about a team who led their conference for all but, MAYBE, the total of a week over the entire season and were in the running for, and subsequently captured, the President's Trophy as the cherry on top of the sundae that is the N.H.L., and are now playing against a team who, for all intents and purposes, backed their way into the playoffs with some help. Granted, they valiantly won the game they needed to to get here, but the question still looms large (especially in Toronto) as to what the outcome of the game would've been had los Diablos started Brodeur. Yes, I realize none of that matters NOW, it's just the clearest comparison, sans stats, I could come up with. The bottom line remains that the Sabres are the #1 seed playing the #8 seed, and why both teams are in those spots was very evident thursday night.
The 'bres dominated the first period, building a 1-0 lead on a Soupy rocket while possibly allowing just one shot on goal. I say 'possibly' because, personally, I never saw said shot. I just think that by the midway point of the opening stanza, the shot-keepers didn't want it to look too ridiculous. Too bad the Islanders didn't feel the same way as that one "pity-shot" was all they could muster through the first twenty minutes. The Islanders did net one in the second off a two-on-one that was handed to them by an exhausted Derk Roy, but other than that, the Isles couldn't get anything going. And for good reason; play the waiting game, like the Isles did thursday night and you see what happens....however, play with an offensive attack and you're gonna get burned in a high falootin' shoot-out. Buffalo's just that good. And if, by chance, you do happen to mount some sort of an offensive attack , you still have to deal with Ryan Miller. Now, here's a kid who, I firmly believe, is going to wind up being a big-game, 'money' goalie. It seems the higher the stakes, the higher Miller's game and the stronger his focus. The kid's a born winner (70+ wins in three collegiate seasons is no joke) and will do whatever it takes to do just that. Can he get inside of his own head at times?? Absolutely. But he's been here before, he kows what to expect and he knows he's got an even better team in front of him this year than he did last year...and that team wasn't half bad, eh? Which brings us to the opposite end of the rink and the circus going on in regards to when, if ever, li'l' Ricky Dipietro is going to return to action this season. For a team who's invested the next decade and a half in him, they seem to be in an awful hurry to get him back. Honestly, I don't think it makes an inkling of a difference if he plays in this series or not. In fact, and someone PLEASE record this for posterity, I will guarantee here and now that with him minding their crease, the New York Islanders will NEVER win a Stanley Cup. I hate to predict the outcome of the next 14 seasons (if you can't face reality for them this season, I feel awfully sorry for you) for you Isle's fans but thus far in his career, when it matters most, he has not come through (Turino, anyone?). I, like the Sabres, welcome his return New York's line-up. That way, when the sereis is over on wednesday, the Long Islanders have no excuses and the 'bres can go on with business as usual.