Well, the first round didnt go quite as expected for the Buffalo Sabres. Yes, the end result was the same as most prognosticators figured it would be, but the road the Sabres took to getting to Game 5 was not what was expected.
What we have learned:
Buffalo has learned that teams will not be afraid to take the body and play a physical style. The Islanders consistently hit while keeping 3 men back to thwart Sabres chances at having a smooth transition game.
But on the same hand, Buffalo showed a strong willingness to play defensive hockey. While many were expecting offensive blowouts, Buffalo scored around the same amount of goals in a 5 game span while playing much sounder defensively.
The Penalty Killing has also seemed to turn the corner at the right time. They kept the Isles at bay for most of the series, while also scoring big goals themselves on the powerplay.
What needs fixing:
if the Sabres had one big problem in this series, it was letting the Islanders hang around too much. Giving up goals early and late in the periods in Game 3 and 4 and there lackluster 3rd period in Game 5, where they really relied on the heroics of Ryan Miller. Lindy Ruff will work them hard by Thursday to correct these problems. Turnovers also need to be fixed, specifically with the line of Derek Roy, Maxim Afinogenov and Thomas Vanek.
What lies ahead:
The Sabres could know their second round opponent tonight if the Devils can eliminate the Lightning this afternoon. A Devils win means the Sabres will stay in the New York area, this time facing off against the New York Rangers.
The Rangers were very good in a 4 game sweep of a very poor Atlanta Thrashers team. Expect the Sabres to start rushing more and going after the Rangers defense. Henrik Lundqvist is the superior goaltender in this series, and Buffalo will have to go at him early and often.
if its the Lightning, we have noticed in round 1 that you MUST shut down Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. If Buffalo can keep that line at bay and go after a shaky Johan Holmqvist, it could be a quick series.
here to a good day of hockey, and a few more of waiting.