by Matt Barr
Sabres-Hurricanes: a lopsided 2-2 series
I'm writing about the series at the BTD Forum. Why aren't I doing it here? I am!
Yesterday before the game I wrote, under the subject "Your baby doesn't love you anymore":
Fans of St. Roy will recognize the subject header instantly as the opening line to his seminal It's Over. It's over, I say, because the Sabres' best defenseperson, Henrik Tallinder, broke his arm Wednesday and is out for the rest of the playoffs.
Among the Sabres' strengths is that they're so deep and, let's face it, fungible that they can sustain injuries and keep on chooglin'. They lost one of their best and most creative forwards, Tim Connolly, early in the Ottawa series and won easily. They could probably even survive an injury to goalie Ryan Miller, because Marty Biron ain't hay.
But Tallinder was probably the team's MVP in the playoffs (pick among him, Danny Briere and Miller) and, more importantly, is their third top-six defenseman to be injured. Teppo Numminen pulled a groin (happily, his own) and if he plays tonight will be a pylon, and Dmitri Kalinin is out with a broken ankle. When you have the depth to withstand injuries, you still run into problems when everybody's hurt.
Toni Lydman, Jay McKee and Brian Campbell ought to play about 30 minutes each tonight, mixing and matching (though I see the wisdom in pairing McKee, say, up with one of the two AHL defenseman we'll have to ice) but I expect the Hurricanes to score at least four goals when two of the three aren't on the ice, and of course the Canes are fast and talented enough to score now and then with our best guys back there, particularly if they're dog tired.
The Sabres can win another game 6-5 or 7-6, but not two. It's over. Good luck against Edmonton.
This morning, a post-mortem on last night's 4-0 loss:
Well, Ruff played Campbell the most at a little over 20 minutes, and threw Jillson out there an awful lot, and McKee was paired with Lydman, so I had all that wrong. What really happened was Gerber: With merely an average performance in goal that game would have been 4-2 or 4-3, at which point one confidence-infused, snappier-playing scramble with a sixth attacker could put the game into into overtime.
Which is not to say that's the fate the Sabres deserved, they were mostly flat and tentative, the Canes clearly the better team. That would be water under the bridge if the game had been played in Raleigh and the teams were playing in Buffalo Sunday, but that convincing a win in Buffalo was a potential backbreaker.
The Sabres haven't stepped it up when they've been cornered this season, but they've done the next best thing: they haven't played any differently the tighter their collars. I find it hard to believe they can keep that up Sunday though, on the road, after a shutout, with three defensemen and a goalie fighting the puck two games in a row.
Original content: By all means, play Pominville at defense, and dress this Nathan Paetsch person. Janik isn't working, while Jillson's doing ok; but you throw a couple new guys back there and you remove the incentive for your forwards to think there's nothing you can do but press and try not to make mistakes -- a mindset that would just kill a team with the Sabres' creative, aggressive approach. Plus, even more than getting worked over by the Canes' talented forwards, the AHLers are dragging down the transition game. Paetsch is supposed to be a good puckhandler, and Pominville certainly is; at this point you are going to have to win two games 6-5 or 7-6, so you need to give yourself the best chance to do that.
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