Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Senators 2 Sabres 3

Senators Goals:
McAmmond (4) from Meszaros (3) and Kelly (2)
Schaefer (1) from Comrie (3) and Corvo (6)

0 for 5 on the PP
3 for 4 on the PK

Emery made 19 saves on 22 shots

Team 1200 3 Stars:
1. Miller
2. Drury
3. Corvo

My 3 Stars:
1. Miller
2. Drury
3. Roy
Honorable Mention to McAmmond

It couldn't have happened any other way. Continuing the parallels from last season's Eastern Conference Semi-Final series between the two teams, Buffalo was all but guaranteed to win game 4 on the road to prevent the sweep. It certainly looked guaranteed when a poor clear by Meszaros just seconds into the game took a bounce off Derek Roy's skate, found its way to Drury's stick and, just nine seconds into the game, into the back of the net. If the victory didn't look signed, sealed and delivered then, it probably did when Afinogenov scored on a 5-on-3 (Buffalo's first power play goal of the series) early in the second. If not then, Emery's deflatingly weak performance on a Drury wrister midway through the second. might have convinced even the most skeptical observer. Despite getting their chances, the Senators were being completely stymied by Miller at the other end of the rink, picking up on his stellar performance from game 3. But as bleak as things looked midway through the game, the Senators found a way to claw back with some contributions from depth scorers (including Schaefer, who notched his first goal of the post-season to bring the Senators within 1 goal by the second intermission). With a McAmmond goal late in the second, the Senators found life and, it could be said, simply ran out of time, they were outplaying the Sabres that much in the final frame. It's no excuse; after all, the Sabres have scored goals with 5 and 7 seconds left in games to erase deficits. But it certainly eases the loss, and there were positives found even in their third loss of the post-season:

Depth scoring. The Big line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson failed to record a goal (or even a point) among them for the first time this post-season. They claimed they were getting their chances and as such they weren't concerned about being shut down in the future. While this is true, the line demonstrated some individualistic and headstrong tendencies which haven't been in their game since March at the latest. They appeared sloppy and hurried when in possession of the puck and even more lost and impatient without it. Fortunately it seems their (relatively) weak performance was just a blip rather than any indicator of regression. But without maligning the big three for one slightly weak game, my purpose is to emphasise that even in a poor showing from the Senators' stars, the role players found a way to step up and make the struggles of the Big line almost unimportant. The second and third line contributed (McAmmond's goal came as a result of a shift with Kelly and Vermette). Vermette pinged a puck off the post on a shorthanded breakaway opportunity in the third period, a shot which had it been an inch to the left would have resulted in a tie game. Without the contributions from Kelly, McAmmond, Comrie, Fisher and Schaefer, the game might have been the Senators first playoff shutout since the lockout. Now, a loss is still a loss, but the depth production that simply wasn't there in the past is an encouraging sign. The big guns usually find a way to get it done, but it is promising that the role players will step up when the stars can't.