Friday, May 11, 2007

Senators 5 Sabres 2

Senators Goals
Fisher (2), unassisted
Alfredsson (7) from Corvo (5) and Spezza (8)
Saprykin (1) from McAmmond (3)
Spezza (6) from Redden (5) and Alfredsson (6)
McAmmond (3) from Heatley (10)

2 for 6 on the PP
5 for 5 on the PK

Emery made 18 saves on 20 shots

CBC 3 Stars:
1. Alfredsson
2. Fisher
3. Emery

Team 1200 3 Stars:
1. Alfredsson
2. Emery
3. Miller
Hardest working: Fisher

Buffalo media 3 Stars:
1. Spezza
2. Volchenkov
3. Fisher 3 Stars:
1. Spezza
2. Saprykin
3. Fisher

My 3 Stars:
1. Alfredsson
2. Fisher
3. Saprykin

While Senators fans would be the first to tell you stats from years past should mean less than nothing, with Thursday's 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, the Ottawa Senators find past stats firmly in their favour. When winning the first game, the Sens have a 5-3 record in winning the series. Conversely, Buffalo has a dismal 1-13 record. The game 2 stats are a bit more muddied for both sides. Ottawa is a laughable 0-7 in game twos after winning the first game of the series; Buffalo is 1-13 in game twos after losing the first. But regardless of past statistics, the Senators put themselves in a good position by winning the first game. With the victory, they find themselves up 1-0 in the series, having stolen a game in Buffalo to coincide with stealing home ice advantage from the President's Trophy winners. At the very worst, the Senators will head back to Ottawa with a split; at the best, they could find themselves with a 2-0 strangehold against their greatest rivals by Saturday night. No matter how it is looked at, the Senators placed themselves in a good position with their strong play Thursday night.

The Sabres came out all guns ablazing in front of their racuous home crowd, even drawing a few early penalties thanks to some, uh, crafty work by Derek Roy. But the Senators got the best of them, generating a McAmmond breakaway off a turnover (and a seeing-eye pass from Alfredsson), before another turnover-created breakaway by Fisher resulted in a goal and a 1-0 lead for the visiting team. The Sabres were thoroughly sloppy with their passing last night, often making tape-to-tape passes directly to the opposing team. By the end of the night they accumulated 18 turnovers, resulting in no less than 3 Sens breakaways. Both of these teams thrive on their transition game and speed in generating an attack out of minor mistakes by the opposition; it isn't surprising that the team that made the most errors was at the losing end of the game.

The Sabres then found themselves in penalty trouble, and the Senators continued their special team dominance when Alfredsson one-timered a Corvo feed past Ryan Miller on a brief 4-on-3. The Sabres got a couple back thanks to a frighteningly strong night by the Roy line, and a poor second period from the Senators. By the third period the Senators regained control, when Oleg Saprykin tipped a McAmmond pass in front of the net past Miller. From there things opened up; Jason Spezza wired a shot through the legs of both Chris Drury and netminder Miller in a front-of-the-net scramble; McAmmond added an empty netter in the final minute to seal the deal.

To focus on the good:

Special Teams. Though the 5-on-5 play could be deemed equal, perhaps even with an edge to Buffalo when the dominance of the Vanek-Roy-Afinogenov line is considered, the Senators thoroughly dominated the special teams play. They went 2-for-6 on the power play, 6-for-6 on the penalty kill, scored a short-handed goal, and in every instance looked the better team regardless of who had the man advantage. A sign of a strong team, to be sure. The Senators have controlled the special teams battle all season long against the Sabres, and that the special teams superiority has carried over to a time where PP/PK strength is all but necessary to guarantee victory, it's hardly a bad thing from a Senators perspective.

Speed and transition game. Buffalo made a lot of errors last night, and the Senators capitalised on them. Ottawa found themselves with breakaways by McAmmond, Fisher (2), Alfredsson and Vermette. It's no surprise that the speedier players on the team were those that found themselves in alone. Though Fisher was the only one to capitalise on the breakaway, several of these plays drew penalties, including the latter Fisher one which drew a Roy penalty, a power play on which Jason Spezza capitalised. The Senators played Buffalo's game and beat them at it.

Redden and Meszaros. I have to keep focusing on these two, because people are still criticising them for a way they haven't played in weeks. I have to keep emphasising it - these two have been good, really good, since game 5 of the Pittsburgh series. They were a combined +3 last night, and it wasn't until Murray switched them with the Corvo/Preissing pairing that the Senators were able to even contain the Roy line - Redden and Meszaros deserve all the credit in the world for this, because that line could have singlehandedly buried the Senators with the way they were being allowed to walk around early in the game. Redden and Meszaros shut down the Sabres strongest line last night.

Anton Volchenkov. He's had one bad game all playoffs (game 1 of the NJ series), but other than that he has been lights-out. A bone-crushing hit on Adam Mair, 3 blocked shots... all in a day's work for Volchenkov. A true blood-and-guts competitor who will sacrifice anything for his team. Gotta love it.

Daniel Alfredsson. Alfie! Alfie! Alfie! What else needs to be said? For the 11th game in a row, he was the best forward on the ice. There is not a player in the league I would want on my team over Alfie right now. Not Crosby. Not Yzerman. Alfredsson is doing everything. And doing it dominantly. He wants it bad this year - and if he keeps playing like this, he'll get it.

Mike Fisher. He's been strong physically and on the forecheck this entire playoffs, but he's starting to ramp up the speed and is finally finding some touch near the net. It was only his second goal of the playoffs, but Fisher could have had 3 more tonight. Another great game from yet another heart-and-soul character on the Senators.

Dean McAmmond. His speed was a utile asset last night, generating a couple of breakaways and an empty-net goal to cement the Senators victory. Oh, and he assisted on the game winning goal. The fourth line had some difficulty in their own zone last night (being paired with the Corvo/Preissing unit, who had an off-night defensively didn't help much), but they more than made up for it with their offensive zone contributions and aggressive and energetic forecheck.

Oleg Saprykin. Game winning goal. Nothing more needs to be said.

The bad stuff:

Corvo and Preissing defensively. Murray did well to get them away from the Sabres' third line, but they need to get it together because any Sabres line could pick them apart with the way they were playing last night.