It is too difficult to find the right words to describe the roller coaster of emotion in this game last night. To go down two goals in Buffalo, to score three straight after that, to give up a tying goal with 5 seconds left, to win a game on the road in double overtime. For anyone that missed the game, this was a doozie. To see how this team has evolved from year's past, you need only watch a single playoff game this year because the evidence is everywhere. After the Briere goal to tie it up, it was said that the core of the team went to the locker room and calmed everyone down, told them to refocus, and get back to work. You have to lose before you can win because you need to know how terrible it feels to drop an overtime game, to let a series lead slip away at the last moment. That's what has made this leadership that much better.
All I wanted to mention today was a response to listening to Lindy Ruff's post-game comments. In 4 minutes, he said he was upset about Alfie's hit on Tallinder not being called, the Vanek punch-in goal being overturned, and the fact that Ottawa keeps getting 5-on-3s and Buffalo doesn't. I believe he was just short of bringing up Brett Hull's skate, too. I don't know how this series will turn out, Buffalo is a great road team and they have shown all year that they know how to win games. But regardless of the outcome, you just get the feeling that the Sabres have yet to learn how to deal with losing. I think you need your coach to be a voice of reason, to teach the young kids (Buffalo is a pretty young team) how to shake off a loss and get back to work. But if you are a second-year player on the Sabres and all you hear after the game from your coach is how the other team is getting better powerplays and the refs cost you the game, you really don't a single thing from the loss. I believe it is for that reason that Buffalo is not quite ready to be a champion and until they learn how to learn and adjust from a loss instead of making excuses as to why it didn't work out, they'll continue to bring up Hull's skate and complain.
It should be an amazing game on Monday night. As has been the case with each of the 12 previous ones, this is the biggest game of the season for Ottawa. Win this and you can get your boot on their throat on Wednesday. Keys to the game are to stay out of the penalty box, clear out rebounds, and hit them like hell. I know those sound obvious, but 1) I don't want to give them a chance to discover their powerplay, 2) Buffalo is a team that pounces on rebounds, the less of them there are, the less goals we give up, and 3) we've been outhit in the first two games and it would send a strong message if we bring our crowd and our physical play to them as hard as we can, keeping in mind the first key there - be smart and stay out of the box.
Five Thoughts for Friday: Bryan Murray Edition
3 hours ago