Blown chances

The Buffalo Sabres blew an opportunity in Game six to clinch their series with the Philadelphia Flyers in front of their home crowd.  The Sabres lost 5-4 in overtime on Ville Leino’s winner.  The Sabres lost another forward in the mix and head into Game seven back in a hostile Philadelphia atmosphere.  The Sabres flew another two goal lead and the game bounced back and forth leaving fans wondering what if.  Looking forward to Tuesday is going to be great to enjoy a Game seven, but also heart wrenching at the same time.  Here’s some thoughts of the game:

First, to get this out of the way the Mike Richards hit on Tim Connolly is going to have to be looked at hard by the league.  This is his second infraction of the series and has taken Tim Connolly off the ice for at least Game seven.  The league has made a concerted effort to state that they are trying to make hockey a much safer sport.  Hits from behind driving players into the boards are as dangerous as they come and here is a chance to send a message by holding a player out of a do-or-die situation.

I have been critical of Tim Connolly’s performance in this series, but he still remained the Sabres best option as a number 1 center.  Lindy Ruff stated after the game that Derek Roy will return and should ease the loss of Connolly, however it would have been nice for the Sabres to have both healthy to give some more depth at the center position.

Danny Briere is the quintessential goal scorer. His first goal was finding room in front and putting home the loose rebound with no one putting pressure on him.  The second goal was a huge slapper on the power play that tied the game at three.  He’s driving Sabres’ fans nuts, but man is he good at hockey.  He now has 93 points in 92 career playoff games.

The Sabres blew a two goal lead.  Again.

James van Riedsdyk has continued to be a force in this series for the Flyers.  He has drove hard to the net in each game, played well on the forecheck and played a well rounded game in each game.  He’s the player that I notice the most consistent basis for the Flyers.

The Flyers goaltending situation is abysmal, but they are 2-1 in games where they make a goaltender switch and the Sabres haven’t been able to generate sufficient offense after the first period.   Boucher came in and had 24 big saves for the Flyers and held off the Sabres from continuing their first period pace.

Thomas Vanek can be an absolute beast when he’s in front of the net.  His play coupled with the play of Drew Stafford gives the Sabres two power forwards that at times are the only players that can really be a menace to opposing teams in the offensive zone.

The Sabres performed great on faceoffs which is a state I put a lot of value in and glad they won it 44-34, but the Flyers shot advantage took its toll on the Sabres.

At this point it is extremely difficult to not appreciate the type of effort and tenacity that Nathan Gerbe plays with.  His play down the stretch of the regular season as well as this playoffs shows what most fans expected of the Hobey Baker winner.  He is the type of player that fans love to root for.

Tyler Myers plays such a strong game in long stretches of the game.  He had 3 assists, but still finished -1.  I like the edge that he has incorporated into his game and just want to see him truly dominate games for an entire game.

 Three Stars

  1. Ville Leino (1 g, 1a)
  2. Danny Briere (2 g)
  3. Thomas Vanek (2g)

Is there anything better than game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs?  Tuesday night should provide an electric atmosphere and an opportunity for this group of Sabres to really put an exclamation point on this season.  The return of Derek Roy and his effectiveness are going to be the key to the game.  With the loss of Connolly they are going to need to get production from their centermen.  The Flyers are going to continue the same game plan as always and hope their goaltending doesn’t fail them.  The Flyers have played better in almost every game throughout the series, however two of the games the Sabres have had Ryan Miller refuse to let in a goal.  Not that he needs to shut the Flyers out, but I do think he is going to need to play an ‘A’ level game on the road to help his team.  The Sabres are going to need to have Ryan Miller play his best game and hopefully carry this team to the next round.  Nonetheless, Tuesday should be a lot of fun.

Follow me on Twitter: @brianbund

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