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Eleven to Go!!! Ottawa 2, Buffalo 1
posted May 11, 2006 at 11:13PM

Buffalo is sweating. Yes I know they are up three games to one but they are sweating. You could see it by Lindy Ruff's demeanor. You could see it in the way Sabres player's heads were hanging when they got off the ice. And you could tell by the fans who lost it when the final buzzer went off. The Senators are not the Flyers and they know that.

They are sweating.

There is a mindset that says the regular season means nothing. I disagree. I think the seeds for victory or defeat are often set by what one the regular season. We are in the jam we are by some of the decisions Murray made during the season. But the Sabres are [not] thinking about that right now. Try as they might they can't help but remember the pastings they suffered at Ottawa's hands at the beginning of the year. They desperately wanted to close out the series before that Senator's team reappeared.

At best they know that Ottawa winning the next game at home is well within the realm of reality, and that the next game in Buffalo after that will mean they are facing a resurgent Senator's team trying to force a game seven. If Ottawa picks that game to start blowing them out, they are finished.

Did I mention that my biggest concern was with Emery? Well Razer came through with the biggest performance of his career. Big saves by the bushel. On TSN they mentioned that Emery did not participate at the morning skate but was in the arena for "treatment". Well give the therapist a bonus I say.

The biggest line-up change was making Varada a healthy scratch and you will find no tears from this corner. Quite frankly the team was better off when he was injured. Trying to work him into the line-up has caused nothing but grief to the team all year long.

Schubert took his place and again did nothing to dispel my belief that he should give up being a defenceman, and switch to playing forward full time. He has size, speed, physicality. He can handle the puck, pass and his shots actually come within the same postal code as the net he is aiming at.

The other line-up tweak was switching up Vermette and Eaves.

Now big picture? Looking at the four lines on the ice, it is discomforting to realize that the line with Havlat, who was gone for most of the season, is the one that has actually had the most time together.

Not the best set of circumstances. But within the current world order, the move was a good one. Heatley Spezza were a much more imposing force with Eaves, and Vermette with Smolinksi/Alfredson looked very good together. Vermette had his best game of the series, being an absolute terror on the fore-check. If they can work a few kinks out, these three definitely have the potential to score goals. Vermette and Alfredson both, are due for a break-out game.

Again everyone played well. Chara certainly had his best game of the series as well. He was a force deep in the Buffalo zone and stepped up physically. Chara bowling over two Sabres at the same time had a huge symbolic value. There is little I would like to see more than Chara starting to turn Sabres forwards into ink blots.

Pothier has come off his purgatory of being a healthy scratch with renewed purpose, being arguably our steadiest defenceman. His shot from the point was a constant threat. Volchenkov showed that there was no lingering mental "baggage" by having a steady game, including a tremendous play breaking up a two on one after a pinch gone bad.

The other thing I liked is that we are starting to get more aggressive on the PK. True it has been good in terms of not letting in goals, but it was like they had given up going for the short hander. Tonight for the first time in a while you could see Vermette was looking for opportunities to pounce.

Now it was a tight game. A few bounces the other way, and the tone of this post would be very different. The lack of cohesiveness within our lines really reared its head in the second period, most of which was spent scrambling around. Again Emery held the fort.

Both our goals came from our defenceman, and our forwards are going to have to start chipping in, particularly in the five on five department.

Again Ottawa is the kind of team that can come back from such a deficit. There is no margin for error, and we will need some slack from the puck gods. But some of the pressure has been shifted onto Buffalo. If we win the next game, then the screws will really be tightened.

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