Thursday, April 15, 2010

Little Things Matter


You watch the promos for the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You hear about the great Alexander Ovechkin, the great Sidney Crosby, which based on their incredible skill sets, is well deserved. You see the highlights that show dazzling goals, scintillating saves and think to yourself 'these are THE keys to winning in the NHL Playoffs' It's that simple!

Not so fast...

But then over time you realize something else that is not shown on Versus (millions are STILL trying to figure out what network that is), ESPN, NHL Network, and so forth, and these things were evident in the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 victory over the rival Boston Bruins to take a 1-0 lead in the first round series in the Eastern Conference.

Sure, Craig Rivet will get the glory for his shot that beat the Bruins rookie sensation goaltender Tuukka Rask to give the Sabres the 2-1 lead for good. But watching the play closely, the unsung heroes that are so needed in the NHL Playoffs clearly were the biggest key to the goal. First, it was Tim Kennedy's effort to keep the puck in the zone and feed the puck to Rivet who was streaking down the right wing area. And lastly, the screen by the pesky forward Patrick Kaleta was a thing if beauty, impeding Rask's vision and allowing the shot by Rivet to go into the net.

The bottom line? Watching the matchups now in the Stanley Cup playoffs, almost every team has their share of strengths and weaknesses, skill players and grinders, and good coaching. Plays like Kennedy and Kaleta make aren't made for highlight reels, but for the ones who really take notice, can be the real key to advancing or hitting the links a little earlier then expected.

What can be said about Ryan Miller that hasn't yet? 38 saves tonight, including 23 in the 2nd period, when it appeared the Bruins were taking the game away from the Sabres, Miller stood tall and kept the score tied towards the end of the 2nd before Rivet's eventual GWG. Given the premium that will be placed on scoring goals in this series, Miller will need to be razor sharp for the Sabres to advance.

Game 2 is set for Saturday at 1pm EST (10am PT for West Coast folks like me). Pass the bacon and eggs for breakfast, and the remote for Sabres playoff hockey!

NOTES:

For those Sabres fans who are so quick to dismiss Thomas Vanek, watch the game tonight again and reflect on how high his skill set really is. Regardless of what you say about Vanek (I refuse to question a player's heart) when he APPEARS to be motivated, few players have the hands and nose for scoring like he does, as evidenced by his 1st goal setup beautifully by Derek Roy to give the Sabres a 1 goal lead in the 1st. Vanek also had a dazzling move to undress Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk in the 3rd. If Vanek keeps playing like this, the Sabres will be even more dangerous.

What was former Sabre Miroslav Satan thinking when he took that inexplicable puck over the glass penalty at the 15:40 mark in the 3rd? Miro needs to be smarter then that...

It seems Mark Recchi has been playing for over 30 years, but the guy can still bring it. He had my nerves going several times tonight, and he is still a threat to make an impact in this series, as evidenced by his PPG to tie the game 1-1.

Tyler Myers: Not a major impact tonight, but the thing that continuously impresses me is his poise in crucial situations. Having said this, the defensemen and the rest of the Sabres need to work on getting the puck out of their zone more effectively. Miller cannot be depended on to make 23 saves in a period too often.

Hits: The Sabres were really hitting well tonight, finishing checks and as a result, dictating the flow of the game to the Bruins. This trend will need to continue for the Sabres to advance.

Any other Sabres fan cringe when they flashed up the stat that the Sabres were 30-0-0 when having a lead after 2 periods? I just hope jinxes are a farce...

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