Tuesday, 15 May 2007

That Sickening Feeling

I don't want to be the bearer of bad news for the city of Buffalo, but the Barney Rubble Hairpieces are done. Kaput. Out of there. When Ryan Miller plays one of his best games in the playoffs, and your team can only muster 15 shots against Ray Emery, your team is done. They are down three games to none in the series, and they are not the 1975 Islanders whatsoever. In fact, they aren't even the 2007 Islanders at this point. The problem, as I watched the game last night, isn't that they aren't getting chances to score; rather, the problem is that they aren't creating second-chance opportunities or rebounds as well as they should. For a team that has spent more than 31 minutes on the powerplay and has a grand total of zero powerplay goals in the series, the Hairpieces are as good as dead in the water.

This is not to rub salt in the wound of any citizen of the Buffalo area, any Buffalo fan, or to gain praise from the Senators' faithful. I said it before in the Crunch Time article I wrote that Buffalo had gone away from doing the little things that made them successful. Let's review.

First, send somebody to the front of the net. Yes, he's going to take a beating from Chris Phillips or Anton Volchenkov, but the Hairpieces have had little in the way of any sort of traffic in front of Ray Emery. I don't care who goes to the front of the net - Ales Kotalik, Chris Drury, Andrew Peters, Lindy Ruff, the hot dog vendor - someone needs to be in Ray Emery's grill in the next game for no less than 59 minutes. Emery has had it far too easy in this series, and it has nothing to do with the number of shots thrown his way.

Second, if the puck is going to be shot, send a minimum of two guys on a direct line to the net. Having guys float out near the faceoff circles and along the half-boards is doing nothing to help generate second-chance scoring plays. In every single game, there have been four Senators in front of Emery clearing pucks, and only one Hairpiece player. Nine times out of ten, that Hairpiece player is lying on the ice. The Hairpieces will never generate scoring chances playing one-on-four in the offensive zone. For the number of shots being blocked by the Senators, you need guys going to the net for deflected shots as well.

Third, for all the hard work the Hairpieces do in cycling the puck, they forget that their defensemen are on the point. In Game Three, there were no shots from the defensemen. Not one. That simply cannot happen. Guys like Jaroslav Spacek and Brian Campbell can shoot the puck. Work the puck deep, get the Senators to collapse, and then shovel it back to the point. Oh, and refer to the previous paragraph once your defensemen wind up for a slapshot.

Fourth, enough with the bloody dipsy-dos and dekes when bringing the puck into the offensive zone! Turnover after turnover after turnover at the line has caused the Hairpieces' offence to become predictable and stagnant. Drive the puck in deep, forecheck hard, and create some turnovers in the offensive zone. Also, if the Hairpieces have a partial breakaway or a one-on-one with a Senators defenseman, take it to the net hard! Drive and crash the net! I'm tired of watching the Buffalo forwards make this game look like a shinny hockey game on a backyard rink.

Fifth, take the damned body! Daniel Alfredsson is looking like the second coming of Sean Avery with the number of bodychecks he is throwing, and he has yet to be roughed up. When Daniel Briere throws the biggest hit of Game Three for the Hairpieces, there is a serious problem with the Hairpieces' back-end. Buffalo has been outhit in every game of this series, and it won't stop unless someone starts pushing back. I even made mention of this: "[i]f the Hairpieces want to get set for Ottawa, they had better learn to throw a few teeth-rattling checks". I hate to be a broken record, but I told you so.

I'm not hating on Buffalo. Please don't think that. I simply have seen Buffalo go from being an impressive, complete team early in the season to a sometimes careless team in midseason to a complete wreck when facing adversity at this point in the season. For a team that won the President's Trophy, they have looked lost and confused against the Senators, and they seem to have forgotten all that made them successful.

If the Hairpieces want to make this series into a seven-game series again, they have to take every shift like its their last. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but you can't abandon what made you the best team in the regular season. That will almost guarantee a quick exit from the playoffs. However, it's time for the Barney Rubble Hairpieces to dig deep and see what they're really made of. Look in the mirror, Buffalo, and see if you can find what it is you need to find to win the next game. Only worry about Game Five once you've won Game Four.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Dear Lord Stanley said...

Your point about traffic in front of the net is dead-on. Watching the Sabres play, I found myself shouting at the TV - GET IN FRONT OF EMERY!!

And I'm not even a Sabres fan.

They just aren't following through on their offensive rushes, they aren't forechecking worth crap and they aren't forcing rebounds or mistakes in the Senators' zone. It's sad.

Good analysis.

Teebz said...

Thanks, DLS. I am honestly baffled by the lack of coaching Lindy Ruff has shown in this series. He hasn't lit a fire under anyone. Maybe he can't or maybe the players aren't listening, but Game Three was the worst Hairpieces game this season by far. And if the play like that in Game Four, they might as well just send the win to Ottawa and the league offices via email.

Sage Confucius said...

I am surprised by how poorly the Sabres have been playing. It's like Ottawa v. some college team. I was certainly hoping for the series to be more like game 2. I guess tonight we'll see if they can at least avoid being swept.

I am pleasantly surprised by the Red Wings. Not that the Ducks are playing their game all that well, but the Wings are making the most of their chances. It also is helping that Hasek, as ugly as he is in the crease, is getting it done. I yell at my TV each time he leaves to play a puck though. Stay in the freaking net! My grandma could handle pucks better. Poor Holmstrom. If he keeps getting abused he's going to need a plastic surgeon to fix his face during the summer.

As a side note...nice to know what you look like. Either you're a really big boy or Minna is a wee lady. I could have done without the Giants jersey, but the fishsticks jersey rocked in all its glorious queasiness.

Teebz said...

Well, the Sabres have to play like the Red Wings did in Game Three. I loved the physicality that Detroit brought to Anaheim.

The hit on Holmstrom was somewhat of a cheap shot. I believe Pronger should be forced to sit out one game for his part in the hit. Niedermayer already served a five-minute major, and Holmstrom returned that game, so I'd say that Scotty N. has done his time.

Hasek is playing extremely well, and that bodes well for Detroit. Yes, he shouldn't go wandering, but it happens. As long as he keeps making saves, Red Wing fans should be able to live with that. :o)

I am a big guy. People thought I was a football player in high school (I wasn't). Minna is smaller, but the picture makes me look really big.

The Giants jersey was worn for Paul, and the Isles jersey was worn because I love it.

Dear Lord Stanley said...

Yeah, I forgot to mention it, but it was great to see you representing the hockey world at the UniWatch meet.

Good show.