Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Buffasluggish

Flipping between the the Buffslugs-Ottawa game and the Nats almost no-hitting the Braves (and handing John Smoltz his second loss of the season, both losses now are to the Nats) I like many people were flat out stunned by the performance, or complete lack thereof, of the Buffaslugs.

Is this simply another case of another President's Trophy winner not getting the job done in the playoffs? Did the Buffaslugs get too cocky and arrogant before actually winning anything? Did the Buffaslugs peak too soon? Are they simply cursed by playing in Loserville...er...Buffalo? Or is that the Buffaslugs simply weren't as good as people thought?

A case could be made for all of those and I happen to think that it is a combination of all five but I found something rather interesting.

When the Buffaslugs got off to a 10-0 start this season, they did so with the help of three gimmick wins including gimmick wins in their first two games. In the old days, those would have been ties. Six of those ten wins came against teams that wouldn't make the playoffs. After winning ten in a row to start the season, the Buffaslugs took a gimmick loss before winning again in a gimmick. Their first regulation loss came on November 4th vs. Toronto.

When the Buffaslugs slinked into D.C. last December, they were 20-5 and got trapped by the Caps who got the jump on them and held on for a 7-4 victory. In the wins wins leading into that game. Buffaslugs had won another gimmick and three straight games in OT.

But there's something else that's noteworthy. In those first 25 games before D.C., Ryan Miller played in 17, Martin Biron played 8. While that isn't exactly 50-50 split, Ty Conklin (who Mr. Sunshine called an improvement over Biron) had only three starts and 5 appearances overall in 19 regular season and 14 playoff games. Biron started 18 games overall for the Buffaslugs this season. Had Biron stayed in Loserville...er...Buffalo, he would have gotten more starts than Conklin did.

There's no doubt that Ryan Miller is the #1 goaltender in Loserville...er...Buffalo but considering that he's been out dueled (despite playing some great games like last night) you have to wonder if he's wearing down or if he just needs a kick in the pants that a Ty Conklin can't give him. If you're Lindy Ruff right now would you have rather Martin Biron or Ty Conklin to bring in off the bench for Game 4 saying "desperate times call for desperate measures?" Clearly, the Buffaslugs lost a lot when they traded Biron.

Another thing that struck me was the lack of urgency in the play of the Buffaslugs. Down 2-0 and playing Games 3 and 4 on the road, Game 3 is a must win. I saw that scumbag Danielle Briere get a golden opportunity just 20 seconds into the game and that scumbag didn't even get a shot on goal. (This is one of their leaders?) Yet that was about it from the Buffaslugs in the first period. Only four shots on goal in the first period against 13 for Ottawa and only 15 for the entire game. Folks, that won't get it done against anybody lettalone a Bryan Murray coached hockey team in the playoffs.

The Buffaslugs did throw everything they had at the Senators in the final minutes but even then, it simply looked as if the Senators STILL wanted it more than the Buffaslugs did at that point. Folks, the Senators got a 2 on nobody, PENALTY KILLING. Only the goalpost saved the Buffaslugs in that situation.

Now, this series isn't over, not by a longshot. But the Buffaslugs have a huge mountain to climb and have to hope that the Senators come up with one of the biggest chokes in the history of the NHL playoffs to win this series. They won't get a chance to play the Caps, or the Flyers, or the Bruins, or some other lowly team to pad their record and get some confidence. They can force OT but can't count on the gimmick to hand them a victory. They have to find a way to beat a team chock full of confidence right now.

This is why playoff hockey is such a different animal from the regular season. The Buffaslugs caught a break in playing the undermanned Islanders in the first round and the overrated Rangers in the second. Now they're playing a team that can match them and they're clueless as to what to do.

Quite frankly, it couldn't have happened to a better bunch.

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