I have no panic button. No, really. No matter how bad things are looking at the moment, no matter what others may be screaming about, I’m not going to be “that guy.” I don’t like how it feels, and I’m not one to jump to conclusions. Besides, David Ortiz destroyed my desire for a panic button in 2004.
That being said, I am okay with the Sabres/Senators series as it is. I am certainly not happy, in fact, I’m furious with how things have developed, but I understand how it happened. In fact, the most surprising part of this series, Corvo’s overtime winner, was something that in a way I expected to happen.
Before the start of the second intermission, I said to the very nice woman sitting next to me “The next goal isn’t going to be pretty. With this ice, it’s going to be a kooky bounce that one team capitalizes on.” She politely nodded in agreement.
Now I’m no prophet, almost anyone could have expected that to happen. Ice problems in spring hockey are nothing new, and while the HSBC Arena ice crew did a much better job with the rink last night than they did for Game One, you cannot expect good ice to last five periods. For the record, the ice was in good shape at the start of the game, and even held to form until the end of regulation. (In a related story, the building was freezing last night.)
However, 80 minutes of hockey takes it’s toll on an ice sheet, and to start the second overtime, the ice was noticeably choppy. Within the first 30 seconds of the period, a pass out of the Senators end bounced and rolled up on end with no one around. It wasn’t the first sign of bad ice, but was telling of what was to come.
Couple the disgusting ice with a disgusting play in overtime, and the setting is perfect. The Sabres committed one of the mortal sins of overtime hockey, icing the puck twice in a row. With consecutive face offs in your own zone, even which an ace like Chris Drury taking the draw, you are tempting a fate no coach wants a part of.
And so fate prevailed, Spezza wins the draw. Just like the face off win to open the period, the puck bounces back to the defense. Corvo winds and fires the bouncing puck. Knuckles down, hits the ice, bounces high. Game.
It’s the anatomy of an overtime winner. Fight exhaustion, take advantage of mental mistakes, and have a little luck. Sabres fans know the formula well, we’ve been living by it for a long time. Without bad ice and a rookie mistake Chris Drury doesn’t win Game One against Ottawa last year. (Over-flooding in that case) Without a lucky bounce J.P. Dumont doesn’t win Game Three of the same series, and Briere doesn’t force a Game Seven against Carolina.
So I understand how it happened, and maybe that’s why I’m okay with it. When Corvo’s shot went in I was as shocked as everyone else in the building, but it made perfect sense. Perhaps that’s why I’m okay with this series, and why I’m okay with what is ahead. This team has work to do, and I expect them to take care of business. Work on the power play. Make good, smart plays in your own zone. Dominate the boards and don’t take stupid penalties. Play two good, solid road games.
It all sounds so simple, but it’s never that easy. The important question is this: can this Sabres team do what the Senators couldn’t last year? The Senators couldn’t overcome two gut-wrenching overtime losses in last year’s series. This year, the Sens claim to be a more mentally and physically tough group. Sabres fans will tell you this team has what it takes to overcome anything in their way, but they’ve yet to prove capable of getting past a 2-0 series deficit.
Then again, they haven’t had the chance.
Keep the faith, boys.