In fact, it was the perfect game to sum up the Sabres, both in the regular season, and the postseason.
a) They played great, had a fast start (5th fastest in NHL playoff history) and played a dominating first period. They did this all the time in the regular season.
b) With a period and a half to play and a three goal cushion, they relaxed a little on the puck battles down low, and paid the price. They have done this all throughout the postseason.
They managed to hold on due to great play by Miller and a sense of desperation that once again kicked in during the third period, but what this series has come down to is whether the Buffalo Sabres can play a full 60 minutes.
They could afford to only play for half the game against the weaker Islanders and even the Rangers, who almost burned them for it. But they can't do that against the Senators. Their third goal was a softy on Emery, and the second goal was on a 5 on 3 power play, and if they didn't score it, would have constituted a devastating mental defeat to an already crippled power play.
The only chance they have to stay alive is to play three complete games. If they can't, they'll be giving Maple Leaf Fans a full week to debate whether the Senators are Canadian enough to actually root for them in the finals.
Over in the West, I think somebody needs to start recognizing the class and discipline of the Detroit Red Wings. Nobody is more in favor of a good old time hockey type scrap than me, but to look at the play of Detroit in the playoffs is to see what turning the other cheek can do for you.
Like they did in their first round series with the Flames, they didn't rise to the bait when they were playing with the lead and the cheap shots started. That's a hard thing to do, and rather extraordinary for a team with Todd Bertuzzi on it, something that should be considered when the final book on Bertuzzi is written.
When Holmstrom got run by Pronger and Rob Neidermeyer, they didn't respond like hotheads, and that was a situation where no one in the league would have been surprised at all if they had. It was Pronger's elbows that cracked Holmstrom's head open, and there was no call.
Sure, he was suspended after the fact, but at the time, absolutely no one would have been surprised if there weren't some Red Wings skating around out there hoping to see a big number 25 with his head facing the boards. And who knows? Maybe if it was a tie game at that point, or the Wings were losing, they would have reacted differently.
But, in the situation they were in as a team, when the hit on Holmstrom came, they had a commanding lead on enemy ice, Holmstrom took his stitches, came back for the third like a motherfucking hockey player and the Wings took another step towards their fourth Stanley Cup in ten years.
That shows three things: toughness, smarts and class.
It will be interesting to see what happens next.