There was no doubt that the better team won today as the Ottawa Senators eliminated the Buffalo Sabres and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in the history of the franchise. Team Captain Daniel Alfredsson had the game winner in over-time for the Sens in a truly dramatic game in which the Senators had to kill 5 penalties in a row called on them in the 3rd period while the Sabres went penalty free. After the Sabres tied the game in that period 2-2, Ottawa shrugged off the officiating disparity and dominated the extra period coming close to ending the series on at least 2 earlier opportunities before the Sen's Captain finally finished it. Congratulations to the Senators and good luck in the finals! This blogger will be cheering for you no matter who wins it in the west.
Daniel Aldredsson is my MVP for this series and should be the odds on favorite to win the Conn Smythe. To think that earlier in the year when he was goal-less in his first 10-15 games, the Senator faithful were ready to bench him, take away his Captaincy, or even trade him. How things change quickly in this game! The unsung hero for me in this series is Anton Volchenkov. While the defenseman didn't score any points in this series, he blocked countless shots, had several hits, dove in front of everything that moved, and was a strong physical presence, a physicality that the Senator team was missing in previous year's post season efforts.
On the other side, enough can't be said about Chris Drury and Ryan Miller. Drury did everything for the Sabres, including making saves! Unfortunately he took a puck to the face in the 3rd period, but was able to come back and play some in the OT. The team co-captain is a free agent on July 1st if he doesn't sign a new deal, but all rumors indicate that he will stay in Buffalo. Ryan Miller also played very well for the President's trophy winners. On the other hand the other co-captain, Daniel Briere did not have a good series or a good playoff season in particular. As the team's highest paid player, his paltry 3 playoff goals certainly didn't satisfy the majority of the Sabre fans. His repeated costly turnovers frustrated many fans as well. He probably will not be in Buffalo next year. In my opinion, the Sabres simply ran out of gas at the end of the regular season and playoffs. The team has played a lot of hockey over the past 2 years and finally was worn down. They peaked too early and had nothing left in the tank when it counted.
Finally, kudos go to the Buffalo fans who stood and cheered their team even in defeat. They answered my question in a positive way as to what would happen during the handshaking on the ice. With several Sabre players approaching free agency on July 1st, the team will certainly have some new faces next year. Regardless, I'm sure that the Buffalo faithful will continue their staunch support. In the meantime, Go Sens Go!