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Post Mortems

Ottawa Senators winning against the Buffalo Sabres in overtime of the at HSBC Arena in Saturday, May 19, 2007.

Quite a number of fans, media pundits and local columnists are piling on the Buffalo Sabres. “No heart.” “They choked.” “They let the fans down.”

Well pardon us if we don’t join in.

Since the lock out ended almost two years ago, this collection of players has given us the thrills, the electric moments, the hope and the excitement that is without precedent in the franchise’s history. Did we not feel good about ourselves all season long? Did much of our lives, our spirits, our social interactions not revolve around the fortunes of the team?

And the team responded and then some, going end to end through the regular season owning first seed in the conference, winning the division and the Presidents Trophy. Sure they stumbled some through the first two rounds, but they nonetheless beat the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers.

Then came the Ottawa Senators.

Their captain Daniel Alfredsson said it all: “I think they ran into us at the wrong time.”

Everyone knew going into these playoffs that Ottawa was coming on strong. They won almost every game late in the season, dispatched their first two playoff opponents with ease and looked like the better team, the hungrier team, against the Buffalo Sabres.

Is this the end of the line? Was this our best chance? Hardly! Sabres owner Tom Golisano is not all of a sudden going to hold some fire sale and ship our high value assets far and wide. Earlier this year he stated that he made a “covenant” with his season ticket holders, and those customers who renewed their seats should have every expectation that the team will compete.

So will they? Why not! We have Ryan Miller, and he will be that much better. Surely some of the free agents will be lost to other teams, and signing Chris Drury is on everyone’s lips, but it’s not like there are so many teams out there with huge swaths of cap space. The nucleus of the team is under contract, and early indications are that both Drury and Daniel Briere would like to stay if the circumstances were right. The Buffalo organization is well positioned to be a playoff contender year after year, and fans should be looking forward to next season with anticipation, not with trepidation.

For the last eight months we as a community have had a spring in our step. The tremendous fan support has grabbed headlines and attention across the USA and Canada, and that is something we can surely build on and be proud of.

This season we covered 36 Sabres home games, seven Sabres road games, all nine home playoff games, countless morning skates and even a couple of news conferences as representatives of Artvoice. It has been a great ride. Thanks to our readers for all of your support!

Buffalo Sabres' Maxim Afinogenov (61) tied the game vs the Ottawa Senators to force overtime during the third period.

MORE ON “ELEVATORGATE”

You remember the story after game two about the Ottawa assistant coaches having the press elevator door shut right in their faces by the elevator operator? This was all done at the behest of the Sabres assistant coaches, who weren’t in the mood to share the ride downstairs.

Well, the name of the elevator guy is William Conners, an affable chap who is a member of the grey-blazered security crew at HSBC Arena. We asked William what it was like getting his 15 minutes of fame when the story broke, and he joked, “Well it wasn’t even 15 minutes, they didn’t mention my name.”

William admitted that he was a bit flustered when he was ordered to shut the doors quickly. “The worst of it was—the coaches all got off. I had to ride back up and face the music with the Ottawa crew.”

SENATORS DO A WIDE

CIRCLE AROUND THE TROPHY

When the Prince of Wales Trophy was brought out on the ice after game five, Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson came out to accept the award from Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, but then refused to pick it up. The trophy just sat there on the table, until defenseman Wade Redden finally skated over, lifted it up and brought it over to the bench. Said Redden, “I thought it just right that we could at least look at it and let our fans who gathered around the tunnel get a closer look.”

BISONS MANAGER TOREY

LOVULLO CHIMES IN ON OTTAWA

For the second playoff season in a row, the Buffalo Sabres were off to Ottawa for their two games at Scotiabank Place, while in a totally coincidental scheduling quirk the Buffalo Bisons were in Ottawa at the same time, facing the Ottawa Lynx at Lynx Stadium.

Lovullo is a huge hockey fan and an unabashed supporter of the Buffalo Sabres. We asked him what it was like being in Ottawa while the Sabres were playing just 20 miles to the west. “Well we got the jeers from the fans in the stands, but this time it was hearing stuff like ‘Sabres suck!’” Lovullo laughed. “A number of Buffalo fans showed up to our game on the hockey off-day, and I even left ten tickets for a group of guys from Tonawanda for our day game last Thursday. I hope they took advantage of that.”

The Bisons finished their game last Wednesday around 8:30 p.m., giving Lovullo plenty of time to catch the rest of the Sabres game on TV. “We had just won our game 3-2, and we tuned in and the Sabres were up by the same score, and boy I was just glad to see them hang on and win that one.”

While another Sabres/Senators playoff matchup is a distinct possibility next year, there will be no scheduling alignment with the Buffalo Bisons. The Lynx are in their lame duck season up in Ottawa, and will be moving to Allentown, Pennsylvania for the 2008 season.

TARO SEZ...

From the mailbag:

Dear Taro, Did NBC really pull the plug before the overtime of game five last Saturday to switch over to a horse race? Sounds good to me!

Sincerely,

Heidi.

Did any member of the Buffalo media correctly predict the outcome of this series? Taro reluctantly gives props to Peter Farrell... “Ottawa in 5”, in the May 10 issue of Artvoice.

Not mentioned before, but we have been blogging for a few months now, and content is added daily. Check it out and join in on the discussion at http://thesportsroadtrip.blogspot.com. Stuff on the Sabres, the Bisons, news on sports venues and other cool things.