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Hockey

Can the Sabres slay the Stars?

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Posted: Monday June 07, 1999 03:43 PM

By Kostya Kennedy, Sports Illustrated

Dallas Stars (1 - West) vs. Buffalo Sabres (7 - East)

 
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Prediction
Stars in five games

By now the Buffalo Sabres have surely earned respect. They've romped through the playoffs, winning often and easily. They've shown they can win when dominant goalie Dominik Hasek is injured or having an off night and they have established themselves as a group of talented, intelligent and hard-working players who persevere and who battle relentlessly -- a group that one Maple Leafs player described as "20 guys who just keep coming at you in waves."

So it seems the Eastern Conference, for the first time since the Devils swept the Red Wings in 1995, has a representative which can, at the very least, prove a serious impediment to the Western Conference continuing its run of three straight easy wins in the finals. Perhaps.

The Stars, after all, are tired following a long and hard-fought playoff run, and Buffalo, in addition to its overall talent, also has Hasek, who can steal games as well as anyone in the league. Dallas' Achilles' heel -- its occasional lack of scoring punch -- could be be exacerbated by Hasek's stonewalling.

But the Stars are simply too good. After three straight seasons as the NHL's best regular-season team, the club is ready for this series. The Stars' stars -- Mike Modano , Joe Nieuwendyk , Brett Hull -- are highly focused and are playing at the top of their games. So is the rest of the deep cast, from Jamie Langenbrunner and Guy Carbonneau to Derian Hatcher , Darryl Sydor and Sergei Zubov .

Buffalo is the darling here, an underdog with a moderate payroll and a lovable, resilient and unceasingly scrappy captain in Michael Peca . The Stars, though, are the class of the NHL. Expect them to make very few mistakes, to keep the games close and to win them. Expect Dallas to be hoisting the Cup within a fortnight.



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