Sunny skies in Sabres dressing room
Posted: Wednesday June 16, 1999 09:54 AM
By Jamie MacDonald, CNN/SI
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Just as they had been predicting for the last three days, there is another day for the Sabres. The sun came up the morning after Game 3 and it shone on Buffalo in Game 4.
So here they were, after a 2-1 win, basking in the glow of a performance they predicted, as "Livin' La Vida Loca" appropriately pounded from behind a closed door in the dressing room. For the first time in three days, the Sabres had some new questions to answer. No more How in the world can you turn the series around? only How did you do pull off this minor miracle?
"You get what you deserve," captain Michael Peca said. "Obviously the questions a couple days ago were just, but I think the ones (after Game 4) are as well.
"I think that's what's so important about playoff hockey. Things aren't going to always go your way, that's just a fact of life, but you have to get up the next morning and feel confident in yourself that you can be better the next time out. And that's how we felt. We didn't feel that it was all over and they really proved they were the better team. They just had a better game than us and deserved to win the hockey game. We felt confident that if we came out with a strong game, we'd give ourselves a chance to win."
Everyone wanted to know how the Sabres escaped the playoff morgue. Truth is, though they admit to playing the walking dead at times in Game 3, no member of the Sabres considered the team dead or buried. The Sabres had a lot of adjustments to make, but they were no less confident.
"I thought we had a game," said coach Lindy Ruff , "where we came out charging out of the gates -- hitting-wise, emotion-wise, we flooded in. It was a good hockey game. I thought rolling four lines and trying to keep the shifts short after two periods, we tried to keep it short. We wanted everyone to finish. We wanted to make sure every line got going and we didn't worry a lot about matchups. We made sure we had Peca on Joe Nieuwendyk , obviously -- after that Wayne Primeau , Curtis Brown on Mike Modano, and then we just let the other guys go."
Now the teams go back to Dallas with reason to think they can postpone another Stanley Cup parade in Dallas ("It would be a sad sign of ignorance out there if people thought we'd be done already," Peca said).
Sure, it took a major mistake from the Stars to get themselves the game winner, but they did force that mistake from Craig Ludwig. Ludwig later said, "Most of the pucks we get, we're trying to move out of the middle. That's been our No. 1 play as far as defensemen go, the whole series. That's what I was trying to do is get it to the boards. It was rolling and hit the top of my stick and landed right on their tape. We want to be in those situations, we want to be the ones that make those plays. Unfortunately for me it didn't work out."
And fortunately for the Sabres, it did. Some may worry that they were outshot 31-18 (and 13-2 in the third) and that Miroslav Satan still hasn't scored -- especially after two golden opportunities were turned away spectacularly by Eddie Belfour -- but Satan says he doesn't have to score for the team to have success. It would be a bonus if Satan could cash a few in, clearly, but after Game 4, it's hard to argue.
The Sabres talked a lot about doing what Dallas does in order to beat them -- use more speed on the forecheck, think more about their systems than matchups and play with their emotions in check.
The teams look even more alike going into Game 5. Game 3's 2-1 loss became a 2-1 Game 4 win and the series is a mirrored 2-2. Yes, the sun will rise in Dallas tomorrow, but the skies will be a little gloomier than they are in Buffalo.
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