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Here we go!
Things we do for love; Ultimate Vengeance Tour

So I'm at the local Wal-Mart (aka "The Belly of the Beast") in the dental hygiene aisle. I reach for the orange-flavored Listerine, but that little voice in the back of my head, the one that, oddly enough, sounds exactly like Milt Ellis, tells me to hold it right there — and to please call my answering machine.

Uncle Miltie is right. He's always right. I can't buy a product that's orange! One of the Islanders' colors is orange! So I grab the green stuff, you know, the variety that's "less intense, equally effective." Can't have that. Not in the playoffs. It's balls to the wall or go home.

I end up with the original blue formula (not the right shade, but close enough), a liquid so caustic that if accidentally swallowed, it will wipe out your uvula on the way down.

But I'm prepared to take one for my team. Uvulas are so overrated.


The ultimate payback

Everyone's talking about the revenge factor in playing the Islanders, who eliminated the Sabres in 1976, 1977 and 1980. In 1980, Rick DiPietro, Chris Campoli, Jeff Tambellini and probably a couple other current Isles were still doing the backstroke in their father's heated pool, so history hardly matters. Except to us old-timers who remember the frustration of the late 1970s and how the source of said frustration more often than not was the New York Islanders.

Now, if you want the Vengeance Tour of all time, how's this sound? The Sabres knock off the Islanders... eliminate the Penguins, who sent us packing in 1979 and 2001 on shocking overtime goals at the Aud and HSBC Arena, respectively... exorcise the Devils to earn payback for 1994... then, in the master stroke, finish off the Stars in the finals. (Minnesota would also work. The North Stars took care of the Sabres' Cup dreams in 1981 but ended up — where else? — in Dallas.)


Hey, you never know

You know, I'll take a Stanley Cup any way I can get it, but would it be too much to ask for this, for my sanity and yours: we win Game 1 in all four rounds, never trail in a series, and there's only one overtime game, and that's in Game 5 with a 3-1 lead in the finals. And we win it. At home. Yeah, it's too much to ask.


Good luck with that

So, Ted Nolan, who do you put your best defensive line out against? The Roy line scored 87 goals this season. The Briere line, 85. And the Drury line, 77. And it's safe to say that if Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford had played full seasons together, the nominal fourth line would have had in the neighborhood of 50 goals. Make that 52. I forgot about Adam Mair.


Appreciate this team

The words of Bill Polian keep echoing around my brain, and, yes, I hear them in his voice, not Uncle Miltie's. And it's not his "get out of town" tirade — which of course he did, and the Bills have been bad ever since, but I digress.

No, it's his comment during the team's incredible Super Bowl run. He said something like, "Enjoy this team. You will not see their likes again." He was right. And if you said the same thing about this Sabres team, you'd probably be right, too.

Sure, the core is young and this team should be very good for awhile, but windows in sports these days can be slammed shut very quickly. I can't imagine a better team on the ice in Buffalo in the near future, and I can't imagine a fan community that is more electrified.


The other white meat

We all lose it this time of year, but this guy is out of his gourd just a bit more than the rest of us. His Easter Dinner included a slice of ham that bears an uncanny resemblance to the slug, and where else was he going to put it except on YouTube?


New York State of Mind

Billy Joel, he of Long Island, performed at HSBC Arena on Tuesday night. I don't know if he sang "The Downeaster Alexa," but I've always tormented an Islander friend of mine with this lyric from the song:

"There ain't no island left for islanders like me."

Now I have to listen to some of my Billy Joel CDs. When is this guy going to release another album and stop living off his reputation?


Dude...

How funny is it going to be when 18,690 start taunting Wade Dubielewicz with chants of "Dooooooo...bieeeeeeeeee! Dooooooo...bieeeeeeeeee!" Insert your own wacky tabacky joke here ----> Mine involves Cheech doing the public address announcements, and the horn being replaced by a giant gong, but I'll save the rest of it for later.


Don't look

I am required by Erie County law (precedent: Art Wander vs. One Bills Drive) to talk about upsets of number-one seeds in the first round of the playoffs. It's happened seven times since the conference format was unveiled in 1994.

But only three times has the Presidents' Trophy winner been dispatched that quickly since the inception of that trophy in 1986. The last time, you will remember, was one year ago when the eighth-seeded Oilers, led by Ryan Smyth, snuck into the playoffs and shocked the Red Wings.

Here's another frightening stat, courtesy of nhl.com. The team that scores the most goals in the league has won only two Stanley Cups in the last 20 years, Pittsburgh in 1992 and Edmonton in 1987.

What about the team that allows the fewest goals? Still working on that one. Check back later.


Patrick Roy? Really?

Think there's some gamesmanship behind this Danny Briere quote about Wade Dubielewicz?

"I remember growing up nobody knew about Patrick Roy the first time he won the Cup in '86. He came into the playoffs and just got hot."

Even Wade had to chuckle after hearing that one.

The more accurate comparison is probably Ed Staniowski, another unknown goalie, who almost singlehandedly knocked off the Sabres in the best-of-three preliminary round in 1976. By the way, Ed became a colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces.


Big heads

I suppose I should make a pick here. Which seems both obvious and ill-advised (hockey gods, yada yada). Sabres in five. I'm basing my pick largely on the fact that the Islanders' heads are grossly disproportionate to their bodies. No wonder DiPietro got kneed in the coconut. Check it out.


My bad

I'm really sorry this wasn't more insightful and informative. But where else in the lead-up to the first playoff game would you have read mentions of Listerine, Milt Ellis, Billy Joel, Ed Staniowski and a weird little hunk o' ham?

Now let's play some hockey!

By Mark Zampogna, LGS Featured Columnist
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