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The Youth Excuse
In different ways, Ruff, Vanek wrong about Sabres' 'youth'
BUFFALO (LGS) — Lindy Ruff thinks the Sabres' youth explains their maddening lapses. Thomas Vanek thinks it means those wild parties in the plaza will be happening every spring for the foreseeable future.

They're both wrong.

"We're still pretty young. We've got some young players," Ruff told reporters on the series' first off-day as Ray Emery strolled around Frederick's of Hollywood at the Walden Galleria looking for just the right mesh bustier, a little reward for his Game 1 victory.

"You know, we've got some players that are getting some very valuable playoff experience and some situations I think we've — we haven't reacted with a lot of moxie," said Ruff.

Oh, there was a lack of moxie on full display in Buffalo's 5-2 loss in the series-opener, and I'm sure some of the blame can be shouldered by the "kids," whoever they are.

But wasn't that playoff veteran and Cup winner Chris Drury, he of zero shots on goal, making one of those egregrious giveaways on a power play late in the second period with the game tied at 2 and sitting there for the taking? Getting stripped of the puck near the Sabres' line late a few minutes later, leading to the first of a series of Dany Heatley rapid-fire chances that seemed to turn the tide of the game?

Shortly after that, wasn't it Henrik Tallinder, 28-year-old Henrik Tallinder, turning the puck over along the wall, leading to another Heatley shot?

Wasn't it $5 million man Daniel Briere, old enough now to take advantage of unrestricted free agency, without a shot on goal?

Wasn't it Dmitri Kalinin, six seasons a Sabre and 32 playoff games under his belt, turning the puck over on Mike Fisher's shorthanded goal early in the game?

Wasn't it Teppo Numminen, for the love of God, who's older than dirt and can put almost 80 postseason games on his resume, offering the puck up the boards for Dean McAmmond to volley in front for Oleg Saprykin, who beat Ales Kotalik, 28, on the winning goal?

Now, two of those guys, Tallinder and Kotalik, are in just their second Stanley Cup seasons. But they did have that long run a year ago, and supposedly that was going to be the end of all the talk about playoff inexperience.

Until now.

Vanek added a layer to this newest angle on the series.

When he was asked about how special making the conference finals is, the suggestion being that it's not something an NHL player will experience every year, he offered a dismaying reply.

“Why not?" Vanek said. "We’re a young team. I feel like if we can stay together, we can do it year after year," he said.

There is no such thing in professional sports as year after year.

The Sabres aren't that young, that stocked in Rochester, or, frankly, that good.

Year after year?

Gilbert Perreault probably thought the same thing after going to the finals with his up-and-coming team in 1975. He never got a whiff of them again.

Rob Ray stood on the platform during the rally after the finals loss in 1999 and predicted many more such days in sunny downtown Buffalo. "They will not be denied," he said of the kids. They were denied. There hasn't been a day like it since.

And that's what makes so frustrating Ryan Miller's comment about how the Sabres like to make it tough on themselves and Daniel Briere's apology for not having an answer for why he was standing there one more time trying to explain his team's fickle personality.

Don't these guys get it?

In what will feel like the time it takes you to go to your mailbox today, this will all be gone. Miller will be backing up some punk in Phoenix, Vanek will be in his fifth season as a King and Briere will be retired, just a hockey dad.

Carpe diem, men. And boys.

Life is short. Have dessert first.


For the record

The Sabres' average age is 27.7. The Senators? 27.4.

Sifting through the ashes
Just as feared, the Sabres' power play looks to be bad enough right now to cost them a chance at the Cup. I've been trying to figure this thing out. No luck so far. I mean, if Jack Adams Trophy winner Lindy Ruff can't do it, what chance do I have? But I did discover that maybe the problem can be traced back to the Eastern Conference finals a year ago. As you recall, the Sabres were deadly with the extra man during the 2005-06 regular season, finishing second in the league. And for the first two rounds and three games of the ECF, they were good (15-82, 18.3%), although below their regular-season average of 21.2%. But over the course of the final four games of the series, the Sabres scored just one power-play goal on 17 chances. The power play hasn't been the same since, even though it showed signs of life here and there during the regular season, including a stretch when Nathan Paetsch quarterbacked the thing in late January and early February. The little heads-up wrister from the back end turned the trick, and you wonder when Ruff might become desperate enough to give Patches another chance.

Scott Arniel was a genius.

Bob & Jerry
I like Buffalo News columnist Bob Dicesare. His methodical autopsy of Lindy Ruff's explanation of Danny Briere's reduced ice time in today's paper shows how hard he works. You want lazy? Jerry Sullivan. He should take his act to the Big Apple — his targeting of Dmitri Kalinin after Game 1 was something you'd expect to see in the New York Post. How anyone could point the finger at just one Sabre after that atrocity of a game is beyond me. Then today, ole Jerry recalled how the Sabres "smoked" the Senators in last year's playoffs. Right. Five one-goal games, three of which went to overtime, with Ottawa having the better of play overall.

Slow starts I
To this point in the playoffs last year, the Sabres had scored first in 11 of their 12 games. This year? The Sabres have taken a 1-0 lead only four times. It says a lot, IMHO.

Slow starts II
The Sabres have scored two first-period goals in the last seven games. In the playoffs, the power play has converted just once on 19 first-period power plays. These guys aren't getting it done off the opening faceoff, plain and simple.

World Wide Woops
Watch those fingers. One misplaced hunt and peck and I just ended up on bhl.com, a plumbing supplier in the United Kingdom, not nhl.com. Disaster online is only a keystroke away. I was looking for golf shoes one time and assumed that the home site of Dick's Sporting Goods was, well, I don't think I can say it on a family web site such as this. Suffice to say, I got an eyeful.
By Mark Zampogna, LGS Featured Columnist
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