Seventh Heaven: Everything Falls Apart
Add Jay McKee to the list of Buffalo Sabre casualties. He's the fourth defenseman to go down, meaning that rookie Nathan Paetsch jumps into the lineup. Between him, Jeff Jillson, and Doug Janik, there's three games of regular season experience.
You have to feel for the Sabres, especially McKee, who couldn't even travel with the team because of the infection in his leg. McKee is the longest-serving Sabre, and I'm pretty certain that he's the last remaining player from the team that advanced to the 1999 finals. His career also spans the duration of Buffalo's tough times as a small market club. He was acquired in the 1995 draft, with the first round pick that they acquired by dumping Alexander Mogilny and his salary. (They also got Mike Peca in that trade. Not bad at all). Now, in the biggest game that his team has played in seven years, he can't be there.
I've thought for a little while that Carolina is looking like a team of destiny, which I thought was confirmed with the late rally and overtime win in Game 5. Like most 'teams of destiny', the 'Canes have benefited from some luck, notably Saku Koivu's injury, and now the attrition on the Buffalo defense. I'm quite frankly still shocked that the Sabres pulled out a Game 6 win.
But I can't see them doing it again. With only two regular defenseman, and having to go on the road, I think the Sabres are in over their heads. It might not even be close.
After Danny Briere's overtime winner in Game 6, play-by-play announcer Rick Jeannerret said "there's still room on the believers bandwagon." I'd like to believe, and I hope that Buffalo can pull it out, but I just don't see it happening tonight. I've become a Sabres convert these playoffs. They play sound, exciting hockey; I wish there were more teams like them. But I don't see them winning with Brian Campbell and Toni Lydman playing over 30 minutes each on the back line. Buffalo had a great season, and it's a shame that they couldn't go out fighting with a full squad.
Now, with that being said...Go Sabres Go!