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Part 2 previewing the Stanley Cup Finals
Sunday, June 6, 1999

In the first part of my Stanley Cup preview, I discussed the Buffalo Sabres and how they got this far. In this second part, I will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both teams.

SABRES - The Sabres had a scare in the first two games of their last playoff series when Dominik Hasek was out with his groin injury. Dwayne Roloson relieved him admirably in Game One when the Sabres won the first game against the Leafs 5-4. But he looked shaky and was beat 5 times in Game Two's loss. Under pressure from himself, players and fans, Hasek decided to play with the pain and started Game 3. The Sabres could have put a cut-out of Hasek in goal, because it was just the presence of Hasek that did in the Leafs. The Sabres won the next three games to advance to the Stanley Cup for the first time in 24 years.

Hasek is the key ingredient for the Sabres success. He must be at the ultimate top of his game for the Sabres to have success against the Stars, who on paper are the best in the league. The Sabres may have been able to win with Hasek less than 80% against the Leafs, but that won't fly in the finals.

Mike Peca leads the Sabres in their Hit Parade. He was able to shadow and shutdown Yashin and Allison in the first two rounds, but was not too successful against Mats Sundin as he led the Leafs scorers. The Sabres have to come out hitting like they did against the Bruins, forcing them off their game. It's going to be much harder against the Stars.

Buffalo's scoring game got hot during the first three playoff series. Everybody was chipping in, getting goals. Stu Barnes, who had been scoreless as a Sabres since being traded from Pittsburgh, scored 4 goals in 3 games. Geoff Sanderson was the best Sabre in the Leafs series, with his blazing speed and scoring touch. Miro Satan came back from a month-long absence due to a badly bruised ankle and scored in his first game back. The Sabres will have to kick their offense up a few more notches if they want to score on the Stars heralded D.

STARS - This could very well be the year the Stars end their three time Stanley Cup losing streak and win Lord Stanley's silverware. The Stars D won the Jennings Trophy for giving up the least goals this season. On Friday, the Stars defense smothered the Avs , allowing only 19 shots on goal. Even better, the defensemen sacrificed their bodies and fell down in front of 21 shots! Can you imagine that! That would put Jim Schoenfield to shame in his playing days with the Sabres!

Richard Matvichuk alone blocked 8 shots. Adam Foote had a powerful slap shot blocked by Matvichuk, and that forced him to leave the game. But he came back and continued playing his stellar defensive game. Late in the game on Friday, with the Stars leading 4-1, the defensemen were still falling down to block shots.

Eddie Belfour's job has been made much easier because of the efforts of his defensemen. "I noticed the difference in front of me," Belfour said. "All the guys played great, but the defensemen were really on. They blocked so many shots."

The Big D's D has been intact for nearly 3 years. They are made up by Matvichuk and Derian Hatcher (the Stars' hitman) as one pairing, Darryl Sydor and Sergei Zubov as the second, and Craig Ludwig and Shawn Chambers rounding out the fabulous Stars defense.

On offense, the Sabres have to shutdown not just one line, but 3 lines. Mike Modano is the key player that Peca must contain. At 6 foot 3 inches and 200 pounds, he'll be a big target for Peca. He led the Stars in scoring during the regular season with 34 goals and 81 points. Then there is Brett Hull, coming over from the Blues to add to the Stars offense. Hull had 32 goals and 58 points. Jere Lehtinen finishes off that line and he's a good compliment for that line.

The best line for the Stars in the playoffs has been the one with Joe Nieuwendyk at center, with Dave Reid and Jamie Langenbrunner on his wings. Both Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner have 9 goals in the playoffs. Even better is the fact that they have combined for 12 winning goals.

The Dallas Stars are a well tune, balanced machine. The Sabres will have to crack through the powerful defense and have to rattle Belfour if they intend to score ANY goals. That will be a tough mission indeed. The series could come down to low-scoring affairs. If that's so, Hasek has to be at his best.


Here it is, at long last! I will try to sort all the facts and calm my emotions. Tough job! Dallas will prevail in Game One, blocking most of the Sabres scoring opportunities and will win it going away. Lindy Ruff will be able to alter his game plan and squeeze out a win in Game Two. Then the great Buffalo fans will pump up their Sabres in Games 3 & 4 and the Sabres will lead 3-1. But then look for the Dallas defense and especially Derian Hatcher to knock the Sabres around and win the next two forcing a Game 7!

In a rock ‘em, sock ‘em Game 7 in Dallas, the Sabres will come back twice from 2 goal deficits to tie the game and send it into overtime. After two overtime periods, the Sabres will find MAGIC when Miro Satan scores the series winner when he gets a breakaway on Belfour and BRINGS THE CUP HOME TO BUFFALO! The Sabres go wild, the city of Buffalo has riots on the streets and dancing on rooftops! It will be the ultimate climax to one fantastic Sabre season!