It wasn’t a surprise that the Buffalo Sabres eliminated the New York Rangers with their Game 6 victory.  It wasn’t a surprise that Game 6 was a one-goal game – the fifth straight in this series in a playoff season that has seen about 60% of games be decided by one goal.  What is surprising was the 5-4 final score – especially when you consider 2-1 scores decided the previous three games.

The Rangers did themselves and their fans proud with their effort in this series.  Outside of Game 1, the rest of the games could very easily have gone the other way.  In fact three critical points stand out in the Rangers defeat. 

The first was the Sabres three goal outburst in the space of four minutes of the second period of Game 1.

The second was the Blueshirts inability to hold on to their 1-0 lead during the closing seconds of regulation in Game 5.

The third was the second Rangers second period meltdown as they allowed four Buffalo goals in 10 minutes during Game 6.

If the Rangers approached their previous game power plays like they did in Game 6, the result would have been different.  For the first time in the series the Rangers made a concerted effort to get traffic in front of Ryan Miller and it paid off.  In fact, they managed to get in Miller’s way at even strength as well.

The problem for the Rangers is their newfound offense came at the expense of their defense.  While the Blueshirts were victims of a couple of deflections and bad bounces, far too often they were caught running around in their zone and leaving Sabres open in the slot.  When they weren’t doing that, they were getting caught for odd-man rushes that the Sabres finished off.  Despite all of that, they still came within a Matt Cullen attempt of forcing yet another overtime game.

The only complaint I have on the game is that the referees were far too willing to play a part in this game.  They were making some borderline calls against both teams.  When you get to this point in a series, the referees need to let the players decide the game.

How ironic was it that Tom Renney turned to Nigel Dawes in the Rangers biggest game of the season yet he could not find a spot for him earlier in the season? 

Despite that bit of irony, the Rangers did learn that it is okay to trust young players with important ice time.  The development of Ryan Callahan and Daniel Girardi should help pave the way for Rangers’ management to have more faith in their younger players.

Congratulations go out to the Madison Square Garden crowd for their “Let’s Go Rangers” chant following the final buzzer.  It was as classy a move as is the Rangers salute at the end of games. 

At least Ranger fans can take solace in the fact they lasted longer in the playoffs than the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.

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