For the first five Eastern Conference finals games, the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres argued which team had the mental advantage.
Washington coach Ron Wilson and Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff were asked the same questions: Have the Capitals damaged Dominik Hasek's psyche? Have the Sabres been able to penetrate Olaf Kolzig's head?As the two teams prepared for Game 6 tonight in Buffalo, the Caps and Sabres were disagreeing on which bore the bigger burden.
"We have to go in there understanding the pressure is on them and try to end it," Cap coach Ron Wilson said. "If we can't, then we'll finish them off here Saturday."
"The pressure still isn't on us," Sabres forward Rob Ray said. "The pressure is still on them to close this series out. We have to go out there as relaxed as possible."
Actually, when it gets down to Game 6 in the Eastern Conference finals, there is plenty of heat on both teams. It will be the biggest game for either in years.
Washington has a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series and is looking to reach the Stanley Cup for the first time in its 24-year history. The Caps have showed a penchant for blowing 3-1 series leads - three times in five tries.
"What are you going to do, avoid a 3-1 lead?" Wilson asked. "I'll take a 3-1 lead any time. We have the best road record in the league. The pressure is still on them."
With wins in Games 2, 3 and 4, the Capitals became the first to beat the Sabres three in a row since Philadelphia last season. Philly also was the last team to beat Buffalo three straight at home. Both streaks ended in the playoffs.
The Sabres were lucky to win Game 5 after Hasek played one of his best games of the season and Jason Woolley scored with less than five minutes left in Buffalo's 2-1 victory.
Buffalo is criticized for being an average team with a great goalie. The Sabres played below average, and Hasek played above great Tuesday. While the Sabres gave up numerous scoring chances, Hasek stopped all but one.
His 34 saves included a few from his back. He stopped 52-goal scorer Peter Bondra twice on breakaways.
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