So far, the choke's on Sabres

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

Are the Buffalo Sabres choking or are they being choked to death? Probably a bit of both.

With a win at Scotiabank Place tonight in Game 4 of the Eastern final, the Senators can make the Sabres gag on their regular-season championship -- a title they earned with 113 points.

When the Sabres start their summer vacation, they'll realize that while players like Chris Drury and Daniel Briere have played below par, Buffalo is being beaten by a better team.

"The pressure hasn't been on us," said Senators centre Mike Fisher yesterday. "The focus has been on them and we've kind of just gone about our business. The focus has been on Buffalo all year in this conference and we're fine with that. We think we're a better all-around team.

"No, we didn't have the record in the regular season, but we know that doesn't mean anything come playoff time. We're just a different team. We've consistently gotten better all year."

For the first time in team history, the Senators have saved their best for last.

That hasn't always been the case in the club's decade in the playoffs and it's why the Sabres are on the verge of going through the disappointment Ottawa fans have faced in so many post-seasons.

"We're just playing really well as a team right now," said Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We just haven't given them as much time as maybe they had when I was watching one or two games against the Rangers. (New York) sat back much more and (the Sabres) had more time to make things happen.

"We knew coming into this series that we had to attack and take away their time and space. So far, we've been able to do a pretty good job of that."

No kidding. The most glaring area of concern for the Sabres is the power play, 0-for-18 in the series. The Sabres aren't getting many good chances ... and Senators goalie Ray Emery had to make just 15 saves on Monday.

"It was a great defensive game, probably the best defensive game we've played this year," said Emery. "We really shut them down and didn't give them much at all.

"We've done a good job because we've been able to play a defensive style, but we've gotten more offence because of it. When you do that, and put yourself in the right position, you're able to take advantage of the other team's mistakes. When they're gambling, you can make them pay for it."

"They're pressuring us hard," said Sabres winger Jason Pominville. "We don't have time to handle the puck. We can't even get set up."

Is it unfair to accuse the Sabres of being chokers after advancing to the third round of the playoffs? Maybe.

The Senators have certainly been labelled with that tag in the past so they can relate.

The Sabres were the highest-scoring team in the regular season with 308 goals, but they haven't resembled that offensive juggernaut so far in the playoffs.

"It just seems like a lot of their guys don't want it as much as we do, that's the feel I get out there," Ottawa defenceman Joe Corvo told the Team 1200 following Game 3. "It just seems like a lot of their players want to be loose and dangle and dance around and we won't allow that to happen."

Corvo is right and that's why the Sabres are sitting where they are this morning: On the verge of being bounced from the playoffs and then facing a long summer of wondering what happened.


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