tom hanson/canadian press


Sabres forward Derek Roy tries to show off his goaltending skills at practice yesterday. His team is facing elimination.


They were the most dominant team in the NHL during the regular season. No squad won more games or scored more goals.

Understandably, they were favoured to defeat the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Division final.

What the Buffalo Sabres are doing instead in this dreadfully one-sided series, though, is choking. It’s as if they watched the videotapes of all those gagging acts by the Senators in the playoffs during the past decade and decided that, for some inexplicable reason, they had to emulate Ottawa.

Like Buffalo really needs this, eh? Wasn’t the wide-right kick and the four Super Bowl letdowns from the Bills years ago enough punishment? Haven’t the countless snowstorms been sufficiently cruel? And the endless string of fires?

Is this embarrassing, can’t-do-a-damn-thing-at-all kind of collapse really necessary from the Sabres now?

The Sens are burning the Sabres to a crisp, leading 3-0 in the best-of-seven-series and on the verge of reducing Buffalo to mere toast. If the series doesn’t end in Ottawa tonight, it’ll be over on the weekend, and the Sens will be the newest Canadian entry in the Stanley Cup championship series.

(Oh, and the Americans aren’t exactly thrilled about this, you know. I heard some talking head on ESPN by the name of Jason Smith suggesting that the notion of the Sens on U.S. television in the Stanley Cup showdown appeals to the Americans less than would a program that would teach them how to boil water. But I digress.)

So what’s happened to the Sabres?

They were the only team in the NHL that was not shut out during the 2006-07 season and yet they were blanked 1-0 Monday night in Ottawa. They are 0-for-18 on their power plays against the Sens in this series.

What’s stopped them from scoring?

“Pressure is the biggest thing,” Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “The best teams pressure a lot. They don’t give the power play a lot of time.”

Sens centre Mike Fisher added: “We’ve been hungry. The Sabres haven’t had a whole lot of space to work with because we’re playing hard and going right after them. We’ve frustrated them and limited their time with the puck.”

And now the Sabres’ time in the post-season is limited. In fact, it’s just about done.

A win for the Sens tonight means they can sit back and relax as the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks battle each other in what presumably will be a considerably longer series in the Western Conference final.

Then let the rest-versus-rust questions begin.