Top five (well six) favorite Sabres playoff games in my lifetime
6. Game 1, 2006 Quarters: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Buffalo Sabres
This game is a memory for a variety of different reasons for me. One is more of a light hearted reason that it was the day that my wife asked me to meet her family and I told her ok, but that there was a playoff hockey game that I needed to watch. She said that was fine and her family would watch it with us and I said the games are normally no more than 2 ½ hours usually. Off course the game went into double overtime and I’ll always be remembered by her family for using profanity relatively loosely the first time I met them, albeit unintentionally.
Secondly, the game meant that playoff hockey was back in Buffalo after a five year hiatus and the team was FUN to watch. REALLY FUN. This game is remembered by the Brian Campbell hit on RJ Umberger and then Danny Briere’s game winning in OT. The Sabres had blown a 2-0 lead in the game, but none of that mattered after Briere’s one timer in OT. Sabres win and the start of that magically spring began.
5. Game 7, 1997 Quarters: Ottawa Senators vs. Buffalo Sabres
Are you ready LEGION OF DOOM?!
The Sabres hadn’t won a playoff series since the 1993 May Day bonanza (See below) and the Sabres were in the middle of the Hasek era. The problem was that Hasek wasn’t able to play and the team was playing with Steve Shields in net. This is the series where the Ottawa rivalry started and began its infancy. For the Sabres fans of today concerned that this team doesn’t have enough Batmans or Supermans (sorry Joe @ Buffalo Wins) go back and take a look at this roster minus Hasek. They did win the division that year but the top point getter had 53 points in Derek Plante and top goal scorer Donald Audette had 28 goals. This game seven is always remembered as the Derek Plante’s performance and I look at it as the series that eventually propelled their success in ’98 and ’99. Steve Shields stopped 25 out of 27 shots and the Sabres won their only game 7 in franchise history.
4. Game 4, 1993 Quarters: Boston Bruins vs. Buffalo Sabres
May Day! May Day! May Day!
In reference to the above mentioned team this team had TALENT. Lafontaine, Mogilny, Hawerchuck along with the addition of some good role players. The Sabres hadn’t won a playoff series in a decade and had lost in the playoffs to the Bruins five times in the previous 11 years. And to add to that the Sabres had lost their last seven heading into the playoffs. None of that mattered and after taking the first two in Boston the brooms came out in game 4 and RJ’s famous call in a series that featured three OT games.
3. Game 1, 2006 Semis: Ottawa Senators vs. Buffalo Sabres
These guys are good….Scaaaarrrryy Good
I am not meaning to only refer back to OT games, but I guess the bring memories and feelings back unlike other games. For most Sabres fans the 2005-2006 is a remarkable time in our lives and heading into the playoffs it felt like the Sabres had nothing to lose and after beating the Flyers in six it felt like playing with house money. Of that season this is the only playoff game I worked in what could be argued to be the least productive shift of waiting tables in history. The game was one of those roller coasters that doesn’t seem to have an equal. 13 goals scored in a back and forth game typically do that. It seemed hopeless at the end with the flurry of goals scored. Roy tied the game with 1:39 to go on a 2-on-1 shorthanded that was well played by Connolly only to have Ottawa come back and take the lead back less than 30 seconds later to seemingly deflate me. Then as they did all too often that season the Sabres scored with 10.7 seconds remaining in a scramble out front that Connolly finished. Then OT started with an awful give away in their own zone and then Mr. Clutch Chris Drury drove Grier’s pass home.
2. Game 6, 1994 Quarters: New Jersey Devils vs. Buffalo Sabres
Dave Hannan!! Dave Hannan!!
This could easily be my number 1 had I not personally been present for #1. As a kid I remember this quadruple overtime game with a lot of love and the real beginning of the Domink Hasek era. His 70 save performance in the 1-0 game was arguably the greatest performance I ever watched and seems to go unnoticed within hockey and is rarely talked about. Dave Hannan’s goal took the Sabres back to the place where Jimmy Hoffa is where the Sabres eventually lost the series. I’m not sure if it’s because I was a kid or not but I remember it feeling the game went way late in the night (as probably most 4-OT games do) and remember my mom coming downstairs to yell at me to go to bed. To me this game epitomized the love of playoff hockey and how in Buffalo there is nothing like having the Sabres playing deep into the spring.
1. Game 5, 2007 Semis: New York Rangers vs. Buffalo Sabres.
BUFFAAAAALOOOOO SCOOOOOOORES!!! CHHHRIS DRUUUUUUUURY!!
For anyone that was at this game I can’t imagine, cannot imagine a game where at the end of the day there was more jubilation and excitement in HSBC arena. They had the party in the plaza rocking and that place was INSANE. I remember calling my friends on the way out side of the arena and the ‘LETS GO BUFFALO” chant was deafening. Friends had that as their ring tone for months. I still have monstrous goose bumps upon goose bumps just thinking about this game. As thrilling as it was it is amazing what a turn of events it was. Lundqvist played out of his mind up until Drury’s dramatics with 7.7 seconds left stopping 36 out of 36 shots. The Rangers had taken the lead with a little less than five minutes remaining in the game where the Sabres had outplayed them. It was game 5 with the series tied and heading back to New York. A loss would have potentially been the end of the Sabres. Based on that season it amazed me that I ended up seeing groups of fans leaving with less than a minute left.
The Rangers had iced the puck with 17 seconds remaining and the most important part of the play (minus where they actually score) was the fact that Drury actually won the puck in the corner after not winning the draw cleanly. I was at the opposite end of the ice when Drury scored the goal and I’ll never forget the sight of HSBC area with waves of blue jumping ferociously as I began to hug, not high-five, HUG people around me (including my wife). Complete strangers were brought together in that moment. When the game headed into overtime it just felt like the Sabres would win, but I never thought it would be Afinogenov to drive a low, hard slapper to secure the deal. He had been a DNP the game before, but he delivered with that shot from the point and most of us vividly remember his triumphant slide at center ice.
I’m not sure where this game ranks for those of you who did not attend it, but for those of you that like me were there I can’t imagine a better memory.
Disclaimer: I apologize for the relative newness of these games but I kept them to games of my memory.
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