All good things come to an end

Game seven between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres went against the grain as it relates to the rest of the series.  The Flyers took control of the contest from the start of the game all the way until their 5-2 victory. 

The Flyers will move onto the Eastern Conference Semi-finals and their opponent is yet to be determined.  For the Sabres they have to take pride in their second half surge and new direction under Terry Pegula and company.  The Flyers were the better team for most of the previous six games and that seemed to culminate in Game seven.  Regardless of the injuries the Sabres sustained throughout the series it was unfortunate to see their season end so abruptly and harshly. 

Some thoughts on how things developed throughout Game seven:

Derek Roy should be commended for the heart and determination it must have taken to get to the point where he could play in Game seven.  He was initially told he would be done for the season and then maybe the second round of the playoffs where that thought seemed impossible for this Sabres team.  Nonetheless, Roy put the work in necessary to get back when the Sabres needed him in Game seven.  You could tell he did not have game shape which after being out for four months and dealing with a leg injury it is difficult to work yourself back into shape that quickly.  Fans should not judge him solely in regards to his performance and if Tim Connolly would have been healthy it seems uncertain if Roy would have played.

The Flyers were the much better team in each game and Ryan Miller was the reason this series and Game seven stayed close.  The Flyers put relentless pressure on the Sabres in the first period outshooting the Sabres 16-2 and creating numerous scoring opportunities. A late goal by Braydon Coburn off the face-off was deflected by Mike Grier past Miller.  The Flyers registered 36 shots and many of their earlier shots generated quality scoring opportunities. Miller’s first period performance helped hold them off the board until the Flyers broke through on that late first period goal with 20 second remaining.

Even though the Sabres won the face-off battle 37-34, Paul Gaustad lost two face-offs that led directly to the Flyers first two goals. 

The Flyers forecheck and the Sabres inability to clear their defensive zone hurt them considerably in this game.  It was a constant advantage that the Flyers enjoyed throughout the series and in Game seven they really capitalized on pressuring Miller and the Sabres.

Danny Briere had a fantastic series against his former team that was capped with a 1 goal, 1 assist performance.  He has scored 94 points in 93 career playoff games.  His departure is well documented, but it is hard to swallow for Sabres fans that a point per game playoff performer left town.  This series put the Flyers depth on showcase, especially at the center position.  His and Claude Giroux’s play carried the Flyers through difficulties in goal.

Drew Stafford is going to be an interesting component to this offseason.  Coming off a 30-goal season the forward played extremely well at times in the series, but failed to generate much on the score sheet (1g, 2a).  Where his value is set on the market is going to determine whether or not he stays with the Sabres.

Chris Butler’s regression through the series really hurt the Sabres, especially with the injury problems that the team faced with Jordan Leopold and Andrej Sekera. Hopefully the young defenseman can learn from this postseason and continue his growth going forward.

This game was more a reflection of how well the Flyers played as opposed to how poorly the Sabres played,.  The Flyers generated more offense, played a more sound defensive game and for the first time in the series played better on special teams.  The Sabres seemed overmatched and even overwhelmed by the emotion of the Game seven.  Turnovers early in their own defensive zone and shooting pucks over the Flyers goalie really hurt any potential chance of building momentum early.

Three Stars:

  1. Danny Briere (1g, 1a and proverbial pest all night)
  2. Claude Giroux (2a)
  3. James van Riedsmyk (1g and solid all around play)

Regardless of the outcome, if many Buffalo Sabres fans were told back in December that they would have the opportunity to compete in a Game seven in the first round of the playoffs they would have been completely happy with the chance.  While that is little condolence for the season being over there are many positives that can and should be taken away from the season including the new direction under new ownership.  There are many questions that management will need to address come July 1 and beyond, but fans should anticipate an exciting offseason and 2011-12 hockey season. 

Over the next weeks and months, we will take a look back on the 2010-2011 season as well as a look ahead to this offseason.

Twitter: @brianbund

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