Tag Archives: playoffs

What the Sabres need is Zack Kassian

A lot has been made about what the Sabres need to do this offseason in order to make themselves into a Stanley Cup contender.  Essentially, all the fan sentiment revolves around two thoughts.  First, adding a top-tier center to most likely play on a line with Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek that is going to (hopefully) have perennial 80-90 point producers on it.  Second, adding a stay-at-home defenseman that will likely pair with Tyler Myers as the Sabres #1 option for lockdown pairing against opposing teams top lines.  Pretty simple to add the final pieces for a #1 defensive pairing and #1 line, no?  (Note: That last line was sarcasm)  Continue reading

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We’re all tied up

The series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo
Sabres has become a best of three heading back to Philadelphia.  The 1-0 victory on Wednesday night once again
was evidence of how closely matched these teams are.  The sellout HSBC Arena crowd was treated to a
spectacular performance given by Ryan Miller, who posted his second shutout of
the series.  The roller coaster that is
the NHL playoffs seems poised for at least a couple more turns.  Let’s take a look at the game.

Ryan Miller may not have had to be great in his Game 1
shutout, but he earned every accolade and piece of praise given to him after
his game 4 performance.  Despite a
relatively shaky opening period he kept Philadelphia off the score board and
elevated his game from there.  Miller
played with an edge to his game all night that included a jab to the face of
the Flyers Daniel Carcillo.  This is the
Ryan Miller that fans have asked to see on a regular basis.  Someone that is capable of bailing the team
out for their mistakes as he did on the third period stop of Danny Briere.  Briere received the puck in front of the net
all alone and despite his patient moves Miller stonewalled him with his glove
hand in a moment that should live on in Sabres playoff history.  The crowd erupted in its appreciation of the
play and Miller continued to carry the team to the victory.

What might be lost in the Miller-Briere save is how much of
a defensive lapse there was that allowed Briere to be that open.  The Flyers capitalized on a turnover by
Buffalo and as Miller pointed out in his post-game comments that Danny likes to
cheat a little bit and received an excellent opportunity to tie the game.  The play felt similar to the turnover in Game
3 that left Steve Montador to play a 2-on-1 against the Flyers.

The Flyers forecheck still seems to give the Sabres a lot of
trouble especially when you look at the last five minutes of the opening period
and almost the entire third period.  The
Sabres ended the game with 9 total giveaways.
The defensemen have to be stronger with the puck heading out of their
own zone to avoid setting the Flyers up for the easy opportunities they have
enjoyed this series.   The Flyers played
an excellent game and sustained a lot of pressure.  If not for Miller’s performance they would be
heading back to Philadelphia up 3-1.

It is tough to argue that Lindy Ruff wasn’t at least trying
to do something different against the Flyers.
He juggled the Sabres lines to an almost unrecognizable
combination.  However, what Ruff said after
the game made a lot of sense.  His intent
was to take his top scorers, notably Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford were paired
with players Lindy felt were working hard like Nathan Gerbe, Paul Gaustad and Patrick
Kaleta.  Opening lines were:

Gerbe-Connolly-Stafford

Vanek-Gaustad-Kaleta

Ennis-Niedermayer-Pominville

McCormick-Boyes-Grier

Lost in Ryan Miller’s performance is how well Brian Boucher
played for the Flyers stopping 28 out of 29 shots including one on Tyler Ennis
that allowed Philadelphia to stay in the game. The one goal that Boucher did
give up was an excellent play by Ennis to get the puck out front to Rob
Niedermayer who then passed it to a wide open Jason Pominville.  If he is able to continue to play like he did
in games 3 & 4 Flyers fans should feel much more comfortable with their
chances.

Tyler Myers is starting to play with an edge that you
wouldn’t expect a young player to display.
He had a tendency in game 4 to walk a fine line while at times cross it,
but when Myers plays with this type of mean streak you can see the potential he
has to reach the likes of Zdeno Chara, Scott Stevens, and Chris Pronger.  His continued development is going to prove
to be a catalyst for this team moving well beyond this year.

Tim Connolly did not have a very good game for the Sabres
and at times hurt both special teams units.
On the penalty kill he intercepted a pass on a nice defensive play only
to not get the puck out of the zone and create a scoring opportunity for
Philadelphia.  Until the potential return
of Derek Roy, the Sabres are going to need more out of Tim Connolly although he
did lead all forwards in ice time with 19:57.

Chris Butler led all players with 27:45 of ice time.  His development along with Myers should
provide Buffalo with a formidable blue line pairing.

The Sabres power play is now 3 for 19 in the season and
included a prolonged 5 minute power play that remained stagnant
throughout.  The Sabres got the 5 minute
power play on an elbow delivered by Mike Richards near the end of the second
period on Kaleta.  The NHL will surely
take a closer look at the hit and it could affect game 5.

At this point there appears to be a growing disdain from
each team as evidenced by the end of the game scrums.  Kimmo Timmonen’s ‘tap’ on Nathan Gerbe as well
as the numerous other shots back and forth in this series seem to be escalating
as the series heads back to Philadelphia.
The Sabres are in a position to take game 5 and head back home to close
the series out Easter Sunday in front of what should be a raucous home
crowd.  If the Sabres are going to take
game 5 they will need another good performance from Ryan Miller as well as some
offensive production.  At this point in
the series, it seems hard to believe that any team is going to run away with a
game so the Sabres are going to need to execute their game plan and take
advantage of the situations as they present themselves.  At the very least this Friday should be an
exciting game.

Twitter: @brianbund

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Game 3: Immediate Reactions

In a y pivotal game 3, the Sabres appeared to be a team content coming home with the split in Philadelpha while the Flyers possessed the determination and desperation to take back control of the series.  Now with the series 2-1 in the Flyers’ advantage, game 4 will present an opportunity to completely take control while the Sabres need regain their composure and not let this slip away heading back to Philly.  Long and short here are some thoughts about the game:

  • The Sabres forecheck didn’t create nearly enough pressure on the Flyers who seemed to be able to take the puck out of their zone with a lot of ease.
  • Conversely, the Flyers really stepped up their pressure in the second period and forced the Sabres hand, especially on the Briere goal on a good play by Hartnell. 
  • The Zherdev goal to put the Flyers up 3-1 was terrible defense.  Montador was left with a two-on-one that seemed to last forever allowing Richards to pick his spot and dump an easy pass to Zherdev.
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani led all Sabres with 23:51 of ice time.  It is hard to really see how next year will pan out for the Sabres, but you have to think he’ll be a part of the future.
  • Ryan Miller needs to be better than he was tonight.  He wasn’t terrible, but if he’s the rock of this team it needs to show up more consistently
  • The Sabres have too many “offensive” defensemen where their offensive production seems to not compensate for their defensive problems.
  • Although both had over 20 minutes of ice time, if Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford really want big time money this offseason I would like to see more from them offensively.  Connolly’s penalty killing is important and will bring value, but they are setting their market value for this summer.
  • Nathan Gerbe has been the Sabres best and most consistent player 5-on-5 and more so than Connolly makes Stafford’s price have a ceiling to stay in Buffalo.
  • Stupid penalties hurt the Sabres early with Kaleta’s poor decision and then there were still too many moments of questionable decision making.  Game 4 may be decided on the Sabres ability to maintain their composure.
  • The Flyers are so much stronger down the middle with Briere, Carter and Richards and it is showing how much the Sabres miss Derek Roy.
  • The Flyers defense played a real solid game in front of Boucher and minimized the Sabres attack
  • Did anyone else think the last ten minutes of the game seemed irrelevant to the Sabres?  They seemed to lack an urgency and had a lot of trouble generating any sort of rush.
  • The atmosphere inside HSBC arena was a disappoint
  • The atmosphere outside HSBC arena was a beautiful sight
  • Boucher taking off his helmet was unfortunate, but not malicious
  • I missed Doug Allen for the national anthem

There were a lot of different aspects that went into this game and could be broken down to every microcosm, but the Sabres seemed overmatched and outworked which is a bad combination going forward.  I expect Lindy to work them very hard on the off day and to come out extremely energetic in Game 4.  Not using the cliché of must wins, but the Sabres need to avoid putting themselves in a hole heading back to Philly.  The Sabres ‘stars’ need to elevate their game and carry this team to a victory and tie the series.

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Game 2 Reactions

First and foremost, the Sabres got the split that all fans hope for.  They’re coming back to Buffalo and need to take care of that business and correct some of game 2’s errors.  The tone of the series is set and now its a matter of playing composed solid hockey.  Here are some thoughts on the game:

  • The series is getting a little chippy, huh?
  • The five goals allowed were more a reflection of the defense and not Ryan Miller.  First goal was a beauty by Giroux and terrible defense.  The second goal Sekera was pushed out of position leaving Carcillo all alone to take advantage of.  The third and most questionable goal still dealt with Butler being left behind and essentially a 1-on-1 opportunity for Philly.  Yes Miller could have and maybe should have got it, you expect your Vezina winning goalie to make the play but I’m not going to pile it on him.  The fourth goal was the result of essentially what felt like a 10-minute power play and then the fifth was a fluke off Briere’s skate.  I seem to be justifying Miller, but I’m more point out the collective failure of the team.
  • The 1-0 shutout was more than Miller and the 5-goals allowed were more than Miller
  • There was only a little over 7 minutes of even strength hockey in the second period and it hurt the Sabres a lot, in more ways that the go ahead goal
  • Grier has played a pretty solid two games so far including the diving save that didn’t matter. 

  • Having the PK on the ice that long kept the Sabres best player, Vanek off the ice essentially.  For the second game in a row the penalties didnt allow the Sabres to utilize their lines properly.
  • Vanek=Beast
  • As Nick Mendola from 1230 Weck in Buffalo points out I’m officially not a Danny Briere fan and this series may end up nullifying his acheivements in Buffalo, or at least until the end of career. He’s a chippy little punk that makes it easy to not like him. 
  • Scott Hartnell is quickly becoming my least favorite Flyer
  • I thought Sekera had ups and downs in his first game back and don’t know what if any difference it would have made to scratch him
  • I thought Niedermayer actually had some quality shifts
  • Kaleta had a great game 1, but I thought he was a liability out there like many people thought he might be.  He was off his game and chasing people down to retaliate or hit them.  He and the rest of the Sabres need to play a much smarter game 3.
  • The Sabres played stupid and still had a chance to tie the game.  Stop taking stupid penalties and I like their chances still
  • The beauty of playoff hockey is when you win a game you don’t think you will ever lose again and if you lose you can only hope that you will bounce back.
  • Can someone explain the ‘anthem’ performace of the Flyers?  I love God Bless America more than the anthem, but the dual performance with a dead woman is weird.
  • Paging Tim Connolly, Drew Stafford and anyone else who wants to get paid this offseason….thanks

The Sabres have established their position in this series.  They need to come home and take care of game 3 and play a smarter game.  Keep letting Vanek get his opportunities and hopefully the second line can show up.   They’re playing good hockey, now they just need to be smarter.

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Flyers vs. Sabres primer

Sabres vs. Flyers Breakdown

Goalie:  Miller vs. Bobrovsky.  For the sake of this comparison we will leave Enroth and Boucher out of the conversation although it’s not crazy to think that either may see some time in net at some point.  Looking at the season stats comparing the two it would appear to be pretty close:

  Miller Bobrovsky
Goals Against Avg 2.59 2.59
Save % 91.6% 91.5%
Shutouts 5 0
Wins 34 28
Games played 66 54

 

All things consider when looking at these stats I think you need to take into consideration how these two have played down the stretch.  Miller had a fantastic March and finally seemed to help re-elevate his game back to 2010 form.  Meanwhile Bobrovsky and the entire Flyers’ goalie situation will be under a microscope for the first couple of games.  While the pressure is not square on the rookie’s shoulders, Buffalo would be wise to try and attack early and often to potentially rattle his confidence.  Nonetheless, even with the above mentioned stats you have to give Miller the advantage. Miller has played in 40 career playoff games compared to Bobrovsky’s zero.  In those 40 games Miller has a career 2.39 GAA and 91.7% save percentage and a 22-18 record.  I’ll take his experience and hope the late season Ryan Miller shows up.

Advantage: Sabres

Defense: If Pronger comes back healthy that negates any hope the Sabres may have hoped in having the best defensemen on the ice.  Pronger’s health and effectiveness need to be near 100% in order to get the most out of the Flyers defense.

Buffalo Sabres Philadelphia Flyers
Tyler Myers Chris Pronger
Andrej Sekera Kimmo Timonen
Steve Montador Matt Carle
Chris Butler Andrej Meszaros
Mike Weber Braydon Coburn
Andre-Gragnari/Morrisonn/Leopold Sean O’Donnell

 

The Flyers defense has outscored the Sabres 168-153 (using the top six scoring defense) and are a combined +101 compared to the Sabres +37.  This is the area of the Sabres game that they need to remain sound in game in and game out and not turn the puck over in their own zone and match Philly’s toughness.  If Sekera can come back to be healthy where the top 4 defense can be Myers, Sekera, Butler and (hopefully solid playing) Montador the Sabres can compete.  Myers needs to be a force in every game and will be looked to play a Pronger-esque series.  Needless to say this group has their work cut out for them.

Advantage: Flyers although not nearly as big if Pronger isn’t healthy

Forwards: I break this down looking mostly at quantity vs. quality.  I think many experts around the country will speak to the quality of talent that the Flyers possess and for those of us that have watched this Sabres team play all year know at least to some extent they will rely on at least 3 lines to give them production.  Each team has two 30 goal scorers (Briere and Carter vs. Stafford and Vanek).  Neither team has a player with more than 80 points, but both have 10 players with 30 or more points. The Flyers have four players with 60 or more points, including Briere.  There has to be some belief that Briere is going to enjoy going against the Sabres and there’s reason to believe from our past that he’ll deliver.

Much like on defense where Myers needs to match or exceed Pronger, I believe that Vanek needs to be near the best player on the ice nightly.  If he can continue with his play as he did down the stretch that will be the difference that the Sabres will need.  I personally like how this group of forwards are playing right now for the Sabres although in order for them to have an advantage at these positions in this series they are going to need to get continue production from Gerbe, Ennis and most specifically, number 19 Mr. Connolly.

In all, I think that the Flyers will maintain a slight advantage heading into the series, but production from the Sabres third and fourth lines can help take control of this series.

Advantage: Flyers, Slightly

Special Teams:  The Sabres have the 9th (19.4%) ranked power play compared to the Flyers 19th (16.6%) favors the Sabres significantly, but the greatest concern for fans should be that the Sabres have given up 13 shorthanded goals this year while scoring just two.  Conversely, the Flyers have only allowed 5 shorthanded goals while scoring 13 (Richards and Giroux both have 3).  The Sabres still maintain a slight edge on the man-advantage, but it needs to be astutely away of the Flyers in these situations and Miller is going to need to be a huge part of nullifying these opportunities.

While with the man down the Sabres and Flyers are near equals (13th and 15th) at 83% and 82.7% respectively.  The Sabres have been extremely efficient in killing off their penalties down the stretch and that needs to continue.  I think this is where Tim Connolly will need to make his presence felt on both the PK and PP.  If he can be a difference maker at some point, the Sabres will have the advantage.  Meanwhile, the Flyers will want Giroux and Carter to do the lion’s share of the work scoring while letting Briere and Mike Richards creating.  The Sabres need to not have a repeat of their special teams performance from last year’s series with Boston.  I like the Sabres performance down the stretch, especially on the kill to give them a slight advantage.

Advantage: Sabres

Coaching: Laviolette vs. Ruff.  319 career wins vs. 526 career wins. 34-26 playoff record vs. 54-40 playoff record.  For the sake of brevity, this is a push and as much as it may begrudge me to say if forced to pick I may pick Laviolette on paper, but Ruff is the coach I want.  He’s won 1 Stanley Cup and rode a hot spring to take the Flyers back to the Finals last year. Ruff has 1 Finals lost and 3 other conference finalist appearances.  I still think Ruff is a terrific game to game manager and knows how to push his team, but unlike many where Buffalo would enjoy this as an advantage, this is just too close to call.

Advantage: Push

X-Factor:

Sabres: Tim Connolly is the guy that the Sabres going to need to help elevate them to a team capable of winning multiple playoff series.  He’s on the top line for the Sabres and on both first units of special teams.  The Sabres first line has to at least match their level of play going forward and he needs to be at the top of his game on special teams.  The Sabres need to maximize their PP unlike last year, but I think other players can help there and Connolly’s presence really needs to be on the PK to not let the Flyers PP unit get hot.  Connolly staying healthy and playing well will bode well for the Sabres.

Flyers: Chris Pronger can be everything a Sabres fan dreams of Tyler Myers developing into.  He’ll log 30 minutes in a game if needed and play on both special teams units.  If he can be healthy and produce valuable close to 20 minutes a game for the Flyers it’ll be a tremendous upgrade. 

What it all means: The Sabres are one of the hot upset picks.  Based on their play since the turn of the calendar and the Flyers late season slump it is easy to see why many people like them to win.  It becomes a whole new animal in NHL Playoff hockey and I think most importantly for the Sabres is that players like Gerbe, Ennis and Myers got a taste of it last season, and a taste for losing.  If the Sabres are going to win this series it is going to need its best players to be their best players.  Unsung heroes help you through stretches in the regular season, but in the playoffs it is your best players that need to carry you. That means Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Myers specifically are going to need to help carry the Sabres past the Flyers. It would be nice to see Stafford, Gerbe and Ennis continue their play, but the playoffs are a time where legends manifest themselves and it is the three aforementioned players that are going to drive the Sabres success this spring.  If Pronger’s health remains questionable I like the Sabres in this series because of the Flyers goaltending concerns and the way that the Sabres lines are rolling.  I also think Miller has heard the rumblings and will be at his best in the series.

This postseason feels like it has the potential to be the start of something special for the Sabres based on the youth this team has and the new ownership.  It should be a good one.

Prediction:  Sabres in six

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Worst Sabres playoff memories….

Least favorite playoff moments….Sorry folks

5. 2007 Eastern conference finals – in its entirety

In the aftermath of the Rangers/Sabres series, it just never felt right to me heading into this series.  Ottawa seemed to have a huge ball of momentum that they rode into game 1 with a 5-2 victory.  Game 2 was the Sabres chance at saving grace to take back some the series to help alleviate my concerns and Briere’s last minute heroics here made me believe they would. Then Joe ‘Freaking’ Corvo hit the OT winner and it really felt like it was spiraling downhill there.  Sabres jumped out in game 4 and took it to the Senators to finally get on the board.  A friend of mine was getting married on game 5 and made one of the groomsmen shave his playoff beard and honestly within minutes of taking the last chin hair off Alfredson hit the game winner in OT.  Now I’m with Jeremy White of WGR550 that cave man or not when you start the beard you ride it out in its entirety.

4. 2000, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game 2: Flyers vs. Sabres

No goal 2.  Honestly, that’s all it is, but when you watched Hasek and his reaction to the goal it was irresponsible to at least not consider what he was saying.  It would not have taken much to fix the problem and because of it the league at least began more and more discussion about the expanded use of replay.  Needless to say, it didn’t matter to us at that point.

3. 1998, Eastern Conference Finals, Game 6: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

This top three is like a series of daggers to my heart. Joe Juneau’s slapper from the blue line was like Bon Jovi’s “Shot through the heart”.  I remember sitting in my living room and just feeling empty.  That Sabres team was a feel good team that was an upstart and watching Hasek in his prime. It felt like that team was on the upswing and really building something.  Although it ended abruptly in ’98 you had reason to be optimistic.

1b. 2006, Eastern Conference Finals, Game 7: Carolina Hurricanes vs. Buffalo Sabres

I’m going 1a and b because in a way this was as bad if not worse that ‘No goal’ because I definitively felt like the Sabres were the best team.  Defensemen getting hurt leading up and Jay McKee’s injury added to the pile.  A late 2nd period goal gave the Sabres the lead and Carolina came out early in third to tie the game back up. Then on top of all the injuries was Brian Campbell’s penalty in the first year of the delay of game for shooting it off the ice.  At that point there basically was 1 original top six defenseman on the ice.  On the ensuing power player a rebound dropped in front of the net and Rory Fitzpatrick decided to stand over the puck and let Rod ‘look at my nose’ Brind’Amour slammed home the eventual game winner. 

This game stung because you knew that if they got to the Finals that they would get some players back and be the favorite.  And now the everlasting hatred of Carolina remains prominent.

1a. 1999, Stanley Cup Finals, Game 6: Dallas Stars vs. Buffalo Sabres

My thought heading into this game was that if the Sabres could get back to Dallas for Game 7 where we would have the greatest goaltender in the world I would love our chances.  The game is well known and most of remember, but when the game got to overtime it just felt like the Sabres were going to win.  I really felt like they would.  Brett Hull put the puck in the net and my friend and I were on the phone (after putting a hole in my wall) screaming that he was in the crease.  It seemed surreal that again they didn’t at least check it.  They let the celebration take over and Lindy and all of Buffalo tried to get answers.  In Buffalo sports history this is way worse than Wide Right and Music City Miracle for me.  Wide Right was a miss and Music City Miracle is an enigma that I won’t get into, but this was robbery.  Whether the rule was stupid and changed AFTER the season or not the rule was the rule and his foot is blatantly in the crease.   So yes, a dozen years after the fact I still feel cheated and still feel like the Sabres were wronged.  The Sabres would have still needed to score a goal and still needed to win game 7, but they just weren’t ever given the chance.  Wrongly, and it still feels like crap.

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Top six Sabres playoff moments

Top five (well six) favorite Sabres playoff games in my lifetime

Preview:

6. Game 1, 2006 Quarters: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Buffalo Sabres

Danny Briere! Danny Briere! Buffalo wins it in Double OVVVVVERRRRTIME!

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.

Follow me on Twitter: @brianbund

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