Monday, April 25, 2011

Will History Be Made?

Unless you have been watching the NHL Playoffs exclusively on the DVR and breezing through every single commercial (even I do not do that) or living under the rock, you have watched some of the 'History Will Be Made' commercials that the NHL is running to promote the NHL Playoffs.

Of course my personal favorite is the legendary Rick Jeanneret calling the Pat LaFontaine pass to Brad May for the OT winner to give the Buffalo Sabres an improbable sweep over the Adams Division Champion Boston Bruins in 1993, and forever cement Jenneret into Buffalo Sabres' lore with his now famous 'May-Day' call, which still gives me goose-bumps even to this day.

The Buffalo Sabres were founded in 1970 by Seymour Knox III and have been what I would call an 'slightly above average' franchise since its inception. The Sabres have made 2 Stanley Cup Finals, 6 Division titles, 3 Conference championships, and are a team that generally is in the playoffs or very close to it. Alas, there are three things that have eluded this franchise over the years: The first being Lord's Stanley Cup.

The other two things that directly apply to this series against the Philadelphia Flyers?

1, The Buffalo Sabres have never come back from a 2-1 deficit to win a playoff series

2. The Buffalo Sabres have never won a Game 7 on the road.

Now the typical Buffalo pessimistic fan in me will point to these two facts and say 'Well good season guys, how can we overcome this history?" Well from my memory, the Buffalo Sabres have only been involved in three Game 7's on the road:

1. 1991-1992 Adams Division Semifinals vs The Boston Bruins:

My three memories of this series was the outstanding play of Pat LaFontaine (who had 8 G 3 A in the 7 game series) and goalie Tom Draper played all 7 games, and Alexander Mogilny only played 2 games in the series . The Sabres pulled a 2011 Flyers that year and basically played 3 different goalies that season (Clint Malarchuk 30 games, Darren Puppa 26 games, and Draper 25 games). I believe that was the year Malarchuk had the gruesome injury and was unavailable, and Draper was a gamer, but the Sabres ultimately fell at the Boston Garden in a tough 7 game series.

2. 1993-1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs The New Jersey Devils:

You can say 'Dave Hannan' to any Buffalo Sabres fan and they will instantly know: 2am in the morning, Game 6 winner, 1-0 Final, back to where Jimmy Hoffa lives, and Dominik Hasek 70 saves. I recall staying up for that entire game watching on my 19' color TV and having an exam at 8am the next morning, dead to the world, but yet having the biggest grin on my face. But the Devils proved to be too much, as the Devils won Game 7 at home 2-1, and Hasek's brilliance was not enough to overcome what might be the best New Jersey Devils team never to win the Stanley Cup.

3. 2005-2006 Eastern Conference Finals vs The Carolina Hurricanes:

This one clearly stings the most. This series was the genesis of what is now an interesting rivarly between the fan bases of Buffalo and Carolina. A series that see-sawed back and forth, the resilient Buffalo Sabres, who were down 4 starting defensemen for this game (including Jay McKee, who had a staff infection flare up before Game 7 and was out for the year), took a lead into the 3rd period, only to watch Carolina come back and escape with a 4-2 win and go on to win a Stanley Cup.

So here we are. On April 26th 2011, the Buffalo Sabres travel to Philadelphia for yet another Game 7 on the road. This is the 7th matchup between the Flyers and the Sabres over the past 16 seasons. Those previous 6 series have been split 3-3, and this series stands at 3-3. Something has to give.

Both teams have been resilient. Credit the Flyers for not caving in yesterday when down 2-0 in the 1st, as they peppered Ryan Miller with 49 SOG including the overtime and eventually broke through against the Sabres net minder. Plus, the Flyers are playing without Jeff Carter. Chris Pronger has played 4 minutes, and they have used 3 different goalies. But yet here they are, going home for a game 7, with a chance to close out the pesky Sabres.

The Sabres are also dealing with injuries. Tim Connolly is out for Game 7 tomorrow in what I would describe as a vicious hit by Mike Richards. Sources have indicated that Colin Campbell will not suspend Richards for the Game 7 showdown, indicating that head shots are only a 'suspendable' offense when the NHL sees fit. Great job Colin! (NOT)

Despite this, if you ask Sabres fans privately, in an honest moment they will admit this might be a good thing, based on Connolly's woes in the NHL Playoffs as a Sabre. But we wish Tim all the best and hope he can return to the ice and get back to form.

Jason Pominville is out for the series, and now the Sabres will get back Derek Roy tomorrow, a player this team missed for 47 regular season games and 6 playoff games and had 35 points on 35 games during the regular season. But how effective can Roy be with such a long layoff?

Throw everything out the window tomorrow for Game 7. Throw away the injury excuses for both teams. Tomorrow is about guts. It is about execution. And for Buffalo, it is probably about Ryan Miller, who is 7-3 in his last 10 playoff elimination games.

Will the Sabres make it four Game 7 losses on the road in the team's 40+ year history? Will tomorrow night be just another moment in time for Buffalo Sports fans to forget? Will the Sabres blow a 3-2 lead in this series and send Buffalo fans towards more negative rants, and conjure up thoughts of Bret Hull 1999, Joe Juneau 1998 and Darius Kasparaitis from 2001?

Or can the Sabres take the next step from just being an 'above average' franchise and advance and have a chance to perhaps reach greater glory in these 2011 NHL Playoffs? And will tomorrow bring back memories of Derek Plante in 1997 vs Ottawa, a OT winner that yours truly saw live?

Will History Be Made? We can only hope.


Hasan said...

Good post. I can tell you're jumping off the walls for this one.

I usually find it near impossible to watch the playoffs once the Devils are out but if you guys junk the Flyers and their 9372-goalie rotation tomorrow it'd make it a whole lot easier to enjoy the rest of the postseason ;)

Derek Felix said...

I feel sick...

The Puck Stops Here


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