by Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
No need for consternation. Buffalo's day is coming.
It was a case of anguish, then euphoria, this past weekend as the Buffalo Sabres played back-to-back games at HSBC Arena. On the line was a chance to mathematically clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2007.
By the time the dust settled, the Sabres had the result they wanted, nailing at least eighth seed in the Stanley Cup playoffs and looking for even more.
But despite the buzz as people left the building Saturday after a big 7-1 win over Tampa Bay, to the strains of Perreault’s “The Wonder of You” and single game playoff ticket information on the video board, many were still feeling the sour taste of the previous night’s contest, a 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
Since the lockout, the Senators have built up a 25-6-4 record against the Sabres. Many of those losses have raised the frustration meter even higher, and one has to wonder if the Senators are now in the Sabres’ collective heads.
“Not so,” said Jason Pominville, who readily admits that these two teams don’t like each other much. Pominville scored the team’s second goal last Friday to close the gap to 3-2, but two goals were all the Sabres could muster. “We felt a lift on the bench and the fans got into it. From that point on we did play better, and Vanek had a breakaway and hit the post. I had an opportunity and hit the post. We had some good chances and they haven’t been giving up much lately.”
He added, “Every time we play them it’s a different day, but I do think at times we give them too much respect.”
Coach Lindy Ruff also downplayed any curse coming into play. “Special teams didn’t play well enough,” he said. “I was angry at the power play in general. That’s where the lack of compete came in.”
Can the Sabres figure out the Ottawa Senators? Should Sabres fans wring their hands in anguish if the two teams meet during the Stanley Cup playoffs, possibly even in the first round in a #3 vs. #6 matchup?
Recent history will serve as a good guide, and one need only think of one name—Roman Cechmanek.
Go back to the 2000-2001 season, when the Buffalo Sabres had all they could handle in the Philadelphia Flyers and their hot netminder. Cechmanek was unbeatable as the Sabres went 0-4 against Philadelphia during the regular season. Memories of the Sabres’ epic disappointments against the Flyers from their clashes in the 1970s quickly resurfaced, and many questioned if the team had the mettle ever to top the Flyers.
That question was quickly settled in the first round of the playoffs. It was the battle of the two Czech goalies, Dominik Hasek and Cechmanek. The Sabres took the first two games in Philadelphia, including a dramatic overtime winner in game two courtesy of Jay McKee. The Sabres split the two games at home, so it all came down to game six back at HSBC Arena on April 21, 2001. In that game, Buffalo scored eight times. Yes, 8-0 was the final score, and Cechmanek was chased from the net long before the game was over, never to be heard from again. Just like that, all thoughts of a hex from Philadelphia was forever erased, and almost 10 years later, the Flyers are regarded as just another team in the conference.
Can the Sabres top the Senators should the teams meet up? “Regular season and the playoffs aren’t the same,” said Mike Grier. “Whoever we end up playing, the slate starts clean, zero to zero.”
Buffalo and Ottawa meet up one more time, a week from Saturday at Scotiabank Place, and by then the division title should be wrapped up, and most likely the playoff seedings should be clearly into focus.
• Sabres trash the Lightning. News from Banditland is all good as team wins fourth straight in Rochester while eastern foes all fall. Actor James Woods is in the building, joining Tom Golisano in the owner’s box. Is it any wonder why there was electricity in the corridors at HSBC Arena this past Saturday?
• Tyler Ennis. The real deal.
• Playoff ticket information. Yes, there will be a limited number of playoff tickets available for public sale. Most of the 15,000 season ticket holders have committed to their seats, and team and league needs take another block of tickets. That means that approximately 2,000 tickets for each game are left for single game purchase. Club seats run $173 each, lower level $101-$158, and upper level $58-$86, and go on sale this Monday at 9am at the HSBC Arena box office, all tickets.com outlets, online at tickets.com, or charge by phone at 1-888-223-6000. Tickets for all four potential first round contests will be available. Taro will be frantically hitting “refresh” at the computer screen promptly at 8:59am.blog comments powered by Disqus
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