April 17, 2013; Boston, MA USA; The Buffalo Sabres celebrate their shoot out win over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

What the Buffalo Sabres (and Their Fans) Should Take Away From the Stanley Cup Playoffs So Far

May 13, 2013; Boston, MA USA; A view of the Stanley Cup Playoff logo on the ice before game seven of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s put it out there: if you are a true fan of hockey, the first round of this year’s NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs exceeded even your most wild expectations.  Consider:

- three out of the eight series required a game 7 to decide which team would be moving on to the next round;

- one of those game 7s featured overtime, and the best NHL playoff comeback ever;

- there was an entire series in which every game was decided by one goal (Los Angeles – St. Louis);

- we had a series in which there were three straight overtime games, and four total (Anaheim -Detroit).

All in all, there were 16 overtime games in the first round, and 28 games that were decided by a single goal.  Exciting stuff . . . yet, I bet there were an awful lot of Buffalo Sabres’ fans who missed the fun, simply because the Sabres failed to make the playoffs this season.

That’s too bad, because there is a valuable lesson for the Sabres’ organization and its fans to learn by watching these playoffs: all bets are off once the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around.

 Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

People in Buffalo are worried about transforming the Sabres into a Cup contender; what they should be focused on instead is turning the Sabres into a team that can make the playoffs, because EVERY team that makes the playoffs is a Cup-contending team.  Look at the Los Angeles Kings last year: they just barely managed to squeeze into the playoffs as the eighth seed out West, and then they rode their super-hot goalie all the way to lifting the Stanley Cup.  And they managed to ride red-hot goaltending through the first round AGAIN this year, because everyone with a brain knows that St. Louis played the better series.

Consider the New York Islanders this year: they may not have won the series, but they were an overtime away from forcing a game 7 in a series that most people thought would be a cakewalk for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and we all know that ANYTHING can happen in a game 7 – isn’t that right, Toronto?  Too soon?  Deal.

How about Detroit and Ottawa – too old/too injured to make it out of the first round?  Not.  Both of those teams came in as 7 seeds, and both sent their heavily-favored 2-seeds home crying to mama.

Yes, the two heavily-favored teams, Chicago and Pittsburgh, are still alive . . . but if you were to tell me that these teams are invincible, I would be forced to ask you, “What chemicals are you nasally ingesting?”  I would not be surprised at all to see the too-old Red Wings vanquish the mighty Blackhawks, or the banged-up Senators cause the Penguins to come up empty-handed yet again.

And that is why anyone who cheers for the Buffalo Sabres need to change their perspective.  The path to the Stanley Cup is not some

humongous mountain that the Sabres have to scale; rather, it is a series of smaller hills that lead to a wide-open area where the sky is the limit.   If the Sabres can draft wisely, nurture their young talent, and make a timely move here and there when it comes to free-agents or trades, the playoffs will be within their grasp.  From there, let the unpredictability of the Stanley Cup Playoffs take over, and let the chips fall where they may.




Tags: Buffalo Sabres Nhl Playoffs

  • davidmuscalo

    First of all I am a Sabres fan and have been a Sabres fan since the beginning. I have seen many Sabres teams over the years – both good and bad. This year’s team though is worst team that has ever worn the blue and gold.

    You need to learn a lesson from the recent history of the Buffalo Sabres. You stated that any team that makes the playoffs has a chance to win the cup – not true. The Buffalo Sabres made the playoffs twice since 2005. Both times they had no chance to win the cup. Both teams had were not well coached, had no heart and lacked defensive talent, ergo, they had zero chance of winning cup or even advancing beyond the first round.

    The way for a team to win the Cup is to have talent, grit, good coaching and to peak just as the regular season ends. It also helps to have a solid goalie and mix of seasoned veterans and highly skilled youngsters. The current team that has all of these characteristics – except they have been a peak all season – is the Chicago Blackhawks and that is why they will win the Cup this year.

    • Richard Spalding

      Hi, David! I’ve been following hockey long enough to know that when the playoffs begin, everything on paper goes out the window. Did any of us predict LA would win the Cup last year? If we said yes, we’d be lying. There are no absolutes – no team that makes the playoffs has zero percent chance of winning, and no team is guaranteed to bring the Cup home. I know Sabres’ fans are frustrated – I am too. And the things you mention that a team needs to have to win – very true. My point is simply that the Sabres are not as far removed from being a solid playoff team as some may think. Anyone can argue against me, but that’s my feeling. The Sabres have always had good goaltending, and I believe the acquisition of Steve Ott begins to address the grit concern. Clearly the Sabres are not complete, but I have watched enough playoff hockey to know that a hot goalie and a hot team are enough to make teams you thought were lucky just to get into the playoffs win, and win often.