The Buffalo Sabres had an incredible year in 2005-06 when no one in the NHL universe thought they would. Let’s relive that special season.
Perhaps there was no better an example of a Cinderella team in the Buffalo Sabres 50-plus-year history than the 2005-06 squad. This was a team that faced +6,000 preseason odds to win the Stanley Cup, and it was a season where only the Washington Capitals, +12,000 odds, ranked below the Sabres.
To stack even longer odds against the 2005-06 Sabres is the fact that the NHL Lockout canceled the 2004-05 season just when it seemed the team was about to turn the corner following an improvement in 2003-04. However, despite the fact many NHL experts penned the Sabres as one of the worst, if not the worst, team in hockey, the lockout ironically helped this group.
The lockout gave what would become their core over the next several years the opportunity to play the entire 2004-05 season in the AHL. Guys like Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, and Jason Pominville, among others, comprised that group.
The 2005-06 Buffalo Sabres shocked the world and embarked on a deep playoff run that set the stage for the mid-2000s.
Coupled with the young players making an early mark in their NHL careers, Daniel Briere and Chris Drury served as co-captains, and they were arguably the best in team history. Tasked with leading the inexperienced but talented squad, they led the Sabres to a 110-point season.
Even more amazing is that this team struggled to find its footing in October and November 2005, compiling a record of 8-9-0 between October 5th and November 12th. From that point on, the Sabres finished 44-15-6, with an overall record of 52-24-6.
Their best stretch occurred between November 15th and December 30th, where they compiled a 18-2-2 record (38 points). They also enjoyed one six, one seven, and even an eight-game winning streak, plus five winning streaks of five games or more.
Want more fun? Their 281 goals ranked fifth in the league, and they finished tenth in goals allowed with 239.
However, what is a good season if you don’t win in the playoffs? Well, the 2005-06 Sabres won big, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in the Quarterfinals before cruising past the Ottawa Senators in the Semis. It wasn’t until the Conference Finals did the Sabres meet their match, but it took the Carolina Hurricanes seven games to finally end the Sabres run.
The Buffalo Sabres had many exciting teams over the years, but the 2005-06 group may have been the most entertaining. This was a group that experts wrote off in the preseason. And to add more adversity to the 2005-06 team, experts wrote them off again before the playoffs.
Buffalo proved everyone wrong that season and they came within one game from reaching their third Stanley Cup Final. This is one of the best and arguably the best team in franchise history.
Article Source: Sabres’ Most Heartbreaking Loss in Franchise History by Matthew Morris
(Statistics and historical data provided by Hockey-Reference)