Ten years ago this Spring, the Buffalo Sabres went on a magical playoff run. They were a fun team on the rise for the first half of that year but really had not put it together. No one seriously thought that they were going anywhere. Then they came out of the Christmas break and went on a serious run, finishing 4th in the conference and 2nd in the division behind the powerful Ottawa Senators.
In the first round of the playoffs, they faced their perennial nemesis, the hated Flyers(back when we still had a reason to hate them) and ground them into dust in six games. Who could forget Briere’s double OT goal in the first game? Or the 7-1 thrashing we gave them in game six?
Round two saw us take on the Sens, who were at the full height of their power that year. The Sabres were serious underdogs and with good reason. Game one, on 5-5-06(cinco de mayo) remains my all-time favorite game in franchise history. It was a seesaw affair the entire game, with the teams trading goals back and forth. With about a minute and a half left, Ottawa scored to go up 6-5(that damn smirk on Smolinski’s face!!!) and it was not looking good. But this Sabres team had no quit in em. With Miller pulled, Tim Connolly scored the tying goal with 10 seconds left to send it to overtime. Right off the opening face off of OT, the Sens turned it over, Grier to Captain Clutch, Drury buries it, game over. I could watch that entire game on an endless loop. I was in a local establishment that night and the place went bonkers. Strangers high fiving and talking into the night about this team. The Sens never recovered from the loss and we rolled over them in 5, capped off by this, ten years ago today:
I never gave much merit to the “Buffalo curse”. Until the conference finals against Carolina. Ten years later. Still too painful. A Staph infection? Are you kidding me? This was the best Sabres squad in franchise history. They should have won the Cup. They were by far the best of the four teams remaining. And then our entire defensive core got injured, not to mention losing Tim Connoly to a concussion which he never really recovered from. Even with all the injuries, we took em to 7 games. Sigh…
Ten years ago, I was fresh off of a divorce and still adjusting to my new life. I lived in a shitty apartment with shitty furniture and a nut job landlord. I was dead broke. I only got to see my kids three times per week and the guilt was difficult to live with. Life was hard. For a five week period in April and May, all that was forgotten. The city of Buffalo was Sabre crazy and so was I(okay, still am). That’s what sports can do for you when it’s at its best.