The Buffalo Sabres 2009-2010 season ended tonight in Boston. They were the losers of Game 6 of the best of seven first round series, and that loss closed the doors on only the sixth season where Buffalo were the champions of their division.
In many ways, this team had everything going for it. Third seed in the Eastern conference. Worked hard all year long to get there. They were 30-0-0 in the regular season with a lead going into the third period. (That means they were dominant.) They had the best goalie in the league for much of the year. (He was overtaken late in the year by the goalie who manned the pipes at the opposite end of the rink in this series, Tuukka Rask.)
But they came up short. Very short.
Now, usually when that happens to one of the higher seeds, it’s cause for tongue lashings and many calls by the fans for the heads of this player or that, or even the coaches and GM. But this series was really, very close. They were essentially all one goal games, with the only exceptions being Boston’s 5-3 victory (thanks to an empty net goal) and Buffalo’s 4-1 win—the only game where there was a 2-goal lead at the end of the game.
The goalies played great. The teams gave tons of effort. And each game was a battle throughout.
The Sabres wish they had a couple of second periods back. They wish they hadn’t given up two 2-goal leads. And, well, they wish they were playing in round two.
They are not. And here’s why.
The Sabres were zero for twenty-two on the power play. ZERO. You can not win with those numbers. In contrast, the Bruins were something like 6 for 22 for the series. By far, that was the advantage the Bruins were able to turn into a series win.
Add to that the inability of some of the Sabres’ key players to “step up” to the playoff level—really, to even regular season level—and help push their team to the next level. Players like Tim Connolly, and Derek Roy, and Drew Stafford, and even Raffi Torres. Players who had scored a good number of goals in the regular season, but who contributed next to nothing (or, actually, nothing) in the post season.
That’s also going to kill you, every time.
Players who did impress include, of course, Ryan Miller. He is the real deal, and will be for years to come. That’s awesome. Mike Grier was clearly the missing piece as he returned to the Sabres after two years in San Jose—two years that the Sabres did not make the playoffs. Of course, it apparently wasn’t quite enough. But he was fantastic.
The two Tylers were very impressive. Myers and Ennis both will be fixtures on this team, as well as perhaps Nathan Gerbe, who despite his (super) diminutive stature, was winning puck battles, hitting guys all over the ice—including 6’9″ Zdeno Chara!—and was rewarded with a goal in the final game.
Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman played well. Thomas Vanek even played really well while he was in there. (Was out for three and a half games.)
Overall, the Sabres really don’t need to be disappointed with their effort this series. Of course they wish they were still playing, but they, as a team, really did compete hard, and this season, they had grown accustomed to Ryan Miller being spectacular enough to pull out such close games in the end.
Sadly, his counterpart was equally (if not more) amazing.
Bruins advance 4-2. They’ll face either Pittsburgh or Montreal in the next series. (If Montreal beats Washington.)
As the Sabres advance to the offseason, it’s time to move on from a few experiments. Please, Sabres GM Darcy Regier, start moving these guys off the team. If you can find a willing partner, trade Tim Connolly, Derek Roy, and Drew Stafford immediately. If no one will trade, then cut them. Now.
Similarly (but oppositely) it’s time to re-sign Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman, Adam Mair, and Mike Grier. Bring in more scoring, and guys who know how to play in the playoffs like Boston’s Mark Recchi.
After all, isn’t that all that matters?
Where did our #3 seed season get us? An early offseason. That’s where.
The Sabres have a good team. They’re fun to watch. Cut away the dead wood. Prune the branches. And next year we won’t have to shave our playoff beards so early!!!