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Drop the gloves during the playoffs with SI.com's writers in the NHL Cup Blog, a daily journal of hockey commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
12:31 PM ET, 5/30/06

Buffalo's ice cold wings

Posted by Allan Muir
The city of Buffalo is famous for its hot wings. If only Buffalo's hockey team could make the same claim.

Fighting through a cruel streak of injuries, the Sabres came thisclose to taking a 3-2 lead into tonight's do-or-die Game 6 at HSBC Arena. Outside of a pair of softies in Game 5, goalie Ryan Miller has been a rock in the series. The young defenders called up to replace three fallen regulars have performed as well as, if not better than, expected. And the center corps has rallied hard to compensate for the absence of the very dangerous Tim Connolly.

But those wings? You can't say there's much zip in their game.

JP Dumont, Maxim Afinogenov, Ales Kotalik and Jochen Hecht are the flankers on the Sabres' top two offensive lines. And in the trio of losses to Carolina thus far, the quartet has contributed exactly zero goals.

In fact, over much of the series, these wings look as though they've passed their Best By date. And when the Sabres look back at missed opportunities and blown chances that might have turned the tide against Carolina, too many of them involved those four players. Game 5 alone could easily have been a Buffalo win if only Afinogenov had converted a late breakaway chance or if Hecht had cashed in a gimme putt early in overtime.

That this group can be the difference-makers is evidenced by Game 3, a 4-3 Buffalo victory where the quartet accounted for a goal (the winner by Kotalik) and five assists.

During the regular season, Buffalo's wings chipped in 85 goals, slightly better than one per game among them. That might not sound like a lot, but one goal could tilt the balance in a closely-contested and low-scoring match. If this series is to return to Raleigh for the seventh game, this group will have to channel some of that pent-up magic into results on the scoreboard.

If they don't, the Sabres will have all summer to re-work their recipe for next season.


Posted: 1:47 PM   by Anonymous
Could you at least have named the right players in the picture? The player on the right is not Maxim Afinogenov - it's defenseman Brian Campbell!
Posted: 2:28 PM   by Anonymous
First of all, the picture headlining this story is incorrect. Maxim Afinogenov is not in the picture, your picture shows Brian Campbell Derek Roy and Ales Kotalik.

Other than that, I agree, Afinogenov and Hecht have done nothing, pretty much all post-season. Dumont has been okay for the most part, but not so much lately. Kotalik had a goal in game 3, but has otherwise also been quiet.

I want these Sabres to step up, they NEED to step up. And I really hope they will do it. This team has come so far this year and I hate to see them lose. I believe in them and think they CAN do it. And if they don't I still support them and am proud of what they have done this year. Here's hoping for a game 7.

Next time, be sure to verify your pictures before posting them, please!
Posted: 2:33 PM   by Anonymous
How about a little credit to Cam Ward for stopping those shots late in regulation and overtime. Maybe the sabres didn't score then because they couldn't.....
Posted: 3:14 PM   by JR
We here in the hockey page boiler room wish to apologize for mis-captioning the earlier photo. I could lay the blame on Getty Images for mislabelling the shot I chose, but it's my responsibility to recognize faces and know player numbers and catch mistakes. I go to penalty box and feel much shame. -- John Rolfe
Posted: 3:53 PM   by Anonymous
You are right on...you got the names right, and that's what matters
Posted: 3:53 PM   by Anonymous
After the season we've had it hurts to see our guns coming up short. In my opinion the loss of Tim Connolly has really hurt the team's ability to score, especially on the power play. Darn you Peter Schaefer. As a fan, I am getting frustrated watching Afinogenov as he's been nothing more than a novelty this series. If he could finish off the razzle dazzle with the puck in the net this would be a different series (even before his game 5 breakaway). Sitting here pre-game 6 I still think Buffalo can come back and win this series. We are due for an explosion of offense, what better time than now?
Posted: 3:59 PM   by Anonymous
Dead on right about the wingers. Afinogenov HAS to score on that breakaway and Hecht??? Ward gets credit for making great saves that frankly he does not desrve. Those players blew it and hit him with the puck. JP Dumont play has been all around abysmal. To the point where I would consider sitting him. YES that hooking call was crap, but it was largely the result of not skating. The second he stops moving and has the stick in the midsection where it gets pulled away, he is done.
Posted: 6:51 PM   by Anonymous
Man whats with all this discounting the sabres now. They lose the last game in overtime and all of a sudden its: COLD WINGS

Despite letting carolina come back in the last game, you have to admit sabres played ok despite numerous injuries. Yes they got blanked 2 games ago which didn't help but come on, give the sabres a little more credit here.

They've bounced back in games, they can do it in a series. I am excited to watch the game tonight and I hope they can tie it up and send it to game 7. Ruff knows how to get them ready for pressured situations so lets hope this is the prime example of what buffalo can really do when they have broken wings.
Posted: 10:36 PM   by Anonymous
Well well, game 5 Dumont gets the questionable hooking call in overtime and Stillman converts it to win. Game 6 it was Doug Weight's turn and now we're even. Danny Briere stepped it up big time tonight, and the line of Mair, Gaustad, and Pyatt was a wrecking crew out there. I'm glad I don't have a heart condition watching these games.
Posted: 10:41 PM   by Anonymous
Muir, you need to stop hating the Sabres. Get used to seeing them in the playoffs for years to come. Get used to the "Team" approach to winning that we see in the NFL with the Pats and the NBA with the Pistons work it's way into the NHL with the Sabes and Oilers.
Posted: 1:01 AM   by Anonymous
Looks like Dumont answered the call! We're going to 7!!! LETS GO SABRES!!!!!
Posted: 3:13 PM   by John Cimasi
In Western NY we do not refer the delectible deep fried hot sauce slathered chicken wings as "hot wings", we call them CHICKEN WINGS!

Why can't you guys from the national press get it right from time to time. :)

John Cimasi
Amherst, NY
Posted: 10:48 PM   by Anonymous
"In Western NY we do not refer the delectible deep fried hot sauce slathered chicken wings as "hot wings", we call them CHICKEN WINGS!

Why can't you guys from the national press get it right from time to time. :)"

Amen brother. But make that BUFFALO WINGS!!

-Kristen- Niag Falls & Blo NY
Posted: 9:35 AM   by Anonymous
Regardless of who wins tonight, this was the real Stanley Cup. The best hockey I have seen in a long, long time. These two teams are great to watch at both ends of the rink.
Posted: 12:24 PM   by Anonymous
you buffalo fans need to get over your team, the last time they made it to the stanley cup they got swept, and yes it was a perfectly good goal.
Posted: 2:28 PM   by Anonymous
How does losing a series in game six become "got swept"? And, according to the rules in 1999, the goal was not legal. Losing game six in overtime in such a way was a travesty of the sport!
Posted: 12:25 AM   by Anonymous
I would like to thank the sabres and the entire orginazation for a great year, and a great series, from round one to this heartbreaker..........ryan miller is going to be the next coming of future goaltenders.....I hope edmonton stomps carolina into the ice, mike peca deserves it after the 1999 "no goal"
Posted: 9:29 PM   by Anonymous
It was game 6 in 1999, they were not swept.