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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.
12:32 AM ET, 6/02/06

Blame it on the Sabres' power play

Posted by Allan Muir
My phone rang seconds before Rod Brind'Amour scored the power-play goal that gave the Hurricanes the margin of victory over the Buffalo Sabres in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. The area code was 716.

"If this penalty costs us the series, I'm gonna kill someone," my friend from Buffalo fumed. "Either that ref or Brian Campbell."

The "death threat" was exaggerated of course, but you can understand the frustration of a fan on the verge of seeing his team ousted. I didn't say anything at the time -- who wants to talk on the phone in the middle of Game 7? -- but his frustration was completely misplaced.

You can't blame referee Paul Devorski. There was no discretion on that call. When Campbell, under pressure, flipped the puck straight out of the rink in the defensive zone, a trip to the box was automatic.

Don't blame Campbell. It was a mistake, sure, but it also was a fluke. Probably 98 times out of 100, that flip bounces harmlessly off the glass and out of the zone. A tough break, but hardly reason to fit him for the goat horns.

Don't blame the rash of injuries that left Buffalo short five regulars, either. Every team deals with them this deep in the playoffs, and while the Sabres had more than their share, they weren't alone. The Hurricanes have made do without their second-leading scorer, Erik Cole, for the duration of the postseason, and the chemistry he shares with Eric Staal was clearly missed.

So if you have to place the blame somewhere -- and everyone in western New York state is doing that right now -- blame the Sabres' ineffective power play. The difference in this closely contested series was defined by how the teams responded to their opportunities with the extra man.

While Buffalo was one of the best power-play teams during the regular season -- it ranked third at 21.2 percent -- it stumbled along at less than 16 percent in the postseason, and was just 6-for-34 in this series. While that number might not look too bad on the surface, the reality is that the Sabres failed to cash in when it mattered most.

Through the first three games, at which point the Sabres held a 2-1 series edge, they were clicking along at a 5-for-17 pace.

Over the final four contests, they were just 1-for-17, including 0-for-4 in the deciding contest. Given one final chance to tie the game on a late third-period power play, they couldn't even muster a shot on net. Meanwhile, the 'Canes were 4-for-17 over that same span. Three goals better, and two of those were game-winners. That's why the 'Canes got to four victories first, and why the Sabres will spend the summer agonizing over so many squandered opportunities.


Posted: 1:40 AM   by Anonymous
So...the Sabres lost because of their powerplay? And that lack of production on the powerplay had NOTHING to do with the loss of 5 key players? And the Canes effectiveness on the PP had NOTHING to do with Buffalo missing 5 key players to kill the penalty?

Im not looking for excuses or even saying the Sabres lost because they were missing 5 important players. But you fail to recognize that they lost 4 of their top defensemen. You make it sound like they lost a player here and there on various positions and compare it to the loss of ONE Carolina player Eric Cole. How does it even compare? Now, it's no excuse to lose and injuries happen, but you cannot deny that the injuries were unbelievable. It was the Carolina offense versus the Rochester Amerks defense!! AND THEY ALMOST PULLED IT OFF!!

The rest of the team stepped up and forced a game 7 playing with kids from the minor leagues! Yes they lost. But they deserve all the credit in the world for doing what they did. Had the Canes played a healthy Sabres team, imagine what would have happened!!

You fail to recognize, as everyone else has the entire year, what the Sabres accomplished this year.

Im a proud Western New Yorker, and I assure you, I am not "placing the blame" anywhere because I am EXTREMELY proud of this Sabres team for what they have accomplished and how they did it. I am saddened that the ride is over and it hurts like hell, but I am not complaining or looking for someone or something to blame.

The Sabres played their hearts out all season and post season long. They got farther than anyone (with the exception of the fans) thought they would get and it all came down to one game. I have never been prouder to be a Sabres fan.

GO SABRES!!!!!!!!!!

-K- Western NY
Posted: 3:42 AM   by Anonymous
As much as I'd like to believe that this is true, that the Sabres dominant power play failed them, the much reported decimation of the backline cost the team the series.

Too often, the Canes pressured the Sabres again and again in the offensive zone in Game 7, with the replacement defensemen one step too slow. Even Lydman and Campbell looked winded in the second period.

You can blame the power play, you can blame the goaltending, but it still was the fact the Sabres lost FOUR of their six starting defensemen that Game 7 was lost to the Canes.

The better team did not necessarily win so much as the healthier team won.

But, kudos to Paetsch, Janik, Jillson and Fitzpatrick. You guys absolutely played your tails off. You'll all be back sooner than you think. The Sabres are a team built on courage and resilience, and overachievers or not, you can bet they'll be back here next year.
Posted: 7:57 AM   by Anonymous
How can you question the power play and not take into account the injuries? Tim Connelly and at least two of the four injured defenceman were key contributers on the power play. I know Eric Cole is a great player, but he is one player versus the loss of five starters, four from one position.
Posted: 8:07 AM   by Anonymous
Its nice to see someone give some credit to the Hurricanes for once. The media has shown very little repect for a very good team.
Posted: 8:18 AM   by Anonymous
Well I think it is hard to point at just one thing. Also you are trivializing the injuries the Sabres had - I mean losing Connoly may be comparble to Cole for the Canes. But saying the Cane's had to deal with the injuries the Sabres did is shear bologny. The Canes were not without FOUR starting defensemen - period.

Second, because you fail to recognize the devasting blow the loss of four defensemen caused the Sabres, I suppose it would impossible to convince you that those same defensemen were KEY FACTORS IN THE SUCCESS OF THE SABRES POWER PLAY ALL SEASON LONG!

Now what I would say about the Sabres - and it is hard because this is one of the gutsy teams this city has ever seen - but they had some players that were hot and cold in terms of finishing. They had others like Maxim that could not finish at all.

But overall, the Sabres got beat by a better team - period. The Canes are the better team on paper - albeit, probably not quite as well motivated by their coach as Ruff was able to do with the Sabres.

And in usual Buffalo fashion whenever the curse strikes, I'll just say....there is always next year....and this time - with this team of gusty warriors as the core - I actually have myself believing the Sabres can take it all next year!
Posted: 8:25 AM   by Anonymous
On one hand I agree Adam - the powerplay did not have it. But dont blame injuries? Are you kidding? Take Buffalo's best offensive forward out and 4 OF THEIR TOP 5 DEFENSEMEN and let them play a great Carolina team??? Take those players off Carolina and its a landslide win for Buffalo. Check the Sabres goal production in the playoffs before Connolly went out, and then after, and you'll see what he meant to this teams offensive production.
Posted: 8:40 AM   by Anonymous
The sabres were down 4 of their top 6 defensemen and Connolly. No team can survive starting 4 AHL players on defense in a final. So having Cole off of the Canes roster is the same as having to play 4 AHL D? MacTavish already is quoted as saying the healthier team won. Show them some respect for forcing a game 7 and then giving the canes everything they could handle. They were likely the best team this year (same amount of wins as Ottawa and Car.) Unfortunately they paid the price to win with too many injuries.
Posted: 8:44 AM   by Anonymous
Just out of curiosity, but don't you think that the Hurricanes were a little more succesful on the power play as a result of Buffalo losing 4 of thier top defensive men?

It seems to me that they were one of the better PP killers during the regular season, so when you remove them it only makes sense that that aspect would suffer.

Given that thought, it seems to me that Buffalo was a much better team that Carolina, because they not only hung in there, but could have one it if it werent' for a few stray bounces - and this was froma team playing a bunch of backups from the minor leagues! Doesn't speak much for the opposition knowing that it took them a full seven games and a few lucky breaks to beat them. They have their work cut out for them in the Stanley Cup Finals

Go Oilers!
Posted: 9:01 AM   by Anonymous
I like how you casually dismiss the injury point. As if dealing with the loss of Cole is equivalent to losing Connolly, Kalinin, Numminen, Tallinder, and Mckee.
Posted: 9:02 AM   by Anonymous
The Canes lost a great forward in Cole.

The Sabres also lost a great forward in Connolly...

the difference is that the Sabres also lost their top 4 defensemen, including the league leader in blocked shots (McKee) and their 2 top point men on the PP.
These men were replaced by inexperienced AHL players

This series was a close, hard-fought battle between two great teams that ultimately came down to a flukey power play goal late in the last period.

It's convinient to dismiss talk of the Sabre's injuries as sour grapes or whining, but you would be a fool to believe that a brutally undermanned Buffalo team wouldn't have faired better with a full squad.
Posted: 9:07 AM   by Anonymous
How can you compare the loss of four starting defensemen and possibly your best playmaking center to the loss of Erik Cole? No doubt, Cole is an excellent player but that's not even close.
Posted: 9:11 AM   by Anonymous
Every playoff team deals with injuries? What playoffs are you watching? Show me a team in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs that has had to make do without 4 of the team's top 6 defenseman and one of its top 3 offensive players.
Posted: 9:23 AM   by Anonymous
Before declaring Carolina the better team, lets see how they would have done without 4 defensemen.Cole was out, too bad, Tim Connerly was also out.So get your facts straight.
Posted: 9:23 AM   by Anonymous
What an idiot !!!
The power play wasn't as costly as losing 4 out of your 5 best defensmen.
Posted: 9:31 AM   by DV
Of course (especially in game 7), Carolina's penalty-kill was pretty darn good. I did notice that every time Buffalo had a power play (and even sometimes even-strength), they seemed to pass up shots that could have been taken, as if they were waiting for that "perfect" shot on goal, which many times didn't end up happening. Carolina had no qualms about throwing pucks on net.
Posted: 9:36 AM   by Anonymous
Your equating Buffalo's injuries (Numinen, Connolly, McKee, Kalinin, Tallinder) with that of Carolina's (Cole) is absurd. If you truly believe that Buffalo's injuries were not the primary factor in their loss of game 7, then your knowledge of the Sabres and of Hockey in general is suspect. In your analysis of the Sabres power play, you fail to consider the effect of those injuries. Connolly, Tallinder, and Kalinin were regular contributers to Buffalo's exceptional powerplay during the regular season and the playoffs. Clearly the absence of those players had an impact on the powerplay during the series with Carolina.

Philadelphia, PA
Posted: 9:36 AM   by Anonymous
I dunno man, you can't totally discount the injuries. True, every team has to deal with that, but the heavy toll particularly on defensemen that the Sabres suffered was clearly atypical. I know, that's just part of sports, but I can tell you a lot of heads were already hanging low here in Western NY when the news came in about McKee early yesterday afternoon. It's one thing if your best defenseman is replaced by your 2nd-best defenseman the day before the big game -- it's another thing entirely if arguably the best defenseman in the league is replaced by a rookie called up from the minors. That's a big ouch.
Posted: 9:39 AM   by Anonymous
How would the Canes have done without four defensemen and Eric Cole? Really now, is losing Eric equivilent to losing Connolly plus Tallender, Numinium, Kalinin and Mckee in game seven. Power Play was poor, yes but the Canes would never have made it to game six with the same player loss
Posted: 10:02 AM   by Anonymous
are u really going to compare losing Cole to Tallinder/McKee/Numminen/Kalinin/Connolly?????? cmon thats ridiculous
Posted: 10:02 AM   by SabreMark
I agree with your contention that the power play was atrocious, particularly last night, but for you to argue that somehow missing your 4 top defensemen (you didn't even mention missing Connolly) was equivalent to the Canes missing Cole is a joke. Cole for Connolly is an even swap. Had the Sabres had Connolly, I guarantee the PP would have been much better.

For you to claim that missing those four Dmen is not to blame is just crazy. It's the craziest thing that you've wrote since you said that Tim Thomas (where is he now?)deserved to be on the Olympic team ahead of Ryan Miller.
Posted: 10:17 AM   by Anonymous
This isn't really germane to the post by Allan Muir, but as a Hurricanes fan I wanted to say thank you to Buffalo for having such a great team. I don't think injuries did you in at all. The team you had played some of the best hockey I've seen all year and it's hard to imagine what they could have done better. The PP is to some extent a matter of luck; and Carolina's PK is getting better as the plaoffs go on.

Anyway, you have nothing to regret. That was a fantastic series, a great, young team, and I don't think the Finals will be even half as exciting. I sincerely hope Carolina and Buffalo are paired on the schedule a lot more next year.

Maybe the Hurricanes can watch the tapes of this series over the summer and try to capture even a fraction of the guts, intensity, and skill the Sabres showed. What a team!
Posted: 10:28 AM   by Anonymous

While I agree with you that the Power Play can be blamed for the series loss your comment that every team deals with injuries, and comparing the loss of Buffalo's top four defensemen and best playmaker to the loss of Erik Cole, is forced, sad, and pathetic. Come on man, your better than that.
Posted: 10:29 AM   by Anonymous
Yeah you and your queer frosted hair are right. Teams always lose three of their top four defencemen and their most skilled player during playoff runs. The power play was bad but if you had any knowledge of this sabre team you would understand how vital guys like connolly, teppo, and kalinin were to the units success. I would not expect you to though because once again another memeber of the media shows they know little to nothing about the Buffalo Sabres
Posted: 10:31 AM   by AC24
What is your take on the ridiculous rule that makes that an automatic penalty?

As much as I like most of the rule changes this year, I knew that rule would bite the league in the butt at some point in the playoffs.

Not a Sabres' fan, but it is absolutely ridiculous that a penalty HAS to be called on such an innocent play! No way in the world that he was putting that out of play on purpose.

NHL needs to change that rule to make it ref's discretion...otherwise, the fact that they are called a joke will continue, in spite of the strides they made this year.
Posted: 10:33 AM   by Anonymous
The NHL is doomed! This will be a ratings disaster.
Posted: 10:37 AM   by Anonymous
The big problem for this team in the playoffs was losing Connolly.

His linemates, Max & Al, definately suffered without his playmaking ability.
Posted: 10:41 AM   by Anonymous

YOUR CAREER IS A SQUADERED OPPORTUNITY! Everything you write is ridiculously uninformed. The assumptions you contrive are as absurd as your haircut!!
Posted: 10:47 AM   by Anonymous
Staal's chemistry is so off that he is just leading the playoffs in scoring...

The Sabres lost simply because they ran out of gas...the injuries to the D altered the entire game plan.

And GM Regier was in a tough spot at the trade deadline. There aren't many teams looking to trade away stalwart defensemen, so I think he got a good deal in moving Noronen while maintaining the chemistry of the team, which was one of their best qualities.

It was a good year that proved that Rochester is doing a great job as a farm club. This experience should propel them for next season. And I am proud they stuck by the "No Excuses" motto!
Posted: 10:48 AM   by Anonymous
Wow, these are some ignorant comments. This series would never had gone to 7 games had the refs call the blatant takedown that allowed Buffalo to score the winner in game 6.

Fact of the matter is the defenseman have little to do with the effectiveness of your power play. Furthermore to compare the loss of Tim Connoly to Erik Cole is absurd. Cole scored 30 goals in 60 games and had a plus minus of 19.

In 63 games, Connolly had 16 goals and 55 points. Both less than what Cole did in 60 and a plus/minus of only 5.

Cole was the Hurricanes best player period. The bottom line is that injuries happen. It's Life. Get over it.
Posted: 10:48 AM   by Anonymous
All NHL games are ratings disasters. No one cares. Thats why the playoffs are shown on a hunting and fishing channel.
Posted: 10:52 AM   by Anonymous
If you would like to write something useful please see if you can get us an update on Connolly's actual condition, as a fan I'm worried about the guy. No doubt his creativity both even strength and definitely on the power play were a huge factor in the inability to score. Nobody is denying that our Power Play was atrocious, this isn't news to anyone. I'm still really proud of our team, and nothing you can write is going to change my mind.
Posted: 10:53 AM   by Anonymous
You are a writer?! Do you follow hockey? Cole does not equal Connolly, Numminen, Tallinder, Kahlhinin and McKee. You don't think those guys affected the Sabres power play? In addition, Eric Cole was lost to the Canes months ago, they had time to adjust. The Sabres lost these four during the playoffs......catch a clue...simpleton
Posted: 10:57 AM   by Anonymous
Miller had to hold himself back in the post game interview so he didn't get "bleeped" out !! I agree the rule sucks in this type of situation. It was obvious that Campbell was not attempting to delay the game (which is the essence of the rule), rather he was merely attempting to get the puck out of the zone when the pressure was on. Putting him in the box at such a crucial time of the most crucial game in recent Buffalo Sabres history is nothing less than a crime. Shame on the NHL for not allowing "discretion" on this rule....but we have to live with it this year.

Next year, the NHL should implement a rule that if a puck hits two consecutive opposing players (outside of the goalie) prior to going in the net, its not a goal! Things may have been different if that rule was in place, huh?

Posted: 10:58 AM   by Anonymous
Miller had to hold himself back in the post game interview so he didn't get "bleeped" out !! I agree the rule sucks in this type of situation. It was obvious that Campbell was not attempting to delay the game (which is the essence of the rule), rather he was merely attempting to get the puck out of the zone when the pressure was on. Putting him in the box at such a crucial time of the most crucial game in recent Buffalo Sabres history is nothing less than a crime. Shame on the NHL for not allowing "discretion" on this rule....but we have to live with it this year.

Next year, the NHL should implement a rule that if a puck hits two consecutive opposing players (outside of the goalie) prior to going in the net, its not a goal! Things may have been different if that rule was in place, huh?

Posted: 11:07 AM   by Anonymous
Comment: Miller and Ward were "rookies" experiencing their first big time action and they were arguably the most valuable players for their team the entire series..... talent is talent, no matter where you find it... the Sabres have no excuse about having to play "AHL" players in the NHL and that is why they lost.

The point that I am making is that the Canes and Sabres both played 6 a side at all times (sans penalties) and they played spectacularly at times and poorly at times - but I would not blame the missing defensemen or the missing Erik Cole for the uneveness of their play... it can be blamed more on the style of hockey that they play - a good system that relies on players doing their part for the team, hustling with all they have and taking advantage of opportunities when they arise. A lucky bounce one way or another and either team could have won the series in 6 games, but we were treated to some spectacular hockey by some very talented young men... and some older ones as well. I hate that anyone had to lose, but I agree with the posters that say "wait until next year"... but then again, the other NHL teams may dump their superstars and do the buffalo/carolina thing by signing hardworking, overachieving players and the playing field will once again be level with the "big city" markets.
Posted: 11:08 AM   by Anonymous
This series would have been over 3 games ago, if Carolina lost 4 players alone... Carolina has no guys that can come in that night and be ready to play (ahl players)... If Stall, Weight, Wesley and Whitney didnt play, do you think Carolina would still be in the playoffs... Defense wins games, Bottom Line... Go Sabres and now Go Oilers !!!
Posted: 11:08 AM   by Anonymous
Wow, to suggest that that losing 4 starting defensemen, and their best at that, played little or no role in Buffalo losing?? Do you even understand hockey?? Not only does that man that Carolina has better opportunities to score, but Buffalo will also generate fewer scoring opportunities, especially on the power play and the breakout. Do I think the better team won? Given the players on the ice yes, but if Buffalo had even 2 of those missing defensemen the outcome MIGHT have been different. That said, hats off to Carolina and bring on the finals.

Posted: 11:17 AM   by Anonymous
I'll bite. I'll give you ALL of Buffalo's injured players, if you give us Erik Cole, and Carolina wins in no more than 6. Look at Carolina's record before and after his injury. Comparing Connoly to Cole straight up is a red herring.

If Cole doesn't have a broken neck, Carolina probably win's the president's trophy as well.
Posted: 11:33 AM   by Anonymous
All the Buffalo fans are conveniently forgetting that the Canes won the season series 3-1. Were they lucky to win all of those too? Were the Sabres missing their top 4 dmen and a forward in those games, too? Stop whining.
Posted: 11:34 AM   by Anonymous
Everyone needs to cut it out with using the most classic cop out for when your team loses. Injuries happen. They are part of the game, and will always be. No self-respecting athlete or fan wants to see their team beat a team that isn't at full strength. You want to beat that team at their best. However, that is almost always impossible.

That having been said, Buffalo had a great season. Their playoff run was nothing short of impressive. Knocking out Ottawa was incredible. Celebrate that instead of giving us the same old injury line again...
Posted: 11:34 AM   by Anonymous
I'm not going to blame injuries, curses (Yes, that other blog was completely idiotic), or poor power play execution, I am actually going to give credit to the Carolina Hurricanes for going out last night in the 3rd period and doing what was necessary in order to win.

I love the Sabres as much as anyone, especially being originally from Western New York, but the Carolina Hurricanes last time I checked were a pretty good hockey team-- 2nd in the conference standings, 112 points for the season. They have a solid mixture of veterans and young talent, are solidly coached, and play good, fundamentally sound hockey.

And as I said before, they proved how good they are with a textbook clinic in the 3rd period. They are moving on!
Posted: 11:35 AM   by Anonymous
Name one other team in the playoffs this year that had anything even close to the injuries Buffalo had. Name one!

Carolina has Erik Cole, thats pretty much it, but theyve been without him for months prior and done just fine. The Sabres had to adjust to losing three top defensemen in a matter of 6 games, with one already on the shelf along with Connolly. This is not "par for the course" because its the playoffs, its an ambiguity if their ever was one.
Posted: 11:42 AM   by Anonymous
What a Finals this will be: Divers vs. Oilers!

Can't wait to see all the "devoted" fans of the Hurricanes. Maybe we'll see another overhyped concoction like Calgary's 'Red Mile' in Raleigh, where the fact that fan support was next to zilch is hidden by a sudden wave of support, aka bandwagoning!
Posted: 11:49 AM   by Aaron Fodge
A power play consists of three forwards and TWO defensemen. Their power play was decimated by the loss of players that scored/setup power play goals in the earlier rounds like Tallinder, Kalinin, and Numminen.

Please. Your argument is they didn't score consistent power play goals and the four injure defensemen had nothing to do with it?

Posted: 11:56 AM   by Anonymous
As a Hurricanes fan, I give the Sabre a ton credit for battling like they did. They are really a great team, and this was one of the best series' I have seen in years. However, in the end it was the special teams that won it for Carolina.
By the way, the 'Canes losing Cole was a lot bigger than most people think, but we also must remember that Vasicek, although technically healthy, was also out as well. He is also a very good player. Blaming injuries is bogus, everyone is hurt this time of the year. Maybe Glen Wesley, who has major neck issues, was "more hurt" than Numminnen, we don't know. The truth is that both teams gave thier every drop of guts and in the end, by the slimmest of margins, Carolina was just a little better, this time. If they plated 80 games, it may have been a 50-50 split.
Posted: 11:58 AM   by Anonymous
I love how all the Sabres fans start their bitter commentaries with "injuries are no excuse BUT...". Get over yourselves. The Carolina Hurricanes were the better team. Period. End of story. Now go back to cryin' in your beers while Carolina takes care of Edmonton. GO 'CANES!!!!
Posted: 12:02 PM   by Anonymous
You Buffalo fans sure are a whiney bunch. I guess the years of sports futility have made you this way. Either way the Canes beat the Sabres in 3 of 4 games in the regular season with both teams being full strength except for the loss of Cole in the only game the Sabres won. The Canes were the higher seed for a reason. They were the better team. I know the next comment is that they played in a weak division. Just look at the Canes record against their own division and against the other eastern divisions and you will notice that the Canes only lost 5 games to your division this year. They won a higher percentage of games during the regular season against the other two eastern divisions than they did against the South. You guys should be proud of your team. They played hard and represented your city very well. They have a bright future indeed. So quit finding excuses of why you lost and realize that you simply lost to the better team. Your forwards weren't hurt. Can you explain why they got completely shut down on the powerplay? I think the Canes had a little to do with that. 1 of 17 over the last 4 games won't get you to the Finals. It will get your team on the Golf course. I hope they are driving them straight this afternoon.
Posted: 12:15 PM   by Anonymous
I am sick and tired of hearing about Buffalo's injuries. Every team in the NHL playoffs battles injuries...that's why the Stanley Cup is the hardest championship trophy to win in professional sports. While finishing second in the Eastern Conference might be an admirable accomplishment to some, finishing second means only one thing to me - FIRST LOSER!
Posted: 12:21 PM   by Anonymous
Yes Buffalo had to play with 4 non starter defensemen. Some parts of this could be predicted and was not addressed either by the Buffalo GM or coaching staff.

Buffalo did not attempt to develop additional blue line personnel during the year. By contrast for most of the year the Carolina team played with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen....providing for depth in the position. In fact they had 3 defensemen on the health scratch list all of whom had significant playing time during the regular season.

Secondly, management and the players may deserve some of the blame in the injury to McKee. The culture of not revealing the nature and severity of injury to the coaching staff and in general can lead to things getting out of hand. Fans should also take some the blame here.....look at the blogs questioning Connolly, and Numminen. And then there is the report of the strep infection....and in professional atheletes sometimes carried by equipment. It has been revealed that McKee is wearing pads from his junior days.

Finally, the Buffalo potent lines were effectively nuetralized for much of the game.
Posted: 12:22 PM   by Anonymous
I'd like to order beef on weck with a side of sour grapes.
Posted: 1:04 PM   by Anonymous
Should have...could have....If.

There is a reason that you play over 80 games and then a best of 7 series.

It is to find the best team.

Sabres lost Canes won.

The Best TEAM won.

The canes dominated the play. The only reason it was closer, is great goal tending and gutsy performance by the Sabres.

You could make arguments that the Canes would have won in less games if the Sabres were healthy. Maybe the canes; due to the injuries took the Sabres lightly. (Or played down to the other level)

How many time have you seen a better team on paper in basketball almost upset by a unranked team.

How about some gracious comments from the lossing team. You lost.
Do not make it worse by whining.

Go canes.
"Don't blame the rash of injuries that left Buffalo short five regulars, either. Every team deals with them this deep in the playoffs, and while the Sabres had more than their share, they weren't alone."

THEY WEREN'T ALONE? Allan, there is a difference between dealing with injuries ("Every team deals with them this deep in the playoffs...") and losing 4 of your top 5 defensemen and your best playmaking center man. Dealing with injuries is what McKee was doing by playing through the pain before a freak infection forced him to watch from home. There were probably many of his counterparts on the Hurricanes who were also "dealing" with injuries as you put it - the important point being they were dealing with them, thus they were actually on the ice and able to contribute. There is no doubt and no one who can intelligently argue that this series and more importantly last night’s game would've been an entirely different had Buffalo had a Connelly, McKee, Numminen, Tallinder and/or Kalinin. Just dissecting the lack of truly NHL caliber D-men on Buffalo’s blue line (of which only 2 on the ice for the Sabres D were truly NHL caliber) it effects everything down the line. The Sabres game is based on speed, without a smooth transition game it inhibits every aspect of their game plan, from fore checking, power play, penalty kill and back checking (which our forwards were forced to do more often). So don't tell me that the injuries that occurred to the Sabres are normal, that “Every team deals with them this deep in the playoffs..."

Your article is completely incorrect in its assumption and just downright foolish in its conclusions. Show me a team of this talent level, who has gotten this far who had to deal with such a rash of freak injuries to key players (the majority of which being the D corps) I dare you.
Posted: 1:50 PM   by -DM
Ok, while we're all playing fantasy hockey here let's add back all the injured players as well as Lemieux on the Hurricanes and Gretsky on the Sabers (At thier prime) and see who wins, when! Sorry I'm going to have to play the sympathy violin for all the Buffalo fans, but injuries and lucky bounces are part of this thing we call SPORTS. Just ask the NFL's Colt's fans or college basketball's UConn fans if they thought the Steelers or George Mason would advance. As for the original article, the man gets paid to write dumb reductionist theories to break down sports to one key thing. To think that injuries don't affect stats, like power play goals or shots or anything else, is ignorant. But it is equally ignorant to write off injuries and lucky bounces as if they were UFO's or divine intervention in the otherwise logical world of sports. The stanley cup goes to the team that wins the most games in May and June, by talent, luck, health or otherwise. For those of you in NY still not convinced may I remind you that you won the first round against Philly 4-2 thanks in large part to nagging injuries to "the greatest player in the world", Peter Forsberg. You don't think the Flyers would still be the same team with a healthy Forsberg?
"Either way the Canes beat the Sabres in 3 of 4 games in the regular season with both teams being full strength except for the loss of Cole in the only game the Sabres won."

Really, that must have been the games you played with your buddy on your playstation, because as I recall the Sabres were short handed all year:

Regular Season Canes v Sabres:
Game 1: Sabres played Jillson and Fitzpatrick on D and were without Lydman or McKee. Canes were full health - Sabres lost 5-3

Game 2: Sabres played with Briere, Connelly, Dumont and Hecht. Canes were healthy - Sabres lost by 1 IN A SHOOTOUT

Game 3: Sabres played without Hecht. Canes were healthy - Sabres lost by 1 on the road during a time when their coach Lindy Ruff was with his family to tend to his daughter who was having Brain Surgery.

Game 4: Sabres had no Hecht, Canes no Cole - with nothing to really play for given their position in the playoffs is set, the Sabres win in the only blow out 4-0 to steal any chance the Canes have of taking 1st place in the Eastern Conference.

So over the course of 4 head to head regualar season games, the Sabres lose 8 man games to injury, the Canes 1 - yet the score is 13-13.

It is dissapointing to see such morons spout off when they know not what they talk about. I bet you could tell me where Dale Jr. is in the standings....go watch NASCAR.
Posted: 2:39 PM   by Anonymous
Give credit to the fill-ins (Rory Fitzpatrick and Doug Janik in particular). They played as well as the injured regulars would have, and as a group, the fill-ins did an outstanding job. It's also worth noting that the injured players had virtually NO impact on the Buffalo power play when they were healthy. Numminen had just one PPG in 18 games. Tallinder and Kalinin were scoreless. It's also worth noting that Brian Campbell, Buffalo's top PP contributor from the blueline in the regular season, had just two PP assists in 18 games after scoring 27 PP points during the season.

The simple truth is, if you fail to make an impact with your special teams, you aren't going to go far in the playoffs.
Posted: 2:47 PM   by Anonymous
"Fact of the matter is the defenseman have little to do with the effectiveness of your power play."

You obviously do not play, nor watch hockey. Defensemen are often - it not always - responsible for keeping the puck in the, getting point shots on net, starting rushes, and more.

"Furthermore to compare the loss of Tim Connoly to Erik Cole is absurd. Cole scored 30 goals in 60 games and had a plus minus of 19."

This is a true statement, but look at what Connolly did this year in the playoffs. He embarrassed Daniel Alfredsson on a PK goal, and he scored the game-tying goal against Ottawa (in the same game) to send that crazy Game 1 to OT. He had 11 pts. in 7 games before being knocked out.

Cole is Carolina's best player, but no one can honestly say they'd rather have one great player back in place of a center who has been playing very well (and one who was, arguably, a centerpiece of the offense), and 4 of the top 6 defensemen.

Like so many others have posted, I'd HAPPILY give Carolina Erik Cole in exchange for Tim, Dmitri, Henrik, Teppo, and Jay.

Good luck to Carolina, but you can bet I'll be rooting for the Oilers in 4.
Posted: 2:48 PM   by Anonymous
I'll bet if the entire Sabres team had died in a plane crash, the 'Canes fans would still tell us to stop whining about injuries..!

It's true Carolina won fair and square, and I don't mean to take anything away from them -- but trying to pretend like injuries weren't a factor in this series is just plain ignorant.

Ironically, I can think of another Carolina team that found themselves in a similar situation in different sport's playoffs this year -- the NFL's Panthers. Would they have beat Seattle if they weren't down to their 4th string RB? Maybe not, but you can't deny that injuries were a **major** factor in the NFC championship game.

Similarly, I can't say for sure Buffalo would have won last night if they hadn't been playing with their 8th, 9th, and 10th string defensemen... but it's just silly to act like that wasn't a factor.

Congrats to the Hurricanes' players, they put on a great series and earned their win -- but boooooooo to those Hurricanes fans who can't acknowledge how damaged the Buffalo roster was last night.
Posted: 2:52 PM   by Anonymous
How can you bring up the Cole injury, which happened in the middle of the season and gave Carolina time to get Recchi. It was a great series and both teams gave all it had. Now go get a haircut Muir.
Posted: 2:54 PM   by Anonymous
If, if, if....yea, can you imagine how the Sabres would have done IF they had all their players? I can imagine you would lose 3 out of 4 times to the canes just like you did during the regular season. IF, we had Erik Cole, the series would have been over in 5. Now I see where Buffalos coach gets his excuses from, its the fans.
Posted: 2:56 PM   by Tim Stanley
Possibly the worst analysis of a series I have ever seen....any amatuer sportswriter could identify that injuries to four Buffalo D-Men was the root of ALL problems (power play, pentalty kill, and structural breakdowns on the breakout)...there is no doubt that Buffalo takes the series (and probably the Cup) with a healthy Defence corps. Carolina will not have that luxury of playing an AHL defence in the Final so expect to see the Oilers hoisting the Cup in a relatively painless 6-game series.
Posted: 3:01 PM   by Anonymous
Wow, whatta bunch of sour grapes. Losing 5 key players is indeed tough, but it's up to their replacements to step up and work hard, which they did. I give a lot of credit to the Sabres for fighting as hard as they did.

But, credit also has to go to my beloved 'Canes. Sure Buffalo lost all those players, but that doesn't mean that the 'Canes had to do next to nothing to win. We still played our hearts out, and in the end we had enough in us to win.

And for those who mock our 'bandwagon' fans, you have to understand that the Sabres have been in existence since 1970 and have had ample time to build a strong fanbase. The 'Canes have only been in Raleigh since the '97-'98 season and have been mostly mediocre. But with the '02 run and this year, we are gaining new fans all the time. You can bet that our fanbase will keep on getting bigger and bigger.

Hats off to the Canes and Sabres for playing a thoroughly enjoyable series, and let's look forward to an exciting Carolina-Edmonton series. GO CANES!!

--Devoted Caniac since '97
Posted: 3:03 PM   by Mike in Buffalo
You are correct that the power play failed them. And, by and large, except for Connolly, they weren't missing any critical power play players. No doubt, if the power play was clicking in games 5 or 7, the Sabres could be looking at Oilers film today instead of cleaning out their lockers.

But injuries on defense also played a huge part. In games one and three, they held leads and won the games despite frenzied comeback attempts by the Canes.

Contrast that with games 5,6,7, when they were defensively challenged: they had leads in all three games and lost the lead in each case. Even with their failing power play, with Tallinder and McKee playing in those games, the Sabres have a much better chance of holding the lead.

Not to take anything away from Carolina (they're a great team and might have won anyways), but the Sabres' injuries did play a big part in this series.

And even though Cole was a big loss for the Canes, they got Weight and Recchi to compensate for that loss. It's not like they lost Cole the night before game 7 with 3 key offensive players already hurt...
Posted: 3:26 PM   by Anonymous
No offense 'Canes fans (all 5 of you out there), but if Buffalo had a full squad, this series wouldn't have been close. Buffalo had the same amount of wins during the regular season despite missing Connonlly, Briere, Dumont, Hecht and Kalinin for more than 20 games a piece...not to mention Miller for a month and a half and the injuries in the playoffs. I know Eric Cole is a good player, but stop sniffing your NASCAR fumes and wake up. Buffalo is a much better team when healthy, just ask Philly and Ottawa. I'm not taking away anything from Carolina, who did what they needed to win, but Buffalo was the better team. Injuries are a part of the game, no doubt, but I'd like to see any team overcome these types of losses with as much composure and determination as the Sabres.

And, to those who don't understand the game very well, including our esteemed columnist, missing defensemen has a big impact on a team's offense, powerplay or not. Offense starts with the first pass out of the zone. Numminen and Tallinder are two of the better defensemen in the league at making a crisp first pass out of the defensive zone. If you watch games before and after they are in the line-up, the difference is glaring. This probably had as much, if not more, or an impact on the Sabres offense than it did on their defensive play.
Posted: 4:00 PM   by Anonymous
Is this guy for real? Buffalo loses a player or two and canes lose Cole and that is even? How did you get this job really? Now everyone in America know how much of a fool you really are. Tell you what. Lets play the series again with All the Sabres healthy and all the Canmes healthy including cole. If the Sabres dont win in 5 I owe you dinner. Get real!!
Posted: 4:05 PM   by Anonymous
Do you guys whine like this all the time? I've been to Buffalo and it's not dreary. And you have a good hockey team - one that came close to making the finals. My intention in coming here was to congratulate you for a great effort. A lot of grit and heart. But this WHINING, give me a break. At least it has given you something else to talk about other than inane stereotypical comments about North Carolina. Give it a rest - it was a heckuva series, but you lost.
Posted: 4:15 PM   by Anonymous
Oh stop Sabres fans, you beat the Flyers without their captain, their 2nd best defenseman and 14 guys waiting to get surgery yet you don't say anything about that. Stop whining and ripping Canes fans is funny considering Sabres fans appear only when they win.
Posted: 4:27 PM   by Rich
Injuries happen, they are a part of hockey. Ask Philly. Maybe, had Peter Forsberg been playing up to his full ability in the first round, the Buffalo players might have been playing golf back in April and not only now in June. That's part of the excitment of sports.
Posted: 4:41 PM   by Anonymous
"The media has shown very little repect for a very good team (in the Hurricanes)."

Have you heard Barry Melrose recently? Buffalo was the team written off by everyone, not Carolina.

Numminen and Tallinder were amazing passers - in the 4-0 game the Sabres passing out of the zone was dreadful, caused by their losses.
Posted: 5:00 PM   by Anonymous
To suggest that the loss of key players has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the power play is of course absurd. The fact that the Sabres had a lead going into the third period of game 7 with that many injuries was amazing. The Sabres were fantastic.

But nobody will ever know who would have won if both teams would have been completely healthy, and you can't take anything away from the Canes victory because the Sabres were injury plagued.

The Canes had just dismantled New Jersey, the hottest team in the league at the time. The Sabres had just taken down Ottawa. The two teams finished basically deadlocked in the regular season. The Canes won the regular season series with the Sabres, but the Sabres had beaten them badly in Raleigh at the end of the year.

No one knows what would have happened. The Sabres fans seem to think they know, but they don't. These were two good teams who battled it out and the Canes won. End of story. I hope the finals are as exciting.
Posted: 5:16 PM   by Anonymous
I found the comment about the Sabres fans only showing up when they win to be hilarious. We've been here all day buddy, the blogs are full of us. Ask Muir if we only show up when we win. With all this nasty talk in here I think we are witnesses to the birth of a rivalry! Bring it on (next year)!
Posted: 5:36 PM   by Anonymous
As a fan of neither team, both teams should be proud. The Eastern conf finals were some outstanding hockey games. I don't get why Carolina is so upset over Lindy Ruff though, I read comments made by Peter Laviolette in the paper that were no worse than anything said by Ruff. Carolina clearly outplayed Buffalo, but it's also obvious Buffalo wasn't the same team I saw earlier in the playoffs with the injuries. Go fight amongst yourselves now.
Posted: 5:45 PM   by Anonymous
Obviously the injuries hurt the Sabres, but when you look at the entire season, the Canes lost nearly 300 man games to injuries, so their overall accomplishments reflect tremendous perseverence.

Also, if the Canes had lost defensemen to injuries, the next three would have been Tverdovsky, Babchuk, and Hutchinson - proven NHL players, not minor leaguers with no NHL experience. Kudos to Jim Rutherford for developing the experienced depth to be able to overcome injuries if and when they occur.
Posted: 5:45 PM   by Anonymous
I was talking about the years of the Sabres playing to non sellouts. You didn't even start filling the arena till after half way through the season. But don't tell me, you've been a fan all your life, right? Of course there is just so much else going on in Buffalo that games were secondary entertainment.
Posted: 12:42 AM   by SabreMark
Canes fan #6 (out of 8) wrote:

"Also, if the Canes had lost defensemen to injuries, the next three would have been Tverdovsky, Babchuk, and Hutchinson - proven NHL players, not minor leaguers with no NHL experience. Kudos to Jim Rutherford for developing the experienced depth to be able to overcome injuries if and when they occur."

You have got to be kidding me, dude. Hutchinson has a total of 54 games under his belt, Babchuk has 44, and Tverdovsky is a total liability, which explains why someone who was the #2 overall draft pick of 1994 can't get anywhere near this series.

I don't understand how you claim these guys are established NHL players.
Posted: 12:43 AM   by Anonymous
If I were Carolina, I wouldn't be so cocky and comfortable. It took them to the 3rd period of game 7 to beat a Sabres team that was missing 4 out of 5 top defenseman and 1 forward.
Posted: 12:47 AM   by Anonymous
Sabres fans aren't whining, they're just stating facts. You cannot honestly say these injuries were not the most ironic thing to have ever happened to a hockey team all at once in one position.

We love our team. We are a hockey town. We eat, sleep and breathe the Sabres. You just don't understand. That is why the Cup doesn't belong in Carolina. I'd rather see it in Edmonton, they at least understand the sport and what it means to love a team.
Posted: 1:32 AM   by Anonymous
Sabres had missed opertunities during game 7. I was there, I saw the game, regardless of the injuries the sabres could have won the game. They were up 2-1 at the start of the third keep in mind. But thats how it goes. Think I was upset when the Panthers lost to the Pats in the superbowl?? damn right i was, but we move on.

Knowing of the injuries going into the game, the fans of the sabres did not seem to take that into consideration before the game ( talking to them not one mentioned their injured D) being 100% confident that they were going to win injuries or no. Afterwards, when the canes won the game, there was no end to the complaints about the injuries, how much the canes suck and would have could have should have scenarios.

As far as fan loyality goes, Canes save it for the ice when the game starts. I tip my hat to the Sabres' fans for their loyality (driving 12 hours to see a game and have to drive 12 hours back after losing... ouch) but that is about as far as I would go. Had the Canes lost the game, the people of Raleigh would not spend hours upon hours disrespecting people from NY and Buffalo, not because we don't care about our team as many seem to think, but because, well we have more class and show other people the respect they deserve. We do respect and admire the sabres regardless of what the fans of the sabres think of us.
Posted: 6:52 PM   by Anonymous
How can you call the 'canes Good? it took them seven games to beat the Rochester Americans!!
Posted: 5:55 PM   by Kathy
First, Muir, you definitely have some of the most inane writing I've seen. You don't appear to have a good grasp of most issues. You've certainly oversimplified this one as opposed to doing any real analysis.
Second, the last time I rooted for the Carolina team was when they were called the Hartford Whalers. After living in the Carolinas for years, I've met few (less than six) people that even understand hockey and the stadium is perpetually half-filled, except when the Canes make it past the first round. The reason that the Canes fans wouldn't be moaning over a loss is because there are so few real fans to voice those moans. Move the team back!!
Posted: 10:39 AM   by Anonymous
"It is dissapointing to see such morons spout off when they know not what they talk about. I bet you could tell me where Dale Jr. is in the standings....go watch NASCAR"

It's just as disappointing to be lectured by someone who can't be bothered to look at all the facts. For the record, in the regular season matchups with the Sabres, the 'Canes were missing Wesley in the first game, Weight, Hedican, and Cole in the third game, and Cole and Whitney in the season finale. That's a far cry from the "Canes healthy" refrain that the person posting used to describe the games.

Maybe you ought to refrain from calling other people "morons" when your own level of accuracy is flawed ...
Posted: 4:58 PM   by Anonymous
0 for 4 on the power play? More like 0 for 2 since 2 of the power plays were truncated. I think the Rochester Americans' defensive corp did a nice job for the Sabres on the power plays. Buffalo's forwards could have played it a bit smarter(like shooting on net when given a slpit second opporunity instead of getting fancy).

Carolina had no injuries. They had plenty of time to adjust to a missing player(Eric Cole).

It was a hard fought series and given two health squads I would give the edge to Buffalo. I think Lindy Ruff is an excellent playoff coach who, in most years, has a limited talent base.