Sabres/Flyers: A match made in ‘Hockey Heaven’
It makes sense, really.
Terry Pegula comes walking in here, gives a shot of life to the organization, and does everything he can to connect the present to the past. The team goes on a tear and sneaks into the playoffs, and who’s there waiting for the Sabres? The Philadelphia Flyers.
Is there a more perfect fit for the Sabres right now?
This will be the ninth playoff meeting between Buffalo and Philadelphia, now the most frequent opponent in the Sabres franchise’s history. It is the seventh time in the last 16 years that the two teams have faced each other in the postseason.
In tying the past with the present, it’s perfect. Pegula promised the franchise would respect the team’s past. Now they’re playing a team that we connect with the franchise’s history, the Flyers who slayed the Cup Finals team in 1975, bringing back memories of the French Connection days.
It’s also fitting for today’s team to be staring down the team in orange. We look at today’s Flyers and see Daniel Briere, a former fan favorite, now playing for the enemy. Former ownership couldn’t keep him around for the same reasons all Sabres fans are glad they’re gone. We’re tangibly facing the demons of past ownership. Defeating Philadelphia may just finish the exorcism.
But does anyone really care about that at this point?
Since “Pegula Day” it’s been a straight-up love affair between the team and the fans. It almost seems like the Sabres, who were dead last at one point, are playing with house money. Where they are, can the fans really be upset at how this season went under any circumstances? Everything seems like gravy.
But digressing from the feel-good, philosophical reasons for the perfect pairing, there’s reason to think this is the ideal matchup for the Sabres. Philadelphia didn’t exactly end their season on a tear, going 7-7-6 in their last 20 games. Their goaltending is suspect, as it always is, with rookie Sergei Bobrovsky expected to be the guy. They have scoring, they have defense, but there’s flaws to be exposed.
Buffalo has the advantage on special teams, and in goal. Ryan Miller played extremely well as the season wound down, and is well rested heading into the series. Thomas Vanek, named NHL 1st Star of the Week for the final week of the season, heads into the postseason hot. Buffalo has the scoring to compete, but barring a special teams no-show like the Boston series last season, is well prepared to put up a good fight and maybe even get the upset.
It’s an extremely winnable series for Buffalo. It was a hot finish that helped the Flyers get out of the Eastern Conference last season, so the precedent is there.
Extending the season into May? Sounds heavenly.