Three years is a long time. Long enough to consider one postseason berth in that time span unsatisfactory but not nearly lengthy enough to forget about Daniel Alfredsson's overtime winner in game five of the 2007 Conference Finals. That shot finding a way past Ryan Miller is the last memory the Buffalo Sabres have of the postseason until this upcoming April.
Will it ever be forgotten totally? Highly unlikely, but at least the team can move on and create new memories. Young players like Andrej Sekera, Chris Butler, Tyler Myers and Tim Kennedy will at last understand the chaos and emotional drive of playoff hockey. Fans will cheer on the organization that created back-to-back Conference Final appearances before the repugnant two-year absence.
The 2007 season was generous to Buffalo as they led the league in goal-scoring (308), won the Presidents' Trophy, carried four thirty-goal individuals, six that reached 20 goals (Jochen Hecht fell just short at 19), moved the puck up and down the ice with nonchalance and owned a fantastic one-two goaltending punch.
A lot has changed since then, not only for the Sabres, but the league in its entirety. After the jump, we'll throw out some random events and facts from Buffalo's last year as a postseason contender.
- Dainius Zubrus was still considered an offensive-forward. Boy, did we ever learn that he wasn't worth all of the hype.
- Joe Sakic had no issues with a snow-blower.
- Alexander Ovechkin scored less than 50 goals and 100 points.
Sean Avery and Elisha Cuthbert were dating.
- Michael Nylander was allowed to play in the NHL and actually produced at a point per game ratio.
Matt Cooke was suspended once in his career.
Brian Campbell earned the money he was receiving.
- Maxim Afinogenov had 61 points in 56 games..WITH BUFFALO!
- Columbus' top forward was David Vyborny and Nikolai Zherdev
answeredsuccumbed to his critics with a ten-goal campaign.
- Patrik Stefan was still hanging around.
- Peter Forsberg's NHL days were coming to a close.
- Dany Heatley was happy in Ottawa.
- The Edmonton Oilers lost 18 of their last 20 games. Some things never change.
- Atlanta, Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders made the playoffs.
Evgeni Malkin, Paul Stastny, Anze Kopitar and Wojtek Wolski were rookies.
Jonathan Cheechoo had a 30-goal upside still left in him.
Vincent Lecavalier experienced no shoulder problems and won the Rocket Richard Trophy.
- Defenseman Mike Green had two goals in 70 games.
- The Detroit Red Wings were playing in front of Dominik Hasek.
- Vesa Toskala had a record of 26-10-1.
Peter Budaj, Rick DiPietro, Kari Lehtonen, Jean-Sebastian Giguere and Andrew Raycroft each registered over 30 wins.
- Veterans like Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra, Pierre Turgeon, Eric Lindros, Scott Mellanby and Joe Niewendyk continued to compete.
- A goaltender named Yutaka Fukufuji took part in four matches for the Los Angeles Kings.
- A 19-year-old Sidney Crosby won the Art Ross and Hart Memorial Trophy. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
- Chris Simon had no issues with Ryan Hollweg or Jarkko Ruutu.
- The two Stanley Cup finalists in 2006, Edmonton and Carolina, failed to reach the postseason. There's a first time for everything and congratulations to those clubs on a job well done.
Alexander Radulov wanted to be in the NHL.
- The Philadelphia Flyers owned the worst regular season record by a good portion.
- Chicago hadn't yet begun its youth movement.
- The Kontinental Hockey League didn't exist.
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were learning the ropes.
- Teenager Jordan Staal led the league in shorthanded goals with seven.
- Alexei Cherepanov was drafted 17th overall by the New York Rangers.
- Nicklas Lidstrom won his fifth Norris Trophy.
Thomas Vanek had the highest plus-minus rating throughout the league.
- The Sabres had three starters on the Eastern Conference's All-Star line-up (Ryan Miller, Daniel Briere and Campbell).
- Atlanta made the disgraceful trade in acquiring defenseman Alexei Zhitnik from Philadelphia in exchange for Braydon Coburn.
Chris Pronger received two one-game suspensions in the postseason en route to a Stanley Cup.
- Sheldon Souray wasn't so delicate and could play an entire season.
- Players weren't injuring one another nearly as often.