Why no love for these Buffalo Sabres?

April, 14, 2010

A goalie in the mix for the Vezina and Hart trophies, a defenseman who is the odds-on favorite to win the Calder Trophy, a team offense that was top 10 in the NHL this season and a goals-against average that was top five.

Sounds like a Stanley Cup contender, right?

Well, you'd be hard-pressed to find many media pundits who have the Buffalo Sabres in their Stanley Cup finals predictions (I've got Washington coming out of the East). So, what gives? Why no national buzz for a Sabres team that essentially went wire to wire in winning the Northeast Division en route to a 100-point season?

"That's kind of what we want, to come in and surprise teams," Sabres center Derek Roy told ESPN.com on Tuesday night.

There's apparently not a great deal of buzz for the Sabres in their own backyard, reports my colleague, sports columnist Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News.

I arrived in Buffalo on Wednesday on the eve of the Boston-Buffalo playoff opener at HSBC Arena and look forward to seeing it for myself; Buffalo fans were pumped for the Sabres clubs that came out of the lockout and went to back-to-back conference finals.

I'm not changing my pick; I still like the Caps to come out of the East. But let's give the Sabres a little love here. They have the best goalie in the NHL this season in Ryan Miller, the top rookie and a future Norris Trophy winner in Tyler Myers, a perennial Jack Adams Award candidate in coach Lindy Ruff, a balanced offense that produced the ninth-most goals in the league this season and a defense that gave up the fourth-fewest.

What's not to like?

"We've tried to keep an even keel all year long and not let the highs get too high and the lows get too low," said Roy, who led the Sabres with 69 points (26-43) in 80 games. "We've had a consistent season, and we're trying to bring that into the playoffs."

The offense produced this season despite getting only a 28-goal season from former 40-goal man Thomas Vanek and a disappointing 34-point campaign from Drew Stafford (who might miss Game 1 with a concussion). Balance is the key to this offense, Roy said.

"I'd say we pretty much play all four lines more than any other team in the league," he said. "We roll four lines really well. We get everyone playing and get everyone in the game. That shows how deep we are, and that's going to be important at playoff time. Everybody feels rested and ready to go, and we're going to need a different hero every night. Everyone has to step up."

A different hero every night. I like the way Roy said that. Because that is the rich history of NHL playoff hockey, isn't it? The Sabres certainly know that. The Bruins and Sabres have had some memorable playoff moments in the old Adams Division days; my favorite is the Brad May OT goal in 1993.

"I've seen that highlight a few times in the Buffalo area," Roy said. "It was a pretty big goal at the time and a very nice goal, too."

Roy was 10 years old, growing up in Ottawa, when May scored that goal. Watching the playoffs on "Hockey Night in Canada" was a big deal in the Roy household.

"I remember growing up watching the playoffs," Roy said. "We were a big hockey family, and it was certainly on. I have one younger and one older brother, and we'd be always sitting around watching those games."

Now, the Sabres' leading scorer has a chance to be a hero himself, and perhaps help his Sabres get a little more respect around North America.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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