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Sabres Central

Sabres blowout Philly, advance to second round
By Rick Anderson
April 22, 2001

Who would have thunk it? No one in their right mind would ever dream of the scenario that transpired at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo on a warm April Saturday afternoon. EIGHT TO NOTHING! "What are you on drugs," would have been the question shot back at anyone predicting such an outlandish score. But 8-0 was the final score of the finale in the opening round between the Buffalo Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers. No, this is not a joke!

Dominik Hasek comes out to make the save against Flyers' Rick Tocchet in the first period..
[AP Photo/Harry Scull Jr.) ]

By blowing the Flyers out of the rink and finally getting the huge orange and white monkey off their backs, the Sabres won the series between the two much too familiar playoff opponents 4 games to 2. Not only that, but the Sabres bought themselves some time to rest and heal their skating wounded.

"Nobody expected anything like that," said Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek. "Everything we shot went right into the net. It was a couple good shots. They had one chance in the first period, and we scored the goals."

This was a game that never should have happened. If the Sabres had showed up to the First Union Center on Thursday and played anywhere the way they did on Saturday at home, they could have wrapped up the series much earlier and spared the Flyers and their fans of one of the worst playoff embarrassments in NHL history. But unfortunately for the Flyers and their loyal following, that was not to be the case. The Sabres were unmerciful in their death blow to their hated opponents. They spared nothing in the complete and utter slaughter of the once mighty Flyers. The Sabres, who have been accused of lacking that "killer instinct" went for the jugular Saturday to the delight of their delirious fans.

What went wrong for Philly?

A better question would be, what went right for the Flyers? Nothing! Not from the opening faceoff did the Flyers stand a chance against these overzealous and high powered Sabres. Never in the storied histories of both teams was there a game like this! It was the biggest playoff blowout the Sabres have ever been involved in, as winner or loser. The same could be said for the Flyers.

Flyers coach Bill Barber could relate to the loss, however. In his very last playoff game as a Flyer player, Barber was involved in a 9-3 loss to the New York Rangers some 18 years previous. Now he coached the same team to their worst and most embarrassing playoff defeat in Flyer history.

"It sure wasn't the way we wanted to continue on or finish the series," said the man who replaced Craig Ramsay as the Flyers head coach early in the season. "We had a couple of wins, and then it felt like the wheels fell off our wagon."

Roman Czechs out

Dominik Hasek looks like a prophet after this serious Flyers butt-kicking. He had told the media and the players "I see holes....there are many holes in (Cechmanek's) game. We can score 2, 3 ... maybe even four goals on him."

Yanked! Roman Cechmanek (32) gets yanked after allowing 5 goals in less than a period and half and changes places with goalie Brian Boucher (33) at the start of the second period.
[AP Photo/Harry Scull Jr.) ]

Even Hasek would have been laughed out of the media room if he dared to say the Sabres would score five on his former Czech teammate in less than half a game.

"We played a very good game from start to finish," said a very happy Hasek. "You don't expect after 14 shots to get up 7-0. It doesn't happen every day. He had a great season. One bad game doesn't change the whole season."

Big Dave Andreychuk, who played a big part in getting Cechmanek yanked in the second period by scoring a goal to go along with his three assists, and compassion for the plight of Cechmanek.

"It was one of those games, and I've been in a few of them where everything goes your way," described Andreychuk. "We got the bounces, we got the breaks. I feel bad for the goalie because he had a great year, a great series. It was just one of those things."

Feeling bad for Cechmanek doesn't cut it for the 30-year old rookie goalie who may still win the Vezina Trophy at the end of the season. What the Sabres did to his psyche should be outlawed. They rattled his cage not with bodies, as the Flyers had attempted to do the game before in Philly, but with an onslaught of rubber traveling at what seemed to be the speed of light.

"We were all over the ice," said Hasek, who recorded his sixth career playoff shutout. "They had maybe one chance the whole first period. It seemed like almost every shot at the net went in."

Sabre Power Surge

Sabres' J. P. Dumont finishes off a scoring play when he breaks in on Flyers goalie Roman Cechmanek in the second stanza. .
[AP Photo/Harry Scull Jr.) ]

The West Coast may be experiencing power shortages, but the Sabres had plenty of power to spare as they put a record 8 goals behind Flyers goalies Saturday. The Sabre scored the winning goal only 2:23 into 1st period. With the Sabres pressing deep into the Flyers zone, Miroslav Satan gave the puck over to Andreychuk. With Chris Gratton streaking in on Cechmanek, Andreychuk took a shot on net. Gratton, who has developed a strong presence in front of the net this season, was able to tip the shot past Cechmanek and the Floodgates had burst open.

The game stayed at 1-0 until 3 minutes after the period's halfway mark when the Flyers took a penalty. The Sabres, who had acquired some valuable veteran leadership with the addition of Andreychuk and Doug Gilmour (who came late last season at the trading deadline), worked the magic they used to display while with the Maple Leafs early last decade. Once again, Andreychuk put the puck in Cechmanek's direction and this time it was Gilmour who finished the job by scoring the Sabres second goal. The Sabres had punctured some serious holes in Cechmanek's armor.

The real back breaker came with a little over 2 minutes remaining in the first period. The Flyers had come back from two-goal deficits before in this series and no one counted them out until Donald Audette finally made mince meat of Cechmanek. Storming in alone on the right side after gaining possession of the puck, Audette blasted a shot that clanked off the right goal post, boinked off the crossbar and then hit twine. Audette's pinball shot doomed any plausible chance the Flyers had of making a comeback and fulfilled Hasek's prophecy of Cechmanek's many holes theory.

From there it was all downhill for the crashing Flyers. The Sabres spared no mercy on their nemesis who had eliminated them in five games just a year ago. On another powerplay, Jason Woolley, who had not played in the series before this game, took a shot from the point that Andreychuk tipped in to finish his "hat trick" of a three-point game.

J.P. Dumont got his first playoff goal 3:25 into 2nd period when he stole the puck at the Sabres blue line and stormed in on Cechmanek of a breakaway. Cechmanek went down to block the shot and Dumont sent his shot high into the back of the net. The fans stopped chanting "Roman, Roman, Roman" and replaced their taunts with "Boucher, Boucher, Boucher" when Cechmanek was yanked in favor of Brian Boucher.

Boucher was the victim of three more Sabres goals as Steve Heinze scored the 6th Sabres goal 6:38 into 2nd period followed by goal by Dumont and Gratton again. The rout was on early in the game and the Sabres never let up.

Now the Sabres must wait to see who their next opponent could be. If the Carolina Hurricanes pull the upset of the season by dethroning the Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils, the Eastern Conference playoffs will be thrown into a real tizzy.

Sabres Talk

Jason Woolley was glad to finally get some ice time in the playoffs. He knew he had to be at the top of his game, even though he was still suffering from the flu.

Down and out! Roman Cechmanek sits in gloom on the bench after being yanked in the second period. Cechmanek, who allowed only 2 goals in 4 games in the regular season, was fair game in the opening round of the playoffs to the Sabres. He allowed 5 goals in a little over one period before being yanked.
[AP Photo/Harry Scull Jr.) ]

"It's a time for the older guys to step up and do the job," said Woolley. "It's always that way with any great teams. The younger guys can feed off that, there's no question. I didn't expect anything less from Andy and Dougie and our experienced guys than to play their best games."

Another experienced blueliner, James Patrick also was thrilled wit the win.

"We were happy when we won," admitted Patrick. "But we're not getting ahead of ourselves. We want to take this a lot farther."

The biggest contributor to the offense, Andreychuk was definitely into the game.

"We played like a team in this series," said Andreychuk. "That's the way we felt all year long. We got contributions from everybody. Those are the type of guys you need. We have some character guys in the room. It's a big part of our team."

Sabres owner John Rigas also got into the euphoria of the moment.

"It was a scene that will always remain in my heart and in my mind,"said Rigas. "I've seen the fans cheer, but I've never seen them any happier. It was just an exceptional feeling of sheer joy. They know they were part of history. It was something that might never happen again. They enjoyed every minute of it. I enjoyed every minute of it, too."

Chris Gratton, who scored five goals in the series, compared the two teams. "These teams were so close it's scary," said Gratton. "It was evenly matched. It might look like we won the series, 4-2, pretty easily. But if they win this game today, it was a different ballgame. It was a fun series to play in and fun for the fans to watch. It was great hockey from start to finish."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knew that it was a bad time to be a Flyers fan.

"I said something like a six-goal lead is the worst in hockey," Ruff said. "There are so many bizarre things that have happened in the playoffs so far this year. I don't know if I felt comfortable."

The Flyers, meanwhile, have a full off season to reflect on this most embarrassing loss.

"They just did everything they wanted to do out there," exclaimed Flyers captain Eric Desjardins. "They controlled the game from the start to the end. We couldn't get going. We couldn't do anything."

"They came out strong, but it was a little bit of us not ready to play," John LeClair said. "Everything snowballed from there. We didn't help him (Cechmanek) too much."

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