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Sabres Central

Intimidated again by Philly
By Rick Anderson
November 4, 2000

Last April, the Philadelphia Flyers blew past the Sabres in five games during the first round of the playoffs. The Sabres have had plenty of time to think about how the Flyers humiliated them to end their season early. Most expected a spirited effort by the Buffalo skaters in an attempt to get some form of retaliation against the team that eliminated them. That was not the case, as the Flyers shutdown and shutout the Sabres 3-0 in the First Union Center Saturday night.

Roman Cechmanek, who outplayed his former Czech teammate Dominik Hasek, makes a stop on Buffalo's Doug Gilmour as Andy Delmore tries to cause interference from behind the net. Cechmanek recorded both his first NHL victory and shutout over the>
[Reuters Photo/Tim Shaffer]

The Sabres went from ugly to horrid when they played their second bad game in a row. On Friday, Buffalo just squeaked a victory out over the Montreal Canadiens. The Sabres didn't even show for the game in Philadelphia.

Czech vs. Czech

During the 1998 Olympic games, the Czech Republic won the gold medal with Dominik Hasek manning the pipes. The Czech's backup was Roman Cechmanek. Saturday, the two met for the first time in head-to-head competition. Cechmanek not only beat his Czech teammate, the goalie who many claim to be the greatest to ever grace the crease area, but got his first NHL shutout. It was only his third start for the Flyers and it marks the 9th straight game in which a backup goalie started against Buffalo. What does that imply?

Cechmanek actually didn't have to do much but occupy space in the crease. The Sabres offense did not get off the plane Saturday morning, but continued to head south. The Czech goalie was called upon to make only 4 saves in the first period, 6 in the second and 18 overall.

"There was nervousness before the game thinking about playing against Hasek," remarked Cechmanek (teammate Michal Sykora was Cechmanek's interpreter). "Once I stepped on the ice, I knew I had to play my game. I think I showed everybody that I'm good enough to play in the NHL."

"I thought we'd get a much better effort than that," a disgusted Lindy Ruff asserted. "We didn't get much offense at all. They competed harder. Their desire to defend was stronger than our desire to score."

Philly cheese cake

Speaking about cheese cake, the Sabres were about as tough as one of the Philly delights against the Flyers. Rob Ray provided the only punch for the Sabres and he did that during several skirmishes he was involved in. Outside of Ray, no one stepped up to the plate and provided any muscle to shut down the bigger, tougher Flyers.

Dan McGillis, who scored the Flyers second goal of the game, takes out Vaclav Varada during second period action.
[Reuters Photo/Tim Shaffer]

Lacking such stars as John LeClair and Mark Recchi didn't seem to bother the Flyers too much as they could get away with almost anything against the suddenly timid Sabres. The Flyers out-muscled the Buffalo figure skaters and showed much more drive.

Can this sudden drain of emotion and drive on the Sabres behalf be tied into the 6 days off Buffalo had this week? It seems that every time they get a long stretch with no games, it takes a couple games to get the rust off. Such was the case this weekend. In the back-to-back games, Buffalo was outshot 59-33.

Phantom effort

The Buffalo Sabres were playing a team that was made up of quite a few players from the Flyers AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms. Not only had Cechmanek been called up, but Rusian Fedotenko, who scored the first goal and got an assist, also started the season with the Phantoms. The Sabres displayed a phantom effort of their own, especially on offense.

"Maybe we thought it would be easy because they didn't have all of their guys in the lineup," reasoned Vaclav Varada. "It was frustrating. We knew it was half a team from the Phantoms. We didn't get the job done."

Dominik's Zone

Joining the offense in not showing up for the game was Hasek. Yes, he did make some good saves, but seems to have reverted back to his early season stiffness when called upon to make the crucial save.

After stopping 7 shots in the first period, Hasek was tested early in the second and came up short. Eric Desjardins put a wrist shot on goal from the Sabres blue line and Hasek misplayed it, leaving a huge rebound for Fedotenko to pounce on. The ex-Phantom slammed it home to open the scoring just 39 seconds into the period. Fedotenko, playing like the NHL Rookie of the Year against the Sabres, came out of the penalty box, scooped up the loose puck and immediately went on a two-on-one break with Dan McGillis. Fedotenko, fed McGillis a perfect cross-ice pass, who shot it over the shoulder of Hasek. Phantoms 2 Phantom Sabres 0.

"Just lucky timing when I got out of the box," Fedotenko said.

It got worse in the third period. The Sabres were trying to put some pressure in the Philly zone and Alexei Zhitnik pinched in to help the cause. The puck and Jody Hull flew out of the Philly zone and Hull had a breakaway on Hasek with two trailers, Michal Sykora and Keith Primeau. Hasek stopped Hulls shot and was also able to block Sykora's rebound shot. In came Primeau, hammering away at the puck under Hasek and finally it went in to seal the Sabres' fate.

Hasek made 21 saves on the night, but he was not too cheerful a camper over his and his team's effort.

"We can't be happy,"said Hasek. "They were a very desperate team. Once they got the lead, we couldn't come back."

Sabres Talk

The Sabres were all too silent both on the ice and in the dressing room afterwards.

"It wasn't our best effort," Gilmour said. "We didn't have a lot of shots. We've got to work harder to get the puck to the net."

"For us to be a top team, you have to come in to games thinking like you are giving yourself the best opportunity to win," added James Patrick. "We didn't do that."

Meanwhile, in the Philly dressing room, the atmosphere was quite buoyant.

"No question, I thought system-wise it was our best defensive game of the year,"Keith Primeau said. "We played a real solid, patient game and capitalized on our chances. We wanted to make sure that we pressured them. We skated hard and made them work harder than they wanted."

Ex-Sabre great and now head coach of the Flyers was pleased by his decision to start Cechmanek.

"One of the reasons we wanted to start him was to give him the opportunity to challenge the master," Ramsay said. "And he did the job."

The master himself, spoke highly of his former teammate.

"Roman played a great game tonight,"said Hasek. "I didn't expect him to play. It was strange. He has a different style than me but he's a very good goalie and proved it tonight. He played a great game - a shutout - what can I say?"

Cechmanek made several outstanding saves. There was this sliding save on Miroslav Satan in the first period which was reminiscent of the Dominator. In the second period, veteran Doug Gilmour was foiled on a wraparound. Cechmanek made two good saves on Zhitnik during a Buffalo powerplay, stopped Miroslav Satan point blank with a pad save. In all, it was a good outing for the former Czech Olympic backup goalie.

"Before the game, I thought about how I wanted to come over here to play against Hasek," said Cechmanek. "We have been teammates, but we never played against each other."

Ramsey was also happy about the play of his other former Phantom, Rusian Fedotenko.

"We really like the way Rusty has played," Ramsay talked with pride about Fedotenko. "He's had a couple of points and it's nice to see him get a goal."

The Ukrainian rookie, who's now 21 years-old, has been playing North American hockey for five years. Last season he played with the Phantoms and has only six games with the Flyers under his belt.

"A lot of good young players are here," Fedotenko said. "I just go out and do my best and hope the coach likes how I play and keeps me here."

Last year Fedotenko was not even getting much playing time with the Phantoms. Phantom coach Bill Barber, who now serves as Flyer assistant, shipped him down to Trenton.

"He goes down there and becomes a factor," Barber recollected. "He went there as a boy and came back a man. He brings a lot to the table. One, he has speed. Two, he has skill. Three, he has hockey smarts. The kid is pretty good with and without the puck."

"Every time you get called up, you say, that is your chance," said Fedotenko. "Do your best and try to show them you can play. The NHL is everyone's dream. I try to do my best and not worry what happens to me."


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