Assuming you didn’t see it posted on the Bills’ website, that was Thomas Vanek who set up the series-clinching goal Tuesday night for the Canadiens. Vanek’s shot from the left circle bounced around the crease before Max Pacioretty stuffed home the rebound to complete the sweep over the Lightning.
And that was Daniel Briere opening the scoring less than 2½ minutes into Game Four with a wrister from just outside the crease, giving him 51 goals and 111 points in 112 career playoff games. He followed with his signature uppercut to the collective jaw of card-carrying Sabres fans.
And that was Derek Roy who set up the tying goal for the Blues with 1:45 remaining in regulation in Game One, leading to Steve Ott’s beautiful touch pass for the winner over the Blackhawks in triple overtime. And it was Ryan Miller in net and Jordan Leopold setting up the first goal in a Game Two win.
And that was Jason Pominville who was credited with the primary assist, although Mikael Granlund did most of the work, on the OT winner to lead the Wild over the Avalanche in Game Three. Pominville led the Wild with 30 goals and 60 points this season, giving them the production they needed to secure a playoff spot.
And, yes, that was Lindy Ruff behind the Stars’ bench and James Patrick at his side, getting them to believe they could recover after losing the first two games to the Ducks. Dallas stormed back, won the next two and tied the series with the best team in the Western Conference.
Isn’t this fun?
The playoffs are littered with former Sabres who are now helping other teams in their quests to win a Stanley Cup. Some were here longer than others, some played larger roles than others, some are having a greater impact than others in the postseason, some barely any at all.
Raffi Torres, quickly forgotten in Buffalo, has given the Sharks bite (yes, the pun was intended) that had been missing for years. Jordan Leopold was playing the fewest minutes among Blues’ defensemen, but he was contributing. Robyn Regehr is having a miserable time with the Kings, but ... he was in the playoffs.
This is not an attempt to say the aforementioned players and coaches should have stayed in Buffalo or would have led the Sabres into the postseason. That’s not the point at all. Ruff needed to be fired. Roy needed to leave. Things were so bad in Buffalo that the Sabres had no choice but to trade the others.
None of the aforementioned former Sabres has been spectacular. Miller’s save percentage in the postseason (.914) is almost identical to his career save percentage in the regular season (.915). But most are important players with critical roles on teams that figured out how to make best use of them.
Vanek and Briere, for example, aren’t expected to carry the Canadiens so much as provide skill, experience and depth along the wing. Roy and Ott aren’t being asked to be first-line forwards, as they were in Buffalo. Their play on the bottom two lines is allowing them to contribute in ways you would expect.
When you see “that was” that many times, it reminds you just how far removed the Sabres are from the postseason. That’s the point. Thanks to utterly inept previous management, long-suffering fans who remember what Buffalo was are now left to accept that it is what it is.
Albert an afterthought
It’s a sad day in baseball when a man hitting two homers in the same game and reaching 500 for his career is treated like an afterthought in sports history, but that was the case with Albert Pujols earlier this week.
Pujols became the 26th player to hit 500 homers. Ted Williams (.344), Babe Ruth (.342) and Jimmie Foxx (.325) are the only players who hit that many and had a higher career batting average than Pujols (.321). Pujols, 34, also is the third-youngest to reach the milestone behind Foxx and Alex Rodriguez. Both were 32.
“Five hundred home runs for a career is an incredible feat for Albert,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s just an extraordinary accomplishment, and he has more in him. It’s exciting to see where he’ll wind up.”
Eleven members of the 500-homer club played between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s (see: steroid era), which means only 15 others reached the milestone in a 67-year span between Babe Ruth in 1929 and Eddie Murray in 1996.
Only three players among the previous 10 who reached the 500-homer mark – Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Thome and Frank Thomas – have never been connected to performance-enhancing drugs.
Could Bills appear safe?
It’s much too early in the process to make a prediction, and you never know what can happen with a major transaction, but it sure sounds to me like the Bills will be staying in Buffalo one way or another.
Jeremy Jacobs Jr., and Donald Trump are two people who certainly know their way around a negotiating table. Both have expressed the importance of keeping the Bills in Western New York. Both also know how to round up investors if they need financial support.
The great unknown, of course, is the asking price. It’s hard for me to fathom Ralph Wilson’s survivors demanding every last dollar. It would be inconsistent with his message for years.
And no matter the sale price, they’ll have plenty of dough for a loaf of bread.
Even if the price tag is steeper than expected, it’s hardly a risk for any serious investor. The NFL is a money-making machine based on television contracts alone, giving it great curb appeal. They’re also very easy to resell, if necessary.
Vogel likely to stay
Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard couldn’t resist having some fun with fans and poking fun at the media Thursday afternoon when he addressed coach Frank Vogel’s future before Game Three against the Hawks.
“Larry Bird just told me his sources say Frank Vogel’s job is safe,” Pritchard said via Twitter.
Larry Bird is the president, of course, and he has the only two sources that matter: Pacers owner Herb Simon and Larry Bird. And the first one barely counts.
There had been speculation that Vogel could walk the plank after his team neared implosion, but there’s a better chance the Pacers will change a few players before canning the coach. Indiana’s chemistry is a mess.
89 — Points scored in Portland’s first two playoff games by LaMarcus Aldridge, who joined Michael Jordan and Tracy McGrady as the only players in NBA history to record back-to-back 40-point games on the road to start a series.
5.78, .852 — Goals-against average and save percentage through three playoff games for Jonathan Quick, who had a 2.05 GAA and .915 save percentage for the Kings during the regular season.
4,533,007 — Dollars earned by Bubba Watson in nine tournaments, the second-most money he made in nine seasons as a full-time member of the PGA Tour.
• At the very least, Yanks right-hander Michael Pineda should have given the Red Sox the courtesy of waiting a few starts before double-dipping his fingers in pine tar. Even the worst crooks know to let time pass before holding up the same liquor store. Pineda practically invited the cops to the scene of the crime.
• Last year, San Antonio quieted critics who claimed they were old last year by reaching the NBA finals. They looked 10 years older in Game Two against Dallas, an eighth seed that’s capable of winning the series. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili shot 33 percent from the floor in the first two games.
• The Penguins must be jittery after seeing Marc-Andre Fleury cough up three goals or more in each of the first four games against Columbus. They should be more worried about their team defense. The Pens averaged 45.5 shots against in their two losses and just 27 shots against in the two victories.