Whenever the Sabres face the Carolina Hurricanes, perhaps it brings up bad memories. You know, the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals where Sabres defensemen were dropping like flies including Jay McKee going down with a staph infection. The Sabres played the decisive seventh game without McKee, Henrik Tallinder, Dmitri Kalinin and Teppo Numminen and still had a lead nearing the end of the second period.
Of course, the Canes came back to win and went on to bring home the franchise's first ever Stanley Cup Championship. What happened with the Sabres was just part of a hard to believe playoff run. In the opening round, Carolina lost the first two games to seventh seed Montreal on home ice and gave up 12 goals in the process. Don't forget, when the playoffs began, the eventual Conn Smythe Trophy winner was a spectator. Rookie goalie Cam Ward only got a chance to play because Martin Gerber was so bad that he was pulled in game two. The Canadiens also lost Saku Koivu for the series in game three, the first of a number of injuries suffered by teams that would face the Canes that spring.
Carolina knocked out three seed New Jersey in the second round and eliminated the Sabres before facing the 8th seed Edmonton Oilers, who were down to their third string goalie in the Finals. Are you kidding me? This might be the most fortunate post season run ever.
Maybe the hockey gods realized they went overboard that season and have been trying to make amends. Since winning the Cup in the spring of 2006, the Hurricanes have been a rather pedestrian franchise with just one playoff berth in the last six seasons.
Carolina's winning percentage over that time is .479 and they've averaged just 88 points. They had 112 in that magical 05-06 season. The low point came last season when they finished last in the Southeast Division with 82 points. Prior to that, they recorded two second place finishes and finished in third place three times.
I never realized this but did you know the Carolina Hurricanes have been around as long as Lindy Ruff has been behind the Sabres bench? The Hartford Whalers turned into the Carolina Hurricanes for the 1997-98 season which was Ruff's first as Sabres Head Coach. For what its worth, over those 14 years, the Canes have made the playoffs just 5 times while Ruff has guided the Sabres into the post season 8 times. While the Canes have averaged 88 points in the six seasons since they won the Cup, the Sabres have averaged 96 and have three division titles to their credit but they haven't won a playoff series since the second round in 2007.