Times have changed, so have the Sabres
Posted: Wednesday June 23, 1999 04:12 PM
ATLANTA (CNN/SI) -- The French Connection. The Dominator.
They are two of the most famous nicknames in the history of the Buffalo Sabres. At the same time, they signify the contrast between Buffalo's two Stanley Cup finals teams.
The 1974-75 and 1998-99 editions of the Sabres now have a common bond. That's about all they have in common. Times have changed. The styles are distinctive. Even the uniforms of the teams are drastically different.
This year's Sabres hope the final results are different, too.
The '74-75 Sabres were a scoring machine, buoyed by the dominating line of Gil Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert -- forever known as the French Connection.
The team averaged nearly 4.5 goals a game, lighting the lamp a team-record 354 times. They had six 30-goal scorers. They scored seven or more goals in a game 11 times.
Perreault, Martin and Robert -- whose jerseys now hang from the rafters of Marine Midland Arena -- combined to score 131 goals and 289 points in the Sabres' storybook season of '74-75, which remained Buffalo's only trip to the Stanley Cup finals until this season.
Between the pipes, the Sabres were decent. The trio of Gary Bromley, Roger Crozier and Gerry Desjardins (who was acquired during the stretch run) combined to have a goals-against-average of just under 3.00 and a save percentage of .885.
But with all of those goals, great goaltending wasn't at such a premium.
The '98-99 Sabres, meanwhile, have been defensive wizards, bolstered by the staggering goaltending of Dominik Hasek.
The Sabres led the NHL in fewest goals allowed with 175. Hasek's save percentage of .937 also led the league, and his GAA of 1.84 ranked second. Buffalo blanked opponents 10 times, nine of which were by Hasek.
Offensively, the Sabres have been average. Only Miroslav Satan had more than 30 goals, scoring 40. Satan also led the team in points with 66. In fact, the Sabres top six point scorers (133 goals, 305 points) are on par with the French Connection line.
A contrast in styles, indeed.
But for both teams, the first road game of the season may have been a fortune-teller.
The Sabres of '74-75 opened their road schedule against the Flyers, losing 6-1. It was one of four times Buffalo met Philadelphia in the regular season. Each time the Flyers scored more than five goals. Each time the Flyers won.
Philadelphia would end up meeting the Sabres in the Stanley Cup Finals, where the Flyers won the series in six games.
The Sabres of '98-99? They opened their road schedule at, coincidentally, Dallas and lost 4-1. Buffalo split the season series with the Stars.
Regardless, the Sabres are in the Stanley Cup finals for only the second time in franchise history, and the first since the Perreault, Martin and Robert roamed the ice.
But for a city that has never won a professional sports championship -- Buffalo is winless in five title attempts -- maybe change is good.