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Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily Update

Once again NHL fans were treated to the extremes of playoff Hockey as the first game, not surprisingly a 1-0 contest between a Jennings Trophy-winning team goalie versus the NHL’s second least amount of goals scored against team goalie until the Happy Net goal with 1.8 seconds remaining.

In the second game the barns are still burning out West as the Battle of Alberta’s second game produces 80 SOG, eight goals (the last two were breakaway goals), one disallowed goal, 11 power plays, and nearly 70 hits as this series is now even up.

Edmonton earns a split with a 5-3 victory

New York Head Coach’s quote after the first period when questioned about the face-off disparity, “not major, (smiles), we want to win more”.

Carolina Head Coach’s quote before the game, “if you are playing at this time of year there is something wrong with you”, (injury).

Carolina shuts out New York 2-0

These teams combined for 18 SOG total halfway through the second period, a goaltending duel this was not, and a two-game to none lead in this series is as suffocating as their style of play.

Incredibly the Rangers get a four-minute power play and give up a short-handed eventual game-winning goal, then get penalized with 23 seconds left on their power play, absorb another to be down five on three for over a minute, and do not get scored on. 

The NHL Stanley Cup second round continues this evening with one contest scheduled for an eight o’clock puck drop in St. Louis for the Blues and Avalanche series that is tied after two games.

Stanley Cup Daily Review

Goaltending was not the issue for the Florida Feud last night as both Mr. Bobrovsky and Mr. Vasilevskiy were near brick walls but scoring is an issue for the comeback cats and if they endeavor to live up to that moniker they had better begin lighting the lamp.

To win the first two games on the road in any playoff series is telling, the making of a sweep realistically and it all depends on game three and if it becomes another one-goal effort from Florida’s offense.

Perhaps a team with a plus 94 goal differential in the regular season and as current President Trophy holder could find a way to unleash their four 30 goal scorers upon their opponent and if not the brooms will come out.

The Blues have played well in Colorado and go home with the split and their fans should be encouraged by the victory and the fact that the Avalanche after taking over 50 SOG could only manage to win game one in overtime.

The Avalanche is one of only two teams not to lose 20 or more games in the regular season and have just as much firepower as the Blues and if Colorado does not bring their “A” game they could head home for game five down three to one.

Round Two Update

The best of both worlds in playoff Hockey was on display last night as fans witnessed a suffocating one-nothing game that was not won until the last six minutes of play, three of which were in overtime, and a spectacular barn burner tied at six finalizing at 9-6.

New York scored first approximately seven minutes into last night’s matchup versus Carolina that held up until two and a half minutes remaining in regulation, and the Hurricanes played like the Carolina Light Breeze in the first two periods amassing 14 SOG six in the second period.

Carolina wins 2-1 in OT

Clearly Carolina “decided” to play in the third period as they took it to New York limiting the Rangers offensive zone time which resulted in five SOG for New York over the game’s final 20 minutes of regulation and three in overtime.

Calgary wins 9-6

Fans will gripe about not enough goals being scored in NHL games, well you get what you ask for and both teams combine for 15 goals as Calgary torches Edmonton for three goals each period for an impressive nine-goal outburst.

Edmonton did not answer back until down three goals for the period and wow did they ever, as Mr. Kane demolishes Mr. Ritchie along the backboards that allowed Mr. Barrie to make the pass to Mr. McDavid who does what he does best and scores.

Edmonton ties the game at six goals heading into the third period as the choking noose begins to tighten around Calgary’s neckline but the past nightmares of series loss dissipate as the Flames continue scoring to take another two-goal lead and the last score a Happy Net goal.

Stanley Cup Playoffs

Round Two or the Stanley Cup Quarter-Finals or for modern fans, the Conference Finals have begun last night with Colorado pouring an avalanche of 54 shots at the St. Louis netminder that inflated the Blues save percentage and blocks statistic, and still this game went to overtime.

In a contest where numerous Colorado legit scoring chances were not cashed in, the Blues would have considered themselves lucky to get a loser point during the regular season but all for naught on the road in the first game of this playoff series.

No NHL playoff series was ever won in the first game or Toronto would have moved on after a dominating 5-0 win in the first game of the last round, this is something the Panthers can hang their skates on after dropping the first game of “The Battle for Florida”.

Two Eastern teams that should have and did win their opening rounds, Carolina and New York are ready to faceoff at seven o’clock this evening in Raleigh North Carolina where the temps are rising to 87 F today for fans to bask in before the teams hit the ice.

The Hurricanes are enjoying Aunty Raanta’s invaluable play as Mr. Andersen is out and New York’s twenty-something Mr. Shesterkin is having exemplary playoffs as well, so goaltending should not be an issue for either team.

Both teams seem evenly matched except for the goal differential which goes to Carolina and the Rangers one advantage is the now useless shoot-out statistic so this series will come down to the Hurricanes offense and the Rangers goaltending and everyone knows you cannot win nothing to something.

Prediction: Carolina in seven

The two remaining Canadian playoff teams are matched up and begin to play at nine-thirty this evening and Buffalo Winter’s favorite, the Calgary Flames are hosting the Edmonton Oilers and after more than a decade the “Battle of Alberta” is back with a very confident Flames fan base.

Prediction: Calgary wins in six

Buffalo Invitational

This season Buffalo Winter Hockey was invited to participate in a local NHL playoff fantasy tournament where six seasoned fantasy players recently held their draft.

The 11 positions required to fill:

6 Forwards

3 Defensemen

1 Goaltender (NHL Team name not goalies)

1 extra selection (any position)

The progression of elimination in a playoff fantasy tournament provides the fantasy player a demanding draft with a smaller roster/lineup and no opportunities for player movement making each draft selection of a player/team critical.

The strategies for this type of tournament vary between drafting superstars on a team that probably will not make the Finals or selecting decent to very good players on teams that likely will make the Finals, or going all-in on the team you think will win the Cup.

NHL Playoffs Begin Tonight!

The “Second Season” begins tonight as the NHL begins the Stanley Cup playoffs with four contests featuring the defending two-time Cup champions, two games in Canada, and the NHL’s 60-goal man.

The Maple Leafs and Lightning have never met in the playoffs and as much stock is put into regular-season series play…most would agree the playoffs are indeed an entirely different season.

Toronto depends on its core of twenty-somethings and Tampa Bay depends on its core of thirty-somethings so the ice belongs to Awesome Matthews as well as the responsibility to lead his Leafs to the next round. Toronto in 6

Carolina opens the playoffs versus a team they owned during the regular season, has only lost eight Home games, and although their number one goaltender Mr. Andersen is not fully healthy there are no worries because Mr. Raanta has better numbers than Boston’s number one goalie. Carolina in 6

Minnesota is a feel-good story and a very solid team that has picked up a Cup champion goaltender and is endeavoring to get past a team that they have had a dismal record against during the past three seasons.

The Blues are still a very good team and it is possible the goaltenders will rule this series. St Louis in 6

In the series between the 11th and 14th teams overall the Kings and Oilers are evenly matched where the only telling sign statistically is the goal differential which is heavily in Edmonton’s favor and they have Connor McDavid. Edmonton in 6

Buffalo Sabres Honor and Victory

The Buffalo Sabres ceremonial “RJ Night” was a special tribute to an esteemed announcer and the ceremony was heartfelt creating a raucous crowd that was near capacity and was also treated to a Buffalo win versus Nashville to begin April with a victory.

Any glance through a Buffalo Sabres Official Media Guide from the late 1970’s and you would of read that not only did Mr. Jeanneret provide radio play-by-play and/or color he additionally did the play-by-play announcing for the Sabres cable television broadcasted games.   

He said he had three words for us…”I Love You”

With the score 3-3 after the first period Buffalo proceeded to play a very solid and tight team defensive game in the second and third periods and scored the game winning goal in the second period as the Sabres went on to win the contest 4-3.

Buffalo’s April record 1-0-0 after going 8-3-3 through March has created the possibility of ending the season with an even or winning record, considering all this team has endured and to come out on top at the finish positively could carry over into next season.

One reason that Sabres games are entertaining are attributed to the insights of color analyst Mr. Ray a well respected Alumni member of the Buffalo Sabres whose personal anecdotes and observations of Buffalo’s teams and players both past and present can be informative and humorous.

The Sabres host the powerful Panthers from Florida tomorrow afternoon at one o’clock in a game where Buffalo looks to avenge their 6-1 drubbing from last month at the gloves of this same Panther team and then travel to Florida for a Friday Night rematch.

Craig “Rammer” Ramsay

The Buffalo Sabres rose quickly and made the Stanley Cup Finals in only their fifth season, quite an accomplishment during the 1970s and Mr. Craig Edward “Rammer” Ramsay was an integral part of that Wales Conference championship team.

Mr. Ramsay was born on St. Patrick’s Day 1951 in the former village of Weston (also known as Thistletown) now a neighborhood of Toronto Ontario and growing up his favorite player was Mr. Dave Keon of the Leafs.

Mr. Ramsay was part of the OHL prestigious J. Ross Robertson Cup Champions (J. Ross Robertson Junior Silver Challenge Trophy first awarded in 1898, after 1933-34 was designated for the Junior A champions) and Memorial Cup Finalist with the Peterborough Petes in the 1971 – 72 round-robin series with a final take all game.  

Under Head Coach Roger Neilson his line was the shut-down line, an indication of things to come as Mr. Ramsay would acknowledge his job was to stop the other guy from scoring and took pride in his offensive capabilities.

Mr. Ramsay was drafted 19th overall in the second round of the 1971 NHL Amateur draft which also included Mr. Richard Martin and Mr. Bill Hajt for the Sabres. He played 19 games with the AHL Swords and then up to the NHL Sabres for 57 games in his first season.

The following season in 1972 Mr. Ramsay was also drafted by the WHA Hartford Whalers during the rounds 51-70 of their amateur draft.

From his first day as a 20-year-old until he retired in 1985 at 33 years of age Mr. Ramsay skated only for Buffalo in the NHL becoming only the second player to play 1,000 games for Buffalo along with becoming a naturalized American citizen with the Sabres.  

Mr. Ramsay was one of my favorites and when paired with Mr. Luce became the most dominating shut-down duo in the NHL and when Mr. Gare was added to the line they scored 90 goals second only to the French Connection during the magical Cup run of 74-75.

Buffalo Sabres and other team records and firsts:

The fewest penalty minutes in a full season “0” (shared record) in 1973-74, ironically not even voted on for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy that season, the eventual winner collected eight PIMS.

Most consecutive games: 776 and this streak ended when his foot was broken from a shot during a game versus Los Angeles on February 10th, 1983 (fourth-longest Iron Man streak in the NHL).

Roller-Derby Helmet

Mr. Ramsay had eight consecutive 20 plus goals seasons and during each of those eight seasons, he played all 80 games and is one of four Sabres to have played in over 80 playoff games.

During the 1971 season, his first three goals scored in the NHL was a Hat Trick scored against the Minnesota North Stars in a 3 – 1 game, he collected two more Hat Tricks scored against the Washington Capitals in 1975 and the Colorado Rockies during the 1977 season.

Slap Shot sideburns aka McCracken

Most games played by the Sabres at Left Wing 1,070 and his 1,000th game happened on October 28th, 1984 against the Calgary Flames.

Most Short Handed Goals: 27 tops for Buffalo and 37th most in NHL history and 25 of the players ahead of him needed more games to score and be ranked ahead of Mr. Ramsay.

In 1973 the Buffalo Sabres first playoff game was against the Montreal Canadiens and it was Mr. Ramsay scoring Buffalo’s first-ever playoff goal to take the 1 – 0 lead.

Voted to the 1975 All-Star game.

Then in 1976, Mr. Ramsay scored the Buffalo Sabres first short-handed playoff goal versus the St. Louis Blues.

Frank J. Selke Trophy

The fifth player to earn the Frank J. Selke Trophy for excellence in the defensive aspects of the game Mr. Ramsay earned this honor from the “Professional Hockey Writers’ Association” in 1985 after being voted for the trophy nine seasons in a row.

Mr. Ramsay was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame class of 1995.

It was a bittersweet feeling for me when I watched three former Buffalo Sabres one player with a Head and Assistant Coach (Mr. Ramsay) win and have their names etched into the Stanley Cup as representatives of another team in 2004.

Additionally, Mr. Ramsay was inducted into the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame class of 2012.

Mr. Ramsay initially coached for Buffalo in 1986 – 87 as player-coach, assistant coach, and head coach for a total of 68 games eventually leaving Buffalo after one season and coaching for seven other NHL teams over the next 30 seasons and currently coaching the 2022 Slovakia National Team.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present one of the most productive players and major contributors to the early years of the Buffalo Sabres and one of the most overlooked and underrated players in Buffalo history, Mr. Craig Edward “Rammer” Ramsay.

Peter “Pete” McNab

As an older boy young teenager in the early to mid-seventies I was fiercely loyal to the players drafted by the Sabres and one such player was Peter McNab who my boys selected in the sixth round 85th overall during the 1972 NHL amateur draft (also drafted by the New York Raiders of the WHA that same year).

It was different to see an American college player drafted by Buffalo Mr. McNab played for a Denver team in the WCHA consistently scoring more points than games played and fortunately for the Sabres after Mr. McNab entered Denver on a baseball scholarship he ultimately made the Men’s Hockey team.

Mr. McNab is best known for his eight seasons as a Boston player scoring 30 to 40 goals for six consecutive years while contributing to two Stanley Cup Finals runs, he also spent parts of two seasons with Vancouver and the New Jersey Devils.

I fondly remember Mr. McNab as one of the players contributing to Buffalo’s magical Cup run during the 74-75 campaign as a solid 20 goal scorer that chipped in a couple of goals and a half-dozen assists during the playoffs.

As a younger fan, I could not fathom why the following season when the Sabres stalled in the Quarter Finals the two times 20 goals scorer Mr. McNab was traded away the next year for a player that in three full seasons in Boston could not crack 20 goals.

Interestingly the trade between Buffalo and Boston was the first time in NHL trade history where two unsigned UFAs were traded, signed, and played for the team they were traded to.

Mr. McNab played in three Stanley Cup Finals during the 1970s with Buffalo and Boston and his father Max McNab won his Stanley Cup as a Detroit Red Wing in the 1950s and was the General Manager in New Jersey when his son Pete was signed as a free agent.

One of the least penalized players in the 1970s during an era of bench-clearing brawls and competing against teams with roving “policemen” that “enforced” player safety, Mr. McNab earned four penalty minutes in 79 games during the 1977-78 season garnishing him second place in the Lady Byng voting.

Astonishingly during the 1979 season when this two time Lady Byng finalist would earn 10 PIMs all year gets himself suspended six games the day after Christmas for going into the stands and fighting Rangers fans in Madison Square Garden.

Behind the scenes Owners, General Managers, Coaches, Scouts, Agents and other associates determine the fate of the players, their contracts and ultimately where and who they play for, but this long ago young naïve fan sadly could not understand why this player had to be traded?

Unheralded Hajt

In the first three rounds of the 1971 NHL amateur draft, the Buffalo Sabres selected Rick Martin, Craig Ramsey, and in the third round selected defenseman William Albert Hajt who chose to attend the University of Saskatchewan instead of accepting Buffalo’s contract offer to play in the 1971-72 season.

Bill Hajt was a left-hand shooting, 6-3, a 215-pound defenseman that after leaving the University he played the next two seasons in the AHL for the Cincinnati Swords where he contributed to winning the AHL regular-season title and Calder Cup championship in 1973.

Rookie OPC card

During the 1973-74 season, Mr. Hajt finished up at the AHL level and played six games for the Sabres that year collecting a couple of assists.

During Buffalo’s amazing run to the Stanley Cup Finals of 1974-75, Mr. Hajt was a quiet and underrated solid, stay-at-home, defensive defenseman who finished the regular season with almost 30 assists and a plus 46 rating.

Rookie Mr. Hajt scored the Sabres fourth goal to tie the third game of the Cup Finals which became Buffalo’s first Stanley Cup Finals victory, the following season Mr. Hajt set the Buffalo record with four assists by a defenseman in a regular-season game.

Mr. Hajt was named to the 1981 Wales Conference All-Star in Los Angeles but refused to play in it so he could “rest-up” for the second half of the season he missed his next All-Star nod in 1985 due to a shoulder injury.

Mr. Hajt led Buffalo twice in plus/minus rating and at retirement owned the Sabres record for career games played by a defenseman, was selected twice for the honor of the Tim Horton Memorial Award (unsung hero), and once for the Charley Barton Memorial Silver Stick Award (dedication to the game).

He retired once in 1983 while in camp, left for home, came back stating that it felt like being in a “morgue” and felt bad about leaving the Sabres shorthanded and coming back to play for four more seasons.

Mr. Hajt’s son Chris played six NHL games for Edmonton and Washington while mostly playing at the AHL level, and a few European leagues before coming back to the OHL, AHL, and NHL to coach, where he was an assistant coach for the Sabres during the 2017-18, 208-19 seasons.  

As a young boy/teenager most of the 1970s Buffalo Sabres were my Hockey Heroes and number 24, big and lanky Bill Hajt was no exception, and as I grew so did my appreciation for defensive play and players.

Everyone appreciates a flashy Dahlin or Housley skating in on a goaltender and scoring but it is reassuring to have a stay-at-home defensive defenseman that every coach at every level wants and requires for their team’s success.