Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Posted: 4:42 p.m.
By Tim Panaccio
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Sabres' Smurfs had rolled up the score 8-1 on Ken Hitchcocks Flyers in Game 2 of the 2006 quarterfinals.
Lindy Ruff was steaming at how many Flyers had taken runs at his guys afterward.
Tell Lindy to (bleep) off, Hitchcock said as he ended his press conference down 0-2 to Buffalo in that 2006 playoff series, which started here at HSBC Arena.
So much has changed for Ruffs group from the small band of skilled Smurfs to a team with an abundance of both skill, true grit and even size. Ruffs current Roughhouse Bunch seems to enjoy it.
Im not familiar with those Hitchcock wars youre talking about, Laviolette said. Buffalo doesnt surprise me that theyre skating, that theyre physical.
For three games now, the Sabres have brought the physical game to the Flyers and guess what? Ruff aint carping about his guys getting beaten up, even though Buffalo is down in this Eastern Conference first round series, 2-1, with Game 4 set for Wednesday.
I would trade outscoring for outhitting, said Ruff, whose club outhit the Flyers 26-14 in Game 3. I dont even look. Its plays that make a difference. I dont think in some cases hitting makes a difference.
If you want to hit somebody and get the puck back, thats a good hit. Sometimes hitting can take the will away from another team. I dont think were going to take the will away from the Flyers. I think maybe theyre surprised we keep coming all the time.
Mike Richards was on that 06 playoff team with Hitchcock. Danny Briere was on the other side. Both see the difference in the Sabres makeup then versus now.
Buffalo is trying to wear the Flyers down.
They play hard, they got some physical players and big players, Richards says. They want to try and take some of heat off some of their skilled players.
Back in 06, the Flyers did all they could to rough up Briere when they could catch him on the ice. Now, the Sabres are trying punish every Flyer they see.
Nathan Gerbe, the reigning Briere of this Sabres generation, at 5-foot-5, is a physical player in this series. He had three hits in Game 3.
Even their smaller guys, like Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe, theyre playing hard and fighting for their space, Briere said. You need that. Their big guys are physical.
That was always a question when I was here. Are the Sabres too small to win it all? Need some grit, need some physical players.
It now seems their third and fourth line are built more around that. When I here, it was more like three scoring lines. Its a fine line now with the rules. You can bring the physical but you need skill to win. Its a tough line to tip toe.
Especially, for a guy like the Flyers Scott Hartnell, who tended to be a lunkhead when he first came here. Hed lose his discipline when a guy hit him from behind.
Sabres defenseman Mike Weber cross-checked Hartnell from behind five times in Game 3 during a Flyer power play. And that was after Weber drilled Hartnell to the ice.
It wasnt until a shot to the throat that Hartnell finally reacted. That was discipline on his part.
Ive gotten to a point where I control myself, especially after the whistles, Hartnell said.
Its no good for myself or the team to be in the box after a tight game like Monday and its 3-2. If I take a stupid penalty, its 3-3 and going into overtime Maturity. Ive learned a lot over the years. Meetings after taking a bad penalty.
The Sabres would love to get the Flyers to take bad penalties. Sean ODonnell has been around for 16 years in the NHL and says the change in the how the Sabres are constructed is very obvious in this series.
The Sabres look at us and realize this is a year where they can physically take it to the Flyers, ODonnell said. They seem to be trying. They have guys who can hit and take the body. Patrick Kaleta is their most physical guy.
Cody McCormick hits hard, Mike Grier hits hard, Paul Gaustad. They have guys who can finish, even guys like Gerbe. They finish their hits. With the offense we have and forwards we have, Buffalo probably feels they can grind us.
And they have had success on us down low. They feel if theyre going to win this series, they need to pound us and grind us down and finish every check down low to get this to a seven-game series. I think -- I dont know -- thats their game plan.
Laviolette wasnt around for those Flyers-Sabres series of past, but his 2006 Carolina squad that eventually won the Stanley Cup were pushed into a seventh game by Ruffs Smurfs during the Eastern Conference final.
Its really difficult to compare teams and that team has turned over 90-95 percent, Laviolette said. Buffalo gained a lot of respect from everybody for going where they went in that playoff run and especially that series because of the depth of defense they had lost because of injury.
"The Roughhouse Bunch" is earning some respect in this series, as well, against a Flyers club many people pegged as a legit threat to return to the Stanley Cup Final this year.
Kaleta has what some think is a broken nose after Braydon Coburn threw him to the ice in the first period. Kaleta, who didnt return to the game, wore a full cage at Tuesdays practice.
He says he wants another shot at the Flyers in Game 4.
Pumped up actually, Kaleta said. I didnt get to waste too much energy yesterday, so its all built up and ready to get back right on the right path.
Yeah, the nasty, physical one.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com
Related: Jackson's Five: Chapter 3 in Flyers-Sabres Big 5-on-3 penalty kill a turning point in Flyers' win