The Buffalo Sabres now hold the longest streak of playoff futility in the NHL after the Toronto Maple Leafs victory over Tampa Bay snapped their 19-year postseason drought. The Sabres have not made the playoffs since 2011 and have not won a postseason series since beating the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semi-Final in 2007. Since then the Sabres have been through multiple rebuilds and some of their former players are enjoying success with other NHL clubs in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
BRANDON MONTOUR CANNOT BE STOPPED pic.twitter.com/R2N0LGlyHK
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) May 3, 2023
Some prominent ex-Buffalo players (goalie Linus Ullmark and winger Taylor Hall in Boston, Marcus Foligno with Minnesota) had limited success in losing efforts, but other former Sabres made significant contributions.
The Florida Panthers tandem of Sam Reinhart and Brandon Montour had the most impact on their club in their seven-game upset of the Bruins. Reinhart was dealt by Buffalo to the Panthers in the summer of 2021 by GM Kevyn Adams. The return that Adams extracted in the deal was a first-round pick (Jiri Kulich) and highly-regarded goalie Devon Levi. The former second-overall pick has eclipsed the 30-goal mark in Florida twice and scored four goals in the series. Montour was dealt for a third-round pick at the 2021 trade deadline after struggling under Ralph Krueger in Buffalo. The former Anaheim Duck had a career-high 73 points this season and scored five goals against the Bruins and the insurance marker in the Panthers 4-2 win over Toronto on Tuesday.
Two of the Maple Leafs big deadline acquisitions; Ryan O’Reilly and Jake McCabe were integral to them finally slaying their playoff demons and getting past the Lightning. O’Reilly had seven points in the series and scored a key goal to tie Game 3 in Tampa late in regulation. McCabe played in Toronto’s top four and averaged close to 23 minutes per game.
In the West, former Sabres captain Jack Eichel came up big for Vegas in their first-round series win over Winnipeg, scoring three goals for the Golden Knights. Defenseman Brayden McNabb provided veteran depth on the Vegas blueline. Evander Kane provided some depth scoring behind Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid with Edmonton, scoring three goals in six games in the series victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Defenseman Will Borgen was lost in the expansion draft to Seattle in 2021. After playing only 14 games over two seasons with Buffalo, he played all 82 games in his second season with the Kraken and served as a bottom-pairing blueliner in their stunning seven-game win over the reigning Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.