We all remember how this season ended, but many may not be aware of how the Sabres actually got to the finals during the 1998-1999 season. The Sabres were not expected to do well at all that year.
Just one year prior, Miroslav Satan led the team with just 46 points. The Sabres draft picks before the start of the season didn’t fare too well, either. They included Andrew Peters, Dmitri Kalinin, and Ales Kotalik.
Buffalo relied on its goaltender, Dominik Hasek, to win games. The Sabres simply didn’t have the offensive ability to win games, although their powerplay was ranked one of the top in the league. The overlooked Sabres began the ’98-’99 season with a 4-1 loss against Dallas, oddly enough.
Buffalo ended up finishing the season with 37 wins and 91 points, good enough for seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Satan led the Sabres team with 66 points in 81 games. Mike Peca and Michael Grosek also hit 50 points that season.
Hasek recorded 30 wins (nine shutouts) in 64 games. 14 of those games ended up being a tie. Buffalo had a tall as they would have to face Ottawa in the first round of the playoffs. The Senators reached 103 points in the regular season and were the favorite to make a deep run into the playoffs.
Buffalo took game 1 in Ottawa by a 2-1 score. Two nights later, in double overtime, the Sabres took a 2-0 lead in the series. Then, after getting shutout in game three, the Senators were in a stranglehold, and had little chance of winning the series at all.
The Sabres completed the sweep and finished off the Senators in game four by a 4-3 score. Buffalo then had to face Boston in Round two. The Bruins were the number six seed and had the same amount of points as Buffalo during the regular season.
After losing the first game of the series, the Sabres won the next three, and had a chance to put the Bruins away in game five. Boston was only able to win one more time, as they were knocked out after a 3-2 loss in game six.
In round three, the Sabres were matched up against the number four seeded Toronto Maple Leafs. In what many thought would be an even series, the Sabres knocked out the Leafs in five games, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Even though Buffalo won game one against Dallas, the Stars won the next three out of four. Brett Hull’s “no goal” may have stolen the Stanley Cup from Buffalo.
Alexie Zhitnik and Jason Woolley led the team with 15 points each during the playoffs. Hasek won 13 of 19 games, but Dallas took the series in game six.
This Sabres team found a way to win each and every night. Despite a seventh place finish, they were able to get to the Finals, something Buffalo hasn’t seen since then.