Tim Connolly was the Sabres No. 1 center. He led the forwards in ice time, played in even-strength, shorthanded and man-advantage situations and took pivotal faceoffs.
He can be frustrating to watch at times, but he’s an important player on the team. He even wore an “A” tonight.
Buffalo had to play without him for the last few minutes of the second period and all of the third after Flyers captain Mike Richards ran him through the boards from behind.
Richards received a two minute minor. Connolly left the game. Buffalo will be without him for Tuesday’s Game Seven. Richards emerged from the penalty box and assisted on both Philadelphia’s game-tying and game-winning goals.
There’s a chance Richards could be suspended for the hit but the damage against the Sabres has already been done. Richards seriously altered the outcome of Game Six. He took out a key Sabre and helped make sure the Flyers would live to play another day.
Now Richards probably won’t be suspended for a careless play that injured another player. And even if he was suspended, the Flyers would have ample time to prepare for his absence and wouldn’t be forced to play a man down. A suspension, however, is the league’s decision to make.
The only minor consolation is that Lindy Ruff said that Derek Roy is ready to return to action. He was the team’s real No. 1 center, playing at an all-star level before he tearing in December. It would have been nice to see how Roy would do with Connolly pivoting the line below, but that’s not in the cards right now.
And to wonder how ready Roy is or if he’d be in if they weren’t desperate for a center is irrelevant. If he’s good enough to suit up, he’s going to have to be able to contribute. With Connolly, Pominville and Hecht out, Roy will probably be expected to kill some penalties. He’d better be ready.
Other quick thoughts from the game:
— It’s great to see Tyler Myers get mean. He didn’t back down from Chris Pronger late in the first period and hopefully that’s a sign of things to come from him. He also had three assists tonight. Exciting stuff.
— Daniel Briere is freaking good. Another two goals tonight. For all the great memories he gave Sabres fans, it’s hard to believe that he’s played more games, both regular and post-season, as a Flyer than any other team. He’s easy to root against now.
— Ryan Miller made 44 saves on 49 shots. The Flyers had 16 shots blocked and they missed another 15 attempts completely. The Flyers outshot the Sabres 14-6 in the third period. Philly poured it on. Buffalo can’t afford to be dominated like they were if they want to make it out of Game Seven alive.
— The secondary scoring needs to be more consistent for the Sabres. Thomas Vanek will be Atlas but it would be nice to see Brad Boyes or Paul Gaustad put one in soon. Rob Niedermayer continued his nice little surge but with all those top line guys out, other forwards are going to have to step up.
— The Sabres have been in playoff mode since January, maybe even a little earlier (look back to the reaction to the Calgary game as a turning point). However, it could all come to an end Tuesday night. No matter what happens, it’s been a fun few months. A loss would be disappointing but this ride has been memorable and should be looked back on fondly.
That said, just win.