Every team has them. Those players that you know are going to torch you every time you play them. The guys that, for one reason or another, always seem to have your teams’ number.
The Buffalo Sabres are no different. Over the past 50 years, they have built a list of Sabres Killers. Here we will highlight 10 of the most infuriating players this franchise has faced over half a century.
The unfortunate part about this exercise is that there are many quality candidates for this list. There are no doubt others that you feel should make the cut.
DISCLAIMER: Brett Hull did NOT make this list. While he and his left foot provided undoubtedly the biggest blow to this franchise, he hardly played enough games against the Sabres to be considered a Sabres Killer.
That being said, on to the dance.
10. Jason Spezza
Spezza was part of the formidable trio with Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators that terrorized the Sabres. His ability to control the puck and his killer instinct on the power play made him a menace.
In 66 games against the Sabres, Spezza has amassed 23 goals and 49 assists for 72 points. Both he and Heatley had the same rate of points per game against the team, but due to the fact that Spezza played 19 more games than Heatley, his cuts go just a little bit deeper.
9. Alexander Ovechkin
Ovechkin could be considered a “killer” for most teams in the league. For the Sabres, in particular, he has been an absolute terror. Only one player in NHL history has scored more goals per game against them in a minimum of 40 games played. The prime of his legendary career lined up perfectly with the demise of the Sabres, resulting in his 33 goals in 50 games against them. By the time his career is over, he will no doubt be higher on this list.
8. Michel Goulet
The Sabres’ rivalry with the Quebec Nordiques of the 1980s was bitter, to say the least. Both the regular season and playoffs saw some fun games.
Goulet was one player who enjoyed the rivalry and led the way in downing the 1980s Sabres. In 84 games against the team, he produced 38 goals and 62 assists for an even 100 points. Only one player has more assists and points against the Sabres in history.
7. Evgeni Malkin
Throughout this exercise, it became very apparent that one of the franchises that have consistently produced Sabres Killers is the Pittsburgh Penguins. Malkin is certainly no slouch.
In 42 games, Malkin has put up 18 goals and 37 assists for 55 points against the team. He is another example of a player whose career trajectory aligned perfectly with the darkest period of Sabres’ history. On top of his points, Malkin’s physicality and occasional dirty play have drawn the ire of fans for more than a decade.
6. Wayne Gretzky
This is one of the few lists where Gretzky doesn’t make the top five. Against the Sabres, he played 55 games and accumulated 27 goals and 56 assists for 83 points. Averaging over half a goal per game and more than a point and a half per game, the Sabres are fortunate they didn’t have to face Gretzky more than they did.
5. Daniel Alfredsson
Alfredsson captained the Senators through the days where both teams were good. Through countless regular-season games and two memorable postseason runs, Sabres fans despised him. They loved it in 2006 when Jason Pominville skated around him in overtime to send the Sabres to the third round. Alfredsson got his revenge the following season. (WARNING: The following may be very depressing to some. Sabres fan viewer discretion is advised).
Alfredsson played 93 games against the Sabres, the most on this list. Of his 44 goals, 9 of them were of the game-winning variety, also the most on this list. Indeed, he was an elite Sabres Killer.
4. Jaromir Jagr
The man. The myth. The legend. Jagr played for nearly half of the league and loved every minute he played against the Sabres. He is the second member of the Penguins who did everything he could to sink the Sabres.
Playing in 91 games against the Sabres, Jagr has scored 46 goals and 63 assists for 109 points. No player has more goals, assists, points or shots (317) against the Sabres on this list than him. Let’s just hope we’ve seen the last of him in the NHL and we can give a Jagr Salute to this Sabres Killer.
3. Sidney Crosby
The third member of the Penguins on this list, Crosby has always brought his best against the Sabres. Ryan Miller, in particular, has been victimized by Crosby on numerous occasions. Miller was in net 10 years ago when Crosby scored the Golden Goal. He was also in net for this:
With the snow coming down in front of a packed Ralph Wilson Stadium, the stage was set for an iconic moment in Sabres’ history. Crosby had other plans and used the Sabres to pad his highlight reel. He has basically the same stat-rate against the team as Gretzky and will surpass him in total games played in the next three seasons. The Sabres, unfortunately, will not be done with Crosby any time soon.
2. Steve Yzerman
Through the course of his career, Yzerman played one less game than Crosby has to this point against the Sabres. In that time, he had four more points and five more goals than Crosby. The iconic Detroit Red Wings centre made a habit of humiliating the Sabres, including scoring his 1,000th point against them. With his playing career now finished, he has built the juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning and is now at the helm of the rebuilding Red Wings. He is poised to terrorize the Sabres for years to come.
1. Mario Lemieux
We’ve reached the pinnacle. The top of the pile. The biggest thorn in the Sabres’ side and the fourth and final member of the Penguins on this list. Lemieux feasted on the Sabres to the tune of 29 goals and 41 assists in just 40 games.
Beyond the staggering point and goal totals, Lemieux’s Penguins battled the Sabres numerous times in the playoffs. Brad May even went after Lemieux in a game in Buffalo in 1996 that led to a mini line brawl. He is a legend and his ability to kill the Sabres on the scoresheet is untouched by anyone in history.
What Say You?
So there it is — the best Sabres Killers of all time.
Depending on the era you watched, your list could be very different from this. One thing that can’t be denied, though, is that each of these 10 players was a pain to deal with. When you saw them on the schedule, you sighed inside because you knew what was coming.
However, without rivals, victories never mean as much. The times the Sabres were able to squash the players on this list made for some of the most iconic moments in team history. I’m open to your ideas on the greatest Sabres Killers of all time.
What say you?