The NHL Conference Finals begin tonight in the West with the #1 Detroit Red Wings facing off against the #5 Dallass Stars. Tomorrow night in the East the #6 Philadelphia Flyers take on the #2 Pittsburgh Penguins.

I’m rooting for the Flyers.

I know, I know; How could one do such a thing being a Buffalo Sabres fan. Since the Sabres didn’t even make the playoffs, and the Minnesota Wild (who I was rooting for in the West) were eliminated in round one, I needed a team to pull for. Believe me, this decision didn’t come easy. I hate the Flyers. I really do. And to be honest (being an Atlanta Falcons fan), I don’t like the Eagles either. Philadelphia is not a sports city I particularly care for. Even so, I want to see ex-Sabres, Daniel Briere and Martin Biron win the cup. Both players left Buffalo, a city that revered them, abruptly and dramatically.

Biron was traded to Philadelphia via a three way deal: Buffalo sent Biron to Philly and sent a fifth round pick in the 2007 draft to Columbus. The Sabres in return received goalie Ty Conklin from Columbus, and the Flyers also received a second round pick in the 2007 draft. This all happened at the trade deadline with only a handful of games left before the start of the 2007 post season. Biron was drafted by Buffalo as a first round pick in 1995, and up until being traded, he was the longest serving Sabre on the squad. A likable persona to Buffalo fans, he is a class act and had talent to back it up. Even so, Biron played second fiddle his entire career in Buffalo to such goalies as, Dominik Hasek, Steve Shields, Mika Noronen, and of course Ryan Miller. He seemed to be Miller’s backbone during the 2005-2006 post lockout season and the 2006-2007 Presidents Trophy season. Even more, Biron gave Miller moral support, guidance, and friendship. In his last season with Buffalo, Biron had a 12-4-1 record. Talk about an awesome backup goalie. His stats with the Sabres are 134-115-25-4 with 18 shutouts and a 2.53 goals against average. He has also never played in a post season game in his career until this season; Now he finds himself with the chance to play for the Stanley Cup. Something he has only been able to watch his teammates do throughout his career. Biron’s current post season record is 8-4 with 34 goals against and 395 saves with 1 shutout, and a .914 save percentage. It’s tough to root against a guy like that.

Then there is Daniel Briere. A player who was unanimously a fan favorite in Buffalo. He scored goals and played hard, but he wasn’t just a talented hockey player, he was also the teams pretty boy. He was the closest thing to Tom Brady Buffalo sports has ever experienced; Women loved him, and guys loved watching him perform on the ice. Sabres fans can easily recall the 2006-2007 season, when Briere was boarded hard by NHL love child, Alexander Ovechkin. The Buffalo fan base went into an outrage over the cheap shot, and awesomely, so did Briere’s teammates who leaped to the defense of their captain. Daniel Briere could have easily become a legend in Buffalo. Some things just aren’t meant to be. Briere’s departure from the Sabres organization was a head scratching, upsetting, frustrating, ‘WTF’ type of blunder by the Sabres brass. At the end of the 2006-2007 season, after Buffalo was eliminated for the second year in a row at the Eastern Conference Finals (by Carolina and Ottawa), Briere became a free agent. Before Sabres fans had time to stomach the playoff loss, Daniel Briere had signed a contract with long time team rival, the Philadelphia Flyers. During an NHL season that lasted 8 and a half months and 82 games, the Sabres management never approached Briere with a new contract offer. As a result, Briere’s agent wisely began talking to other teams, and this move ultimately landed him a spot in Philly. Briere signed an 8 year contract worth $52 million. So far in the post season, Briere has scored 8 goals along with 6 assists, for a total of 14 points. 5 of those 8 goals came on the power play, and 3 of the 8 were game winning goals. Briere has also put 27 shots on net in the playoffs. It isn’t tough to see the fact that Briere was a great acquisition by Philadelphia and a terrible loss for Buffalo.

And that is how Daniel Briere’s and Martin Biron’s tenure as Buffalo Sabres came to a grinding halt.

Even though their colors have changed to a hideous orange and black, I think these two men deserve to win the Stanley Cup. They play hard, with a lot of heart, and they are both classy gentlemen. Not many other athletes can claim to have these virtues. At the end of the 2007 NHL season, the Sabres ranked 1st in the league and the Flyers dead last at 30th. Yes, Philadelphia has made other additions to their team, but it is obvious that Briere and Biron have had a lot to do with the Flyers impressive comeback season. This post season, the pair knocked out the Washington Capitals, complete with NHL ‘superstar’ Alex Ovechkin, in the first round. In the second round they quickly toppled the Eastern Conference’s first seeded Montreal Canadiens in a mere 5 games. Other ex-Sabres of note who are appearing/have appeared in this years playoff race are Brian Campbell and Mike Grier. Grier and Campbell both play for the San Jose Sharks and were eliminated in the second round by the Dallass Stars. Former Sabre, Stu Barnes is also playing for the Stanley Cup this year. Barnes played for Buffalo when they last appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999; the year of Brett Hull’s infamous NO GOAL. Ironically enough, Barnes is now playing for the very team who eliminated him from Stanley Cup contention nearly a decade ago; the Dallass Stars. The Buffalo goal tender at that time was Dominik Hasek who is now playing for the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are still alive in the post season, and Hasek will have another chance to win Lord Stanley’s Cup. Another notable ex-Sabre who played this post season, was New York Ranger Chris Drury. His team was eliminated in the second round by the Penguins.

Daniel Briere and Martin Biron continue their quest for the Cup when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, tomorrow night at 7:30pm, for Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Finals. I hope the duo shame Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, and the annoying, cocky, NHL poster boy, Sidney Crosby.

I never thought I’d say this . . . GO FLYERS!!