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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Destiny denied

      April 17, 1977 -- The Sabres seemed more or less destined to win the Stanley Cup at some point when they reached the Finals in only their fifth year of play in 1975. Better things had to be ahead for this young team, right?

      In 1976, the Sabres lost a tough, six-game series to the Islanders, thanks in part of a fluke goal by Bert Marshall -- a low-scoring defenseman. OK, things happen. 

     But on this day, the Islanders beat the Sabres again, this time in four straight games. Game Four's score was 4-3, the same as Game Three and not too much different from Games One and Two (4-2 in both cases). Bill MacMillan had the goal for the Islanders; it was the last in his NHL career.

      No one knew it at the time, but the Sabres' window for winning a title was closing for a while. The Canadiens were in the midst of a dynasty that would label them as one of the greatest teams in hockey history. If the Sabres couldn't even get past the Islanders, how did anyone expect them to knock off the Canadiens and challenge for the Cup?

      Buffalo's General Manager, Punch Imlach, thought some new leadership would help the team. The loss to the Islanders marked the last game ever coached in Buffalo by Floyd Smith.

--- Budd Bailey

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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