0Posted by John Monahan on April 3, 2012 at 7:33 am
I refuse to be negative about the Sabres.
Yes, it’s been a weird year and they haven’t lived up to the hype and expectations. But those expectations were put on them by an external source.
I’m not saying Terry Pegula was wrong to boldly declare we’d be going where no major Buffalo sports franchise has gone before and actually win a championship, but there was going to be some fallout from it and it wasn’t going to happen right away.
Especially after the miracle of last year’s run to the playoffs, then the offseason acquisitions and everyone pegging the Sabres as being a beast of the East and one of the top teams – on paper.
As Ryan Miller said in a recent interview, the Sabres were never that team. They were a young team with talent and tons of upside, but they’d have to gel into Cup contender.
Then they were smacked with the plague of injuries.
To come back from the unfortunate first half of the year like they did is nothing short of astonishing, and all the gems we’ve found along the way (like Marcus Foligno, Cody Hodgson, Ennis really coming into his own, etc.) has added to the run.
Maybe they’ll get lucky and make the playoffs yet, or maybe maybe not. Of course, I’d love to get to watch some bonus hockey and see how they do, but I’m not going to let it get me down about the future of this team.
The Sabres were not going for broke and selling out just to win this year. Over the course of the next 5 years, the Sabres are going to be stacked and could easily dominate their division during that time. This isn’t 2005-2007 where we’re good for a couple of years and then lose our two best guys in Drury and Briere.
The problem is the public perception of the masses. Of course I’m not talking about our educated BSN readership or other hardcore Sabres fans, but the general sporting world is pretty binary: you’re either great or you suck.
The Sabres recently lost 2 close games, one to a stellar Penguins team and the other to an admittedly crappy Leafs squad. But the Sabres were on a tear before that, having won 5 in a row – you can’t win ‘em all. And one could argue that the Leafs will play the Sabres tough whenever, plus they were in their home building.
They’re the same team as they were before they lost those 2 games. Quite frankly, I was surprised they hung in there with the Pens as well as they did.
The Sabres can easily turn this right back around and win their last three games. Maybe two will be all they need, or two and an OT point.
For this season at least, the Sabres have burned their boats behind them and there is no retreat. They can go forward and play their best hockey with their backs to the wall.
There are 3 games left and Washington has left the door open a crack by losing last night. The Sabres play hard and get in, or they don’t. I’m hoping they make it of course, but if they don’t I’m not going to let it affect the positive outlook of where this team is headed. We’ve got at least one more week of Sabres hockey left and I’m going to savor it.
If the Sabres lose tonight however, my tune may change a bit. Ask me how I’m feeling tomorrow…
0Posted by Scott Michalak on March 2, 2012 at 8:13 am
Ryan Miller is back to being, well, Ryan Miller.
Miller was pretty dang upset when his friend and man-at-arms on ice, Paul Gaustad, was dealt at the trade deadline.
No matter the way you view hockey, you have to understand how important players like Paul can be and how long it takes to develop a guy that plays that way at such a high level. Winning those faceoffs is not easy. Killing those penalties is not easy. Not a lot of guys are willing to do that job every night, and he was.
Oh, and he also said that if he was GM, that trade would not have gone down. A lot of folks in this town took Miller’s comments as a coup on Darcy Regier, but really, it was just Ryan Miller being Ryan Miller – exactly where/who the Sabres need him to be.
You might remember that Miller reacted much the same when Tim Connolly was lost up the QEW to the rival Maple Leafs. Connolly was no Gaustad, but he was a piece of the core – he was one of Miller’s guys.
And Miller stands up for his own.
Lately, Miller has been doing the same standing up for his own, just not so much in the locker room, but between the pipes. Nothing is upsetting him there, not these days. Lindy Ruff has finally been able to “ride Miller down the stretch” as he promised to do, and Ryan is putting in the best performances of the year – right in line with the best of his career.
He’s now got 82 saves in two consecutive shutouts – some of them routine, a good bunch of them brilliant, and many of them simply stupefying.
And he’s brought the Sabres along with him, as usual, into legitimate playoff contention. Today they sit just four points – just two games – out of 8th in the East.
His focus is the Sabres’ focus: win the moment. Win every moment. Every shift. Every period. Every game. It’s been a long road back to legitimacy, from the first mention of #SeedsOfGreatness, which then became the #Crapshoot, and now seems to be moving back into #SeedsOfGreatness territory again. The way the Sabres are playing, it sure looks like those seeds were indeed planted a few weeks back, and here they are finally, actually sprouting. And what better place to see them bloom, than in Ryan Miller?
He’s the backbone of the team afterall, and now that he’s willing and more than able to carry it along with him, the top 8, and everything else, is possible.
What you don't see is the rest of the Sabres roster, which has climbed onto Ryan Miller's shoulders. Don't worry. He's never slouched even one inch under that kind of weight.
Strip away all the commentary, all the analysis, all the playoff statistical probabilities, all the quotes, the articles, and the blog posts, and you’ve got here has now become pretty clear: a pretty darn strong team, peaking at just the right time, holding fast together during their upwards climb over their Eastern Conference rivals.
It would seem desperate times, and it is. But for Miller and the Sabres, desperation has given way to an heroic focus on winning the moment. A focus whose ultimate moment of convergence – hopefully – will exact itself in the playoffs.
Pretty dramatic stuff. Pretty unbelievable, really, seeing how most of this season has gone.
2Posted by Scott Michalak on March 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm
OK, so this GIF is “under construction.”
There aren’t many highlights on Youtube this morning, which makes GIF construction very difficult. There’s only one Youtube highlight actually – Miller’s stretch-pad save on Corey Perry’s wrap-around (unless you count all the fight videos from last night – I don’t count ‘em as hockey highlights these days).
Still, there was one save of Miller’s that I did not want to see slip away into ungiffed oblivion.
At 17:29 of the 2nd period, there was a scrum in front of the net as Bobby Ryan tried to lift the puck up over a sprawling Miller. Ryan was foiled by Miller’s “reach under the fridge with a ruler to retrieve the cat toy” save. It’s a patented Miller save, actually. At least it is, now:
Heck, all he needed in his glove hand was a flashlight.
Bobby Ryan's cat.
We’ll try to transform this into a GIF as soon as possible (Youtube hacks, get to work on that uploading)!
0Posted by John Monahan on February 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm
Are we lucky as fans or what? After one of the worst slides in Sabres history, they go on a 4-0-1 tear – against good teams even. I feel sorry for anyone who left the First Niagara Center early last night, as they missed a great show.
When it went to a shootout, I felt confident in Miller. He let in a few, but he was solid overall. When Gerbe’s shootout chance came, I knew he would sink it. Hell, the whole game I wasn’t worried about their play. The team is playing tough, confident hockey, with smarts to boot. They’re making crisp, quick passes and working hard in the corners. If they lost, they lost, but they were playing hard most of the way.
I don’t do much “real” analysis about the Sabres, as that’s not really my mindset (or forte). I’m more of a fan who just loves the game and makes bad jokes – but even I can see how much better this team is than just a few short weeks ago.
Perhaps part of it is the German bump, although the Sabres were playing well before the contingent of Mannheim Eagles fans came to Western New York. For more on that go here, it’s a feel good read. And we could take some notes from their cheering playbook. They were rambunctious, perhaps annoyingly so to some, and even tried to get the wave going.
European hockey fan enthusiasm is a little different than our brand, but we could certainly up the energy a little bit.
Or maybe it was Lindy Ruff. Perhaps his ego overshadowed the players and now that he’s injured they can finally play their best hockey. Now, I don’t believe this, but I’m sure there are detractors out there saying that. But the Sabres started this run well before Lindy fell and busted up some ribs.
Whatever the case, the Sabres are playing tough and are now eight points back in the East. I don’t think I need to say “buckle up”, we’re all pretty aware that this will go down to the wire, much like last year. But you couldn’t write a better script: a billionaire owner takes over the team, spends gazillions picking up all-star talent. The team flounders and all hope seems lost. Then, in Act 3 they get it together and miraculously make a huge comeback.
The only question is how does the story end – do they win it all, or is it just a feel-good drama where the team takes 2nd place but that was further than they ever should have expected to get to?
Maybe James Patrick is using his time at the helm to teach the Sabres the Flying V.
Whatever the case may be, it’ll be damn exciting to be a part of. The Sabres are eight points back now with the Tampa Bay Lightning coming into our barn. We’ve got a lot of good hockey to watch ahead of us the rest of the year.