#SeedsOfGreatness, and the #Crapshoot: it’s been fun.
But the 2011-12 NHL regular season is winding down, and there is no time left for silly memes.
As the schedules wind down in this league, everything else gets cranked up. Season slumps, lulls, injury bug woes, and trade rumors all get tossed aside as teams fight tooth and nail to scrape their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs. For teams out of the playoff picture, the fight is just as rabid: players that aren’t fighting for their playoff lives are fighting for their lives on the roster.
There ain’t no meme that can downplay the desperation of what is at stake here now.
Indeed, with less than 10 games left to go, there isn’t much time for teams and players to make an impact statement. The Sabres have made a huge statement lately – going 16-5-5 since January 24, reminiscent of the 16-4-4 run that they went on after February 2nd of last season. That February “Pegula Day” surge got them into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Time to drink up some pure adrenaline, folks. Try to stay calm while you're at the edge of your seats. Breathe with your bellies. We can do this.
Here on BSN I’ve been talking up the #SeedsOfGreatness and the #Crapshoot memes a great deal since the mid-season doldrums pulled our wayward Blue and Gold hopes to the basement of the Eastern Conference. All looked certainly lost, so I resorted to these memes for the sake of countering all that misery with a little levity. After all, watching the team lose player after player, and game after game, had become a little unbearable to watch. Nothing like a little meme (or a Sabres BINGO) to lighten the nerves.
Meanwhile, the Sabres started winning.
They crawled up out from the cellar, and now sit on the precipice of a playoff berth. The roster is healthy. Players like Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Drew Stafford, Derek Roy, and Ryan Miller have found their A-games again. The newly-acquired Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer are thriving. The lines are rolling.
Remember those mid-season "Sabres hangovers?" Yea, I don't miss those either.
#SeedsOfGreatness has been fun, but it’s over now. The long since planted seeds have bloomed, and now the hustling Sabres just have to keep pace with themselves.
The #Crapshoot was fun, but that’s done too. No matter how terrible Washington, Winnipeg, or Buffalo have been this season, each is in position to snag 8th – or even 7th place – before the final whistle is blown on the regular season.
7th place? Absolutely. The Senators have been rolling after a head-scratcher start to their season, but have sputtered and stalled down the stretch. They, and their hold on 7th place, have become vulnerable. They’ve dropped their last 2, and are just 4-4-2 in their last 10. With just 84 points, they are ripe for the picking for Washington and Buffalo (who sit at 80), and could even be threatened by Winnipeg.
7/8′s of the season are done, and this is where the teams of the Eastern Conference sit.
Teams have just a bit less than 1/8 of the season left – really, just 7 or 8 games – to settle who is going in and who is going to be left out. It’s going to be one hell of a ride. There is no need for levity, no need for memes anymore. The entire conversation from here on out is Lord Stanley, and who earns the right to fight for it.
On behalf of all Washington, Winnipeg, and Buffalo blogs, I’m proud to welcome Ottawa to that conversation.
The Sabres have dragged us to the basement. They’ve brought us to the bubble. There is no way to say where we go from here. Heck, it’s an amazing feeling actually being here. A month ago, none of us saw this coming. Now, anything is possible.
Hold on tight.
(And don’t worry BINGO fans – I’ll be sure to sneak in a board or two before this is all over.)
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.
But none of this should be surprising.
It’s just Miller being Miller, after all.
Let’s keep this thing going, boys.
Be sure to check in with Store716 today – their “Miller ‘Verse 30′” shirt is on sale for 15 bucks until he gives up a goal. Goodtimes.
Today the Sabres face off against the hated Bruins, for a pair of points that actually means something for the Sabres. While we’ve continuously insisted that the highlight of the season will be seeing Darcy Regier’s embarrassed smile at the draft lottery table, the Sabres continue to stalk 8th place – right now they’re just 7 points back, with 22 games remaining.
And the teams ahead of them aren’t exactly powerhouses.
It's all snake eyes for the teams stalling out around 8th place these days.
We’ll count Winnipeg in this, too. Total crap. They’re in 3rd place, but only because they lead the crappy SE Division over Florida, Washington and Tampa. That division is so terrible that even its last place Canes are just 9 points away from stealing the grubby 2011-12 SE Divisional crown.
Wow. Nice goal differentials, South East Division.
Yup. To get to 8th place, the Sabres have to leap over a lot of teams. Thankfully, all of those teams are awful.
The Sabres can get actually do this. Lindy Ruff may believe in his players and all that nonsense, but frankly, this whole 8th place thing is up for grabs.
May the best loser win.
Welcome to the #Crapshoot.
Get it trending.
The Sabres can now afford to lose only 5 more times in their remaining 26 games if they want 93 points.
I think it’s time to remove the “#” from the whole “ #SeedsOfGreatness” thing. Time to get back to #DoSomethingDarcy.
The Sabres have been on a fun run lately, and I hope they keep things fun for Sabres fans, but the mathematical reaper is coming for our boys in Blue and Gold. Well, not all of them. Some of them will likely be sold off to playoff contenders, something that the Sabres were before a couple things happened.
- That 12 game home losing streak. (I said it before, but it bears repeating – just 5 wins in those 12 games and we’d be skating in the top 8.)
The Sabres were close last night. The second period came to a close before the game winner was up on the scoreboard. Then, before Buffalo could head into the locker room for an inspirational “ribbing” by Lindy Ruff, Mike Weber was being assessed a cross checking penalty.
At the 20:00 mark.
While the Sabres were already short handed.
Sure enough, the Sabres heroically survived the ensuing :47 of the 5 on 3, before giving up a goal on a deflection during the remaining 5 on 4. Weber was excused from the box, and for all intents and purposes, the Sabres were excused from the playoff race.
We talked on BSN about how adding experience to the blue line would be a huge step for the Sabres as they plot their course towards a Stanley Cup – and I’m sticking steadfast to that. It’s not the defense’s fault that the offense decided to stop scoring goals, and it’s not anyone’s fault that injuries hit the team as hard as they did this year.
But for Weber, I can’t say enough how disappointed I am in him this season. After a 2010-11 campaign where he lead the team in hits, was 3rd in blocked shots, and was 2nd in +/-, I expected big things from the gritty young defender this year. Especially with the arrival of Robyn Regehr, who he models his game after.
Then again, at least for me, one of the greater mysteries of this season happened: Lindy Ruff put him in the pressbox for the start of the season. And there he sat, and stayed, while fellow youngsters Marc-Andre Gragnani and Andrej Sekera were kept on the ice along with the other 3 offensive-minded defenders (Leopold, Ehrhoff, Myers). Weber didn’t get out onto the ice until November 2nd, and his play was terrible. He’s currently on pace to have his statistically worst career season in points per game and +/- (he’s last on the team in that latter category now – quite the reversal from last season).
He’s certainly regressed. Whatever happened up in that pressbox for the first month of the season wasn’t good. Lindy had chance to play Weber before November, to give him some ice time with Regehr, or anyone for that matter. For whatever reason, he never did.
Weber’s pro development has stalled. His play hasn’t been the same since last season, when he had found consistency and tenacity at the NHL level.
Well then, maybe it was fitting that Weber took that cross checking penalty that sunk the Sabres last night. For better or worse, it was the perfect statement play by a player who was passed over by his coach and who is now overdoing it to try to get his team and his own inconsistent self going again.
As a result, the Sabres remain mired in 14th place. The win would have put them within 6 points of 8th. Now, one bad hockey decision later, they are just 5 games away from oblivion.
He screwed up.
That last sentence applies to Weber and Ruff.