Buffalo is the first city I've lived in where I've been a fan of the teams that play there. As I've mentioned many, many, many times, I grew up a Pirates fan, but I did it in Birmingham, Alabama. When the Pirates made three straight NLCSs, there was no one around to really share that excitement with. When they completely fell apart in the ninth inning of Game Seven in 1992, there was no one to share the devastation. (In fact, since I was in Braves territory, I actually got a fair amount of abuse. To this day, I hate Braves fans, not because they started watching when the Braves got good - I mean, it's hard to remember now but the Braves were collosally bad in the 80's. I hate them because not only did they start watching, they pretended they'd been there all along. Bite me, Braves fans.) The only teams that were really super popular in Birmingham were college football teams - Auburn and Alabama especially, of course - but I never really got into college football that much. When everyone suddenly realized there was something special abou tthe 2005-2006 Sabres and that buzz and energy started building up in the whole city, I was very taken by that. For me, that was almost as fun as the hockey itself.
I mention all that because we missed the Pittsburgh game on Saturday night. Our beautiful niece Jamie got married that afternoon so we were out celebrating. We were just beginning to take our seats for the first part of dinner service when suddenly, someone started banging on their glass with their fork and yelled, "Wooooooooo!" Another group started chanting, "Sabres! Sabres!" while lightly pounding on their table. The cheers jumped across the room from table to table. That continued throughout the evening. Any time someone clinked a glass, we said, "Are they kissing or did the Sabres score?" and everyone went scrambling for a phone. I'll never get tired of that kind of thing. Sports are such a silly thing to feel united over, but it's so much fun, isn't it?
There are a number of things that have crossed my mind to blog about the last few days - how much I like Christian Ehrhoff, what I think about Mike Weber sitting, how I see the season shaking out - but I keep coming back to Drew Stafford which is crazy because I don't even LIKE Drew Stafford. Even when he was kind of the darling of a certain segment of Sabres fan, I couldn't warm up to him. The smarmy, too cool for school interviews drove me batty, and while he was clearly talented, he was just so all over the place, sometimes looking interested, sometimes looking like he didn't particularly care. Those guys are the easiest to dislike, I think, the ones who are talented but satisfied with coasting on their talent rather than really working to maximise it.
Even last season, when Stafford finally seemed to be putting everything together, I was very slow to embrace him. I kept saying, "I'll believe it if it holds up all season," and even when it did, I was more than open to trading him and pretty reluctant about the idea of re-signing him. It was a contract year, which always seems to help a guy pull it together, and well, how many times have we seen a player progress and then fall back into bad habits? That's been a pretty regular theme with at least a couple of players in the Sabres' core these last few years.
But Stafford has been jumping out at me like crazy so far. I keep thinking about a goal in the Carolina game. It was actually a Derek Roy goal, but the play was all Stafford. The NHL.com highlight is below, but it really wasn't what I was looking for. MSG showed a slow-motion replay that focused on Stafford and you could see him realize he didn't have a very good shot, glance back and catch sight of Derek coming, slow down juuuuust enough that Roy could catch up, and then throw the puck at the net in a way that created a perfect layup for Derek. He was clearly thinking all that in the span of a very few seconds. It was amazing to me. It's still amazing to me.
And that's just the most obvious example. A lot of little things like that have popped up that have made me feel like last season's success was really inspired by maturity rather than dollar signs. That's really fun and awesome to see. You're officially all right with me, Drew.
Another North West Athlete in the spotlight today. Western Hockey League Victoria Royals' Kevin Sundher. Sundher, a third round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres, is turning heads in his fourth WHL season with the Royals franchise. The Surrey native has familal roots in Port Alberni, his great- grandfather settled there in 1906, and his dad grew up a fan of the former Victoria Cougars.
"I've been working on my positioning, trying to get in my shot lanes sooner", an exhausted Ryan Miller told Rob Ray on the MSG postgame show following the Sabres 3-1 come-from-behind win in Montreal.
Miller was masterful in this one, making 40 saves on 41 Montreal shots.
This was vintage Miller, making the sublime seem ordinary and the ordinary sublime.
1) The Habs face their most legitimate challenge to date, in welcoming the Buffalo Sabres to the Bell Centre.
If the theory is that the Canadiens play up or down to the level of their competition (I don't prescribe to that theory) then they should be up dramatically for this game.
Then it's off to Pittsburgh Thursday, and back at home for Toronto Saturday.
Thomas Vanek scored just before the end of the second period and Ryan Miller made 40 saves to lead the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
Vanek held up before driving a slap shot past goalie Carey Price from low in the left circle with 2.8 seconds remaining in the period, finishing off a passing play with Jason Pominville and Marc-Andre Gragnani...
The Buffalo Sabres are off to another fast start, and once again goaltending is a big reason why.
The Sabres look to stay undefeated on the road when they visit the new-look Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
For the third time in four years, Buffalo (4-1-0) has four wins in its first five games. The Sabres improved to 2-0 on a four-game road trip with a 3-1 win over Montreal...
Its a new day, with a new set of circumstances and interesting challenges for the Sabres.
We're five games into a very long and arduous process, and three players, who have started slowly, are presently on the radar screen. They are:
Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino, Marc Andre Gragnani
Yesterday in Montreal, Coach Ruff cracked some eggs and made some new omelettes out of...
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