I'm going to keep this one short because 1) I'm sick. 2) I have very limited time to write this. 3) Even after a win, it is difficult to write about this Buffalo Sabres team.
I attended last's night OT shootout win against the also struggling New Jersey Devils, and much like I did last time I visited the Prudential Center, these are my thoughts from the game. Please note, just like the previous post, I have not checked box scores, watched any highlights, or spoke to anybody about the game besides those I attended with, so some of this might seem way off the mark. However, I don't get to see many games out here in tri-state, so suck it up and keep reading.
There are a few facts about last night that I must start with. First off, the seats were free. Otherwise, I probably would not have paid to watch this team, because, as you all know, they are dumpsters on skates. Next, the seats were very good. I don't mention this to brag (ok, maybe a little), but rather to point out that I normally don't sit this close to the ice, and some of the observations I'm about to make were possible because of the location. I would have taken pictures to show you where I was, but naturally I forgot my camera, and my cell phone is from 1976 and lacks clear picture technology. Finally, I missed a good portion of the game. The person in our group who had the seats didn't get out of work until 7pm, so we sat down with only five minutes left in the first period, and during the third period, none of the members of my party had eaten since lunch, so we enjoyed most of the third period from the "Goal Bar". Clever name, huh? We could still see the ice from this spot, but I will admit that I was slightly distracted. Moving on to "mail it in" format.
-As mentioned before, I sat down at right about the 5 minute mark, and immediately saw Matt Ellis fire the puck up the ice to Gerbe, who in turn put it in front of the net for Jordan Leopold. I believe this is what happened, as I said, I have not watched highlights or checked box scores. At first, I thought Ellis had skated down and put a rebound in, which of course sent me into a frenzy, but I quickly realized my mistake. Either way, in my first live game with the new Ellis jersey on, seeing him get a point that quickly had me in a pretty good mood.
-Which brings me back to Matt Ellis. Everyone is probably sick of me talking about him, but I will say one honest thing about him. He falls down a lot. I mean, A LOT. It isn't Michael Ryan levels yet, but when he digs for pucks he throws his body into so much that the poor guy just topples over. Noticed a good amount of this last night.
-Ville Leino is SOFT. I recognize that he is having an awful season and looks like one of the biggest FA busts in recent memory, but seeing him up close really revealed the problem. He looks like he is warming up before a pick-up game with a bunch of his buddies. Nothing but half-ass skating to pucks, lazy passes, and slow decision making. GARBAGE. It is so obvious that he flat out doesn't give a shit. I hope he proves all of us wrong, and it is nothing more than a mega slump, but I doubt it. He is the NHL's Mike James. (Kudos to the NBA fans that get that hysterical, yet spot on reference)
-And while I'm on the topic of Leino, how infuriating is it to see him skate with Stafford and Boyes. It's the "Oh hey, we all make $4 million a year, and if you combine our stats it equals what our individual production SHOULD be". Every time I see them on the ice together I pray for the world's first, triple lightning strike into an indoor arena. Put Weber and Sekera on the ice and let's make it a five-way.
-Derek Roy needs to be traded for the sole purpose of keeping members of the Deeg out of jail. Watching him turn the puck over, get pushed to the ice over and over, and taking absolutely ridiculous penalties that cost your team games is enough to make me....I won't even say it for future legal reasons. Trade him now, Darcy. For anything. Do the right thing.
-Why all the negative? The Sabres did win after all! Alright, so on to the things I liked....
-Ryan Miller looked solid. Again, maybe at home he looked pedestrian, but in comparison to the last time I watched him in Jersey, he appeared much more confident; like old school Miller who owned the Ice and could take over a game. I have no clue whose fault the first goal was, but he dominated in the shootout after getting beat by Kovalchuck.
-Nathan Gerbe and Jason Pominville are incredible to watch right now. I think both are taking these losses personally and it has been fueling them to go 'run-through-a-brick-wall' hard. Gerbe always skates hard, but you can tell the little guy REALLY hates to lose, and unlike other douchebags who appear unfazed (Stafford, Roy, Leino, Boyes, almost everybody else on the roster), he is taking it in his hands to motivate this team to play harder, just like he did in last year's 2nd half stretch. Pominville on the other hand, must be so fed up with being a captain that nobody responds to that he has taken it upon himself to do EVERYTHING. Including Vanek, nobody was looked better in a Sabres uniform than Pommers during these losses. I understand that isn't saying much, and it definitely is not a good thing that the team is most likely not responding to their captain, but at least he isn't giving up either. (I'm looking at you Rivet.) So how fitting was it that the two goals needed to win the game came from these two?
-At the start of the second period, my buddy Bill, who is not a big hockey fan, turned and asked me who the Sabres best player was. Without hesitation I blurted out "Thomas Vanek. Number 26. He's on the ice now." That is the first time in many seasons where that answer was not an immediate "Ryan Miller". Yes, it is obvious right now, but it's just odd to vocalize that for the first time....ever. Here's hoping this game catapults our goalie back to #1.
-The Christian Ehrhoff deal is not a bust. I was one of the first people to cast stones at him for his defensive liabilities, but the weeks leading to his concussion, and now the subsequent games that have followed, have shown me that he cares about winning and at many times looks like the best defender on the ice. I believe this will be one FA signing that Terry Pegula will not regret.
-Finally, if you were wondering how the wings were at the "Goal Bar", let me just tell you they may be the best tasting arena wings I've ever had. With that being said, they are also the smallest wings I have ever had in my life. It was seriously comical. An order of half a dozen wings from Buffalo is probably bigger in mass than an entire bucket of these things. Tiny in stature, but they packed a punch. I called them Gerbe wings! Get it?!? See what I did there? Alright, I'm a fucking idiot so I'll shut up now.
Until next time, follow me on twitter @TheScizz, enjoy the worthless NHL All-Star game, and let's all hope and pray that this win gives these underachievers the spark they need. Go Sabres.