Kukla's Korner

The Sabres Observer

Ryan Miller Critics, Where Is Your Focus?

After a rough weekend for the Sabres, when so many aspects of the team’s performance were worthy of scrutiny, the local sports talk radio station spent about 99% of its airtime yesterday talking about the backup goaltender.

Sportswriters pounced on another opportunity to trash Ryan Miller, and antagonist fans with an unconditional disdain for the franchise netminder ate it right up, other factors of equal or greater concern be damned.

Is it unworthy of discussion that Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville failed to register a shot on goal in a must win game on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre?

Is it unimportant that the Pens and Leafs went a combined 3 for 5 on the power play while Buffalo put up a goose egg given the same number of chances?

Did anyone raise their eyebrows at Cody Hodgson being pointless and a -4 over these two monumental games?

Nope, nary a word about any of this.  Many fans, writers, and radio pros seemed overcome with a state of tunnel vision where all that mattered was what happened in the blue ice.  For a group of people that keeps telling us that goaltending isn’t as important anymore, they sure spend a lot of time obsessing about it.

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Ryan Miller Unplugged

From Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, a piece that’s gotten Ryan Miller both good and bad reviews in Buffalo today…

The goalie always gets heat. ... I don’t blame fans or media for talking about hockey; it is fun to be passionate about the game. I try not to pay attention because, unless you have played goalie in the NHL, I don’t think anyone can understand what it is like to stand in there and be one of us, to put yourself out there every night. This year, a lot of opinion I normally avoid or ignore was dragged into the locker room by the media, and I took it hard. But I kept working and searching for my comfort level. I finally remembered I love to play and I am not doing it for what people outside the locker think about me. I’m doing it because I love hockey and I love to win. I love making saves and being on a team. I love the challenge.


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Help Wanted From Slumping Sabre

It’s time for some Sabres trivia.  Which of the following players, over his past 30 games, has scored the fewest points: Ville Leino, Thomas Vanek, Tyler Myers, Derek Roy or Drew Stafford?

Give yourself a stick tap if you said Vanek.

Buffalo’s most talented and highest paid forward is slumping.  The Sabres are on an 11-3-3 surge that has elevated them into the playoff hunt, but Vanek has only managed to put up 6 points in that span.

Going back a bit further, here are the numbers over the past 30 games for Sabres forwards who are on the team in large part due to their scoring ability:

Pominville   11-10-21
Stafford   7-9-16
Roy   7-8-15
Ennis   7-8-15
Leino   4-10-14
Vanek   5-8-13
Gerbe   2-9-11
Boyes   3-5-8

Not only does Vanek have fewer points in his last 30 games than Ville Leino, he also has less than defensemen Tyler Myers (6-9-15) and Christian Ehrhoff (3-11-14).

Ryan Miller has been a big part of the Sabres resurgence, but it’s a lot to ask of him to continue giving up fewer than 2 goals per game.  Whether he’s playing hurt or just lacking confidence, the sooner the better for Vanek’s return to excellence.  Tonight’s important contest in Winnipeg, which could result in Buffalo catapulting to eighth place in the East, wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

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Gaustad Drama Could Be Holding Up Regier

If Paul Gaustad wants to be a big help to his team in the next few hours, punching Milan Lucic and/or Brad Marchand in the face tonight is only the second best thing he can do.

If the gritty forward really wants to be part of a winner in Buffalo, as he has stated, then there is no better way for him to do that than by signing an extension at his current annual salary today.

I realize that many Sabres fans and media pros are wishing Gaustad out of town to adhere to the culture change agenda, but I say not so fast.

While he’s obviously not much of a scoring threat, there are traits and intangibles in Gaustad that are sorely needed on this team.  Unfortunate inaction during the Lucic-Ryan Miller incident notwithstanding, Gaustad is a standup character guy that you don’t find everyday.  I think the Sabres will miss his physicality a great deal if he leaves.

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Sabres, Rangers, Knicks Games Returning For Time Warner Customers

via The New York Times (nytimes.com),

The 48-day standoff between the MSG Network and Time Warner Cable ended Friday, according to two people aware of the resolution who were not authorized to speak publicly.


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Sabres Should Hail Nail Or Mikhail

“You know a guy is good when you want your team to lose just so they have a chance at drafting him.”  - James Duthie of TSN on Nail Yakupov.

“This kid (Mikhail Grigorenko) could be Evgeni Malkin.  It’s not out of the question.” – an unnamed scout speaking to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

I was hoping for an Edmonton victory over Toronto last night, fellow Sabres fans, but perhaps not for the same reason as you.

As of this week, my daily NHL standings viewing habits have changed.  I’m sorting by league instead of conference.  I’m looking down instead of up. 

I just had a dream of a smiling Darcy Regier (his starry-eyed owner really isn’t going to fire him, right?) on the floor of the Consol Energy Center on June 22, anxiously awaiting the first overall selection of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  He looked thrilled because, regardless of what his friend and peer Scott Howson was about to announce, the Sabres were preparing to get their hands on one of two great players capable of giving them an immediate and invigorating infusion of star forward talent.

Then I awoke to the shuddering thought of the Sabres making a valiant surge to finish ninth in the East.

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Ruff Taken To Hospital For X-Rays After Practice Collision

From Mike Harrington of The Sabres Edge (Buffalo News) blog,

Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff left practice early today in First Niagara Center after taking a scary fall in the wake of a collision with defenseman Jordan Leopold.

Leopold was working in a 1-on-1 drill with Ville Leino and lost his balance, sliding to the ice and barreling into Ruff from behind. Ruff went airbone and landed hard on the ice, letting out a scream as his body crumpled that echoed through the empty arena.


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Which Sabres Forwards Are Worth The Money?

Working under a salary cap requires an NHL GM to utilize his value investing skills.  On the worst scoring team in the Eastern Conference, which Sabres forwards are delivering the most bang for the buck?  Who is the most overpaid?

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Another Version Of The Gaustad-Pacioretty Incident

From Sabres beat reporter Paul Hamilton of WGR-550,

Right after Pat Kaleta scored into the empty net Tuesday in Montreal to ice the game, he did his arm pumping goal celebration down the slot. Max Pacioretty took exception and started talking trash as he does all game. His target this time was Paul Gaustad. Pacioretty asked him “Where’s Lucic” with Gaustad countering “Where’s Chara” in reference to the hit Chara put on Pacioretty into the glass last year that started a near riot in the city of Montreal and almost ended his career.

Now the city’s fans are tougher than their hockey team because Chara is still waiting to be challenged by a Canadien. Many talk about how soft the Sabres are, but they can’t hold a candle to this bunch.


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Pegula Entitled To Getting A Pass, For Now

Not even a year removed from Terry Pegula’s purchase of the Buffalo Sabres and the most ballyhooed press conference here since Jim Kelly rode a limo into town 25 years earlier, the honeymoon is just about over.

But if you want to play the blame game so badly that you’re looking to the man at the top as the biggest reason for this season’s failures, then you’re just trying too hard.

Although Pegula has gotten his due criticism for the ill-advised gamble on Ville Leino, some misguided folks are trying to convince you that he should be vilified for much more than that.

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

2014-15 NHL Reverse Standings


Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]


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