The Sabres Observer
From an interview with Daniel Briere this morning on WGR-550,
“I don’t expect him [Chris Pronger] to be there for the first game, but after that I really don’t know.”
audio clip , Pronger talk begins at 5:20
Update 1:15pm: via Sam Carchidi tweet, Briere told Philly reporters he was kidding. Gamesmanship.
Update 3:08pm: via Philly.com, Pronger told reporters after practice he expects to play in the series but isn’t sure about Game 1.
If I had a dollar for every time over the past few weeks that I heard a Buffalo fan or media type tell me that the Flyers were the team they most wanted the Sabres to face in the first round, I think I’d be able to afford a sizable down payment for Brad Richards.
The excitement level here is off the charts. 85% of the 6000 people that have voted in radio and newspaper web site prediction polls are choosing the Sabres to win. At both the supermarket and the gas station, I overheard giddy fans discussing what a paper tiger Philly is. While enjoying a rare April 70-degree day at the marina, I could’ve sworn I saw a group of seagulls flying in the formation of crossed swords.
Spring feels so much better in Buffalo when there’s playoff hockey, and the fact that the fans got the dancing partner of their choosing has ramped up the hysteria and anticipation a little bit more. For me, all of this enthusiasm from these raised expectations begs just one question.
Am I the only one in this town that thinks the Flyers have a better team?
Fans in 16 different cities have convinced themselves that their team is winning the Cup, so the poll voting results don’t surprise me. What I don’t agree with, however, is the notion that the path of least resistance for the Sabres to skate past the first round goes through Philadelphia.
If there was any question about where Sabres goalie Ryan Miller stands in the view of his teammates, in the midst of the reigning Vezina Trophy winner’s subpar season, last night put it to bed. I’ll admit my jaw dropped when Miller, instead of Thomas Vanek, was voted by the Sabres players as team MVP.
All Vanek has done this season is take his all-around game to another level while battling to finish in the top 15 in the NHL scoring race (32 goals, 41 assists, 73 points), ahead of the likes of Patrick Kane, Joe Thornton, Daniel Briere and Jeff Carter. Miller statistically in 2010-11 isn’t even among the top 15 goaltenders.
And to top it all off, when a playoff berth-clinching game was on the line last night, coach Lindy Ruff’s decision to put Miller in to start the 3rd period preceded Buffalo coming back to defeat the Flyers 4-3 in overtime, even though the win was due in large part to a 3-point night and a dazzling game-winning goal by Vanek himself.
The moral of the story here is, despite the well deserved Jhonas Enroth lovefest in Buffalo over the past few weeks, the players in the locker room deep down still know on which side their bread is buttered. Anointing Miller as their MVP may have been a small gesture, but considering the season he’s had it sure was a big statement.
From Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News,
Pegula reached into the past in an effort to move forward in the future, pulling together the Sabres’ alumni to celebrate their 40th season and join them for better days ahead. He invited every player who played for the Sabres, some 350 former players in all, and paid the freight to Buffalo to see the Blue and Gold clinch a playoff berth with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Flyers in their final regular-season home game.
“Pretty unique, huh?” Pegula said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Yes, pretty unique.
That’s the Terry Pegula we have come to know in short order. He’s absurdly wealthy, but he’s rich in ways that don’t cost him a penny. His selfless, humble attitude makes for an easy fit among the people. He’s no different than you or me, the friendly owner next door who purchased the Sabres because he wanted to win it all and, well, he could.
more, including comments from Pat LaFontaine, Jason Woolley and others.
Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was on the ice and practicing in full with the team on Thursday. This is his first full practice back since being injured just over a week ago.
“There’s no doubt that he is going to play before the season ends,” [Lindy] Ruff remarked about Miller.
Late last night, Buffalo Sabres President Ted Black sat in a conference room at HSBC Arena, flipped on the Detroit/Carolina game, ordered out for dinner and hopped on the computer for a little bit to chat online with hundreds of fans.
That “little bit” turned into three hours and nineteen minutes.
It may or may not be a record for duration of an online chat with a major pro sports team executive, but either way it still wasn’t enough time to answer the 1000+ questions posed to him by Sabres fanatics.
It started to get rather humorous after awhile, but in the process we did learn a few things:
• The Sabres at some point will be looking to retire Dominik Hasek’s #39.
• The third jersey for the Sabres will be retained for next season.
• While working as an executive in the Penguins organization, Black once participated in the intermission festivities on the ice donning a sumo-wrestling suit.
Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula is throwing a party this Friday night for 18,690 of his closest friends. He’s reached out to all Sabres Alumni to be part of pregame festivities before Buffalo’s regular season finale against the Flyers. Pegula is footing the airfare, hotel, transportation and food bill for over 75 former Sabres who will be here for the event. Notable attendees will include Danny Gare, Phil Housley, Jerry Korab, Pat LaFontaine, Brad May, Jay McKee, John Muckler, Craig Muni, Teppo Numminen, Rene Robert, Bob Sweeney, Rick Vaive, Rhett Warrener and Jay Wells.
From the Sabres,
“More than 75 Sabres Alumni have already confirmed their attendance for this Friday’s Fan Appreciation Night, a series of events surrounding the team’s final regular season home game on Friday, April 8 against the Philadelphia Flyers.”
“Every former player that attends will be part of a pre-game Party in the Plaza red carpet event outside HSBC Arena from 5-7 p.m. Alumni will be available for autographs and pictures as they walk into the arena.”
“All attending alumni will be honored in a pre-game on-ice ceremony that will also include presentation of the 2010-11 Sabres MVP, Rookie of the Year and Hardest Working Player awards.”
more, including the full list of Alumni attendees
So I guess this is the part where we in Buffalo don’t even consider giving proper credit to the architect of it all, the man who stocked this team with promising young talent and maturing veterans with one budget-constrained hand tied behind his back.
After embracing the euphoria of last night’s ginormous 2-1 overtime win in Carolina, crossing my mind was the thought of where this Sabres team would be, both in this game and overall in the standings, without the clever maneuvering of mastermind GM Darcy Regier. It’s funny how his work gets nary a mention in this town when the team is winning.
More than half of the Carolina roster that played in last night’s game, ten players to be exact, were former 1st round draft picks. That was nearly twice as many as Buffalo, who are challenging to be one of the top six teams in the East while boasting a roster that in 2010-11 has featured a contingent of major contributors (Ryan Miller, Nathan Gerbe, Steve Montador, Chris Butler, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta, Cody McCormick) who were drafted in the 4th round or later, or in Montador’s case not at all.
Granted, every team has their share of late round hits, but not many clubs have as many of them playing as big a role and contributing to a playoff contending team the way Buffalo does.
And it’s just part of the bigger picture of how the low-key decisions of Regier have resulted in fans of the Sabres, a team left for dead in 12th place and ten points back of 8th on December 31, now staring at the Eastern Conference standings with equal parts joy and disbelief.
After practice on Friday, Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff told reporters that Ryan Miller would be making the road trip with the team to Washington, and would be re-evaluated over the weekend.
As it turns out, half of that is false at this point in time. WGR’s Mike Schopp has learned that Miller did not travel with the team on Friday.
Miller is still considered to be day-to-day with an upper body injury. Ruff revealed today that it is not a long-term injury. Keep it locked to WGR Sports Radio 550 for any new updates on the situation.
Buffalo takes on the Capitals on Saturday night, followed by a Sunday night road game against Carolina.
Fending off Carolina for 8th place in the East hasn’t been easy for the Sabres, considering the Hurricanes have won five of their last six games. It’s tough putting away a team in hot pursuit that can scratch and claw its way to five straight wins in games decided by one goal, which is what Carolina has done in just the past two weeks.
All of this makes the Sabres clutch 1-0 victory over the Rangers last night that much more significant. Now, Buffalo has in effect dragged the once semi-comfortable Rangers into a three-team battle for two Eastern Conference playoff spots and has given pesky Carolina another target at which to aim.
Despite a fantastic performance in this game by rookie goalie Jhonas Enroth, the big question for the Sabres right now is the extent of Ryan Miller’s injury. In the past week, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner has taken a Brian Rolston shot to the face mask and a Dion Phaneuf blast to the collarbone. The Sabres are being mum on specifics.
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.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]