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the World According to JR

Still in awe over Winter Classic

Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 9:30 PM

By Jeremy Roenick - NHL Network Contributor / World According to JR

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World According to JR
Still in awe over Winter Classic
NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

It's been a few days since the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, but I'm still in awe over the entire event. Plus, the problems that the Buffalo Sabres have been having all season are still mystifying to me. Read on to find out more of my thoughts on both:

What's clicking?

I've done a lot of cool things in my lifetime and have been involved with a lot of really neat events, including All-Star games, the Olympics and the Stanley Cup Final, but the Winter Classic was one of the coolest things I've ever done. The best thing I've ever done was go to the Vancouver Olympics, but last weekend's Winter Classic was one of the most fun and best-run events I've seen in a long time.

My hat goes off to the NHL for putting on a first-class event. My hat goes off to the Rangers and Flyers for the support they gave the Winter Classic. And, I certainly tip my hat to the fans that came out, all 45,000 for the alumni game and the 47,000 for the big game. That just goes to show you how supportive these fans are in both of these cities.

The buildup to the even was spectacular, too.

For both teams to open up and allow HBO's cameras to go inside and get up close and personal not only in the locker rooms, but on the buses, on the planes, in the hotel rooms and in their homes was just phenomenal. Those are forbidden territories to media, but the coaches and the teams allowed that to happen and by doing so allowed people to get up front with the National Hockey League and its players from their living rooms.

Getting to play in the alumni game was tremendous. To be in the same locker room with Bernie Parent, Bob Clarke, Mark Howe, Eric Lindros, Mark Recchi, Rick Tocchet -- it was a true treat. To be on the ice with 45,000 people watching, I can't remember being in an environment that took my breath away, and that really took my breath away. It's the only way I can describe it.

Seeing the amount of sweaters that were worn out there, it was inspiring.

Again, the NHL really succeeded in pulling off another great celebration of the game. The Winter Classic is a huge hit and a huge bonus for the NHL and its fans.

What's missing?

I remain perplexed by the struggles of the Buffalo Sabres. I really just don't get it. I don't understand why this team has struggled to win consistently. They have solid, strong forwards, good defenseman and in my opinion a guy who should be one of the best goalies in the NHL in Ryan Miller, but it's not working.

What is wrong with Miller, both physically and mentally? He just doesn't seem to be the same guy I'm used to watching. He's letting in a lot of shots that in past years he would have stopped. He seems to be struggling in the crease with his positioning. I think he's battling a confidence issue right now, and I don't know why it has been going on for so long.

Maybe it's because Ryan Miller got married in the offseason and his wife lives in L.A., so there is that separation. But, that's personal stuff that you have to deal with, that you have to put aside and forget about when you're on the ice.

Lindy Ruff is a good coach, but for some reason the guys and him just aren't connecting with the work aspect that needs to be done. They're struggling to win the games they do win, and they're not beating teams they should beat.

They barely beat Edmonton on Tuesday because the Oilers came out and totally dominated them in the work aspect. That leads me to wonder why the Sabres aren't working hard enough for Ruff.

They do deserve some benefit of the doubt because their injuries have been immense, and now Christian Ehrhoff is out as well. They have used 33 different players in the lineup and they have lost 173 man-games to injury. It is hard for the coach to find any cohesiveness with all those injuries because he is forever mismatching combinations, so you can't get into any kind of groove.

But there is still the work ethic problem and the issues that Miller seems to be having.

Let's hope that Buffalo can get everybody healthy, working hard, and clicking so they put together the push to the playoffs that those fans deserve. It is a really good fan base and it's always good to see the Sabres battling come playoff time.
Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic