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#Duffalo: Wins, ties and parental guidance

by Brian Duff @duffersabres / Sabres.com

On ice 

Seven. Three. And One.

Not a bad January so far with one game to go before the All-Star break, and one coming out of it.

And quietly, a 4-0 mark at KeyBank Center to start 2017.

This marks the first time all season that the Sabres have climbed two games above ".500" in today's NHL. Why is it happening now?

Thirty-seven goals in 11 games. 37!!!

Prior to the calendar flip the team was averaging just 2.1 goals per game.

My belief was always that they needed to get that number closer to 2.7 for the season to have any realistic chance of staying in the race.

Well, an average of 3.3 goals per game this month has the season mark now at 2.43. And should they sustain the January pace, they would end the season at 2.80 which would likely make things awfully interesting in April.

Your January Sabres Scoring Leaders:

Ryan O'Reilly: 11 points (2+9) 
Jack Eichel: 9 points (6+3)
Sam Reinhart: 9 points (2+7)
Kyle Okposo: 7 points (4+3)
Evander Kane: 7 points (4+3)
Brian Gionta: 7 points (4+3)
Zemgus Girgensons: 7 points (3+4)
Cody Franson: 5 points (1+4)
Will Carrier: 4 points (3+1)
Marcus Foligno: 3 points (3+0)
Jake McCabe: 3 points (1+2)
Zach Bogosian: 3 points (1+2)
Matt Moulson: 3 points (1+2)
Taylor Fedun: 3 points (0+3)
Rasmus Ristolainen: 3 points (0+3)

A direct by-product of the increased scoring: Robin Lehner is 4-0-0 this month with a 2.85 goals-against average. Nice to see him finally getting some run support. 

Another noticeable change, at least from my vantage point, has been seemingly more vocal contributions during practices from the likes of assistant coaches Tom Ward and Terry Murray. (I don't mean to suggest that Bob Woods is the quiet one, but then again, he oversees a power play that is "Top 7" in the league)

Plenty of memorable moments this month. And let's not forget what happened at the front end of January, with Justin Bailey's first NHL goal.

Video: BUF@NYR: Bailey beats Lundqvist for first NHL goal

Justin was kind enough to share a few of the messages he received from his family after the game:

 
Off ice 

It's been a while between blogs here and I've been waiting to show/tell this story.

Take a look:
Here is Dan Bylsma after winning the Stanley Cup at Joe Louis Arena (June 12, 2009)

And here is Dan Bylsma with us on the postgame show after winning his 300th NHL game as a head coach, also at Joe Louis Arena (Dec. 27, 2016)

Video: Bylsma on his 300th win


Anything stand out?
Same guy. 
Same tie.

You may recall the Sabres had fallen on hard times - losing four straight - prior to that late December game at the Joe. So the proud Michigander dug deep - into his closet - for an old JLA good luck charm.

That (and a pair of goals from Evander Kane, including the third period winner) was all that he needed to reach a pretty nice milestone.

***

I experienced another first that night at the Joe as well: MayDay doing the intermission report down a contact lens!

The trouble began right before we were about to start. And whenever we'd be off-camera with Brad breaking down plays, he'd cover up the bad eye and focus as best he could with the other.

It's all fun and games until...

***

Kudos to the amazing PSE production team. Once again they crushed it with the latest Tyler Ennis-centric Beyond Blue and Gold Episode.

Video: BBG: Ennis' Road Back

I knew when we were interviewing Tyler and his parents in his childhood home in Edmonton that it was going to be powerful. The shooters and editors took it to another level - so much so that Bruce and Diane Ennis, Tyler's parents, sent us an incredibly thoughtful email to express their thanks. 

Here's a snippet of it:

"What a powerful and emotional story. I want to commend you and the entire BBG crew on your ability to accurately capture the roller coaster of emotions we experienced as Tyler battled to overcome a serious head injury. The way your team was able to recreate what Tyler was experiencing during the depths of his concussion was amazing. Incredible camerawork, lighting and effects. The segment really helps a person to understand how horrible concussions can be."

Tyler comes by his genuine nature inherently.

He is also a person that has had the utmost respect for his former teammate in Thomas Vanek. It was really good to catch up with Vanek in Buffalo last week, in the midst of a very strong season for him with Detroit.

Number 62 couldn't wait to heap praise on Ennis, who may well be his protégé.

"I think he's one of the most creative players in the game," Vanek said. "Let him be that way. There will be more positives than negatives."

Count Vanek as someone who absolutely still sees the shootout as a very relevant piece of the game today. And that's not because he is 4-for-4 this year!

Vanek loved the drama of seeing it in the World Juniors, doesn't see a need for 10 minutes of 3-on-3 as a way to end regular season games, and still very much feels the fans rising as one in the arenas when the shootout is about to begin.


Life on the road

I've said it before, and will continue to do so until this magical career ride comes to an end: This is a dream job, and I wouldn't trade it for any other career.

That said, you do miss out on a lot of family time. However, it's made easier on many a night by near-real-time technology.

Seconds after Zach Bogosian's OT winner in Montreal on Saturday, my phone buzzed with this, from our youngest daughter Rhiannon...

 

And clearly, the result resonated with many that night, perhaps more than we've felt in quite a while. As we were touching down in Buffalo and coming to halt, the pilot announced a quick "Well done" to the players. But then added, "And the folks at the control tower tonight wanted to let you know what a great game you played, and they send their congratulations to all of you, and thank you for that win in Montreal!"

It's the little things that remind you of what a caring place we live in.

And when you're in the midst of a Parent's Trip for the players, that emotion comes out just a little bit more, as we heard from Cody Franson in our first intermission last night, and from Jack Eichel on the post-game show.

Video: Jack Eichel on the postgame show


In the community

The community of Sabres fans really knows no boundaries, and that was on display again Monday night at our latest Sabres Road Crew party at Tin Roof Broadway in Nashville.

Tweet from @ChrisRyndak: The scene from last night's Road Crew party in Nashville. Thanks to all the #Sabres fans who came and hung out with us! pic.twitter.com/K9SG7hdOzX

A couple hundred die-hard Blue and Gold supporters enjoyed the experience with alumni, broadcasters, and our sponsors - Delta Air Lines and Labatt.

I seemingly offended Rayzor by not using my "indoor voice" while emceeing the proceedings, but other than that, I thought it was a near perfect night - all in support of the Buffalo Sabres Foundation.

Next chance for displaced Sabres fans to congregate in such a manner will be February 24 in Denver!  

 

#Duffalo Three Stars 

For the period ending January 24, 2017

1.    Tin Roof Broadway - Great staff, perfect venue, can't wait to visit again! 
2.   The Town Ballroom - Home to the inaugural Casino For a Cause in support of Zach Bogosian's Bogo Bunch Foundation. Always the right place for special events like this!

Video: Casino For A Cause
3.    Old Orchard Inn -  It's taken us way too long to get this historic gem in East Aurora. It was a perfect place to celebrate (a bit early) the January 24 birthdays of both my wife and our youngest daughter.

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