Given how the season started (or didn't start) for Jack Eichel, it's been fascinating to watch him navigate his way through his abbreviated season.
In my opinion, he's the only core player who has overachieved (based on my expectations of the group) and therein lies the biggest reason why the Sabres won't be going to the playoffs.
I have to admit, I'm not one to get too excited for the 1,000-games-played milestone, though I probably should as someone who loves the history of the game. Over the past 100 years, less than five percent of the players who have made it to "The National" can say they made it to a thousand.
But I'm glad my feelings were tweaked on Monday night - Brian Gionta's night - at KeyBank Center. And that's a credit to the player in the spotlight, his family, and our production crew (PSE, Broadcast and Game Presentation).
I haven't met anyone yet who didn't enjoy the night and I know, from speaking with Brian days later, that he was very thankful - especially for the appearance of "Moose" at the 2:48 mark of our postgame interview!
Video: Gionta on the postgame show
LIFE ON THE ROAD
It's about the journey, right?
Well, this one was a little ridiculous.
The team landed at 3 p.m. in Detroit a week ago Sunday for one last go at The Joe on Monday, March 20. For a couple weeks I had been toying with the idea of renting a car in Detroit, driving two hours east to London, Ontario and catching the Green Day concert.
Normally, there is zero hesitation about going to a show on my own but this was a long trip and (kind of) needed a partner. Chris Ryndak was on the Sabres.com beat for that trip and, of course, was bombarded with website duties as we got to the hotel around 3:30.
So while he worked, I waited. And researched. The ticket prices. The car rental options. The Uber options - which were needed to get to the car rental options!
After many confusing messages back and forth, Chris finally said...
So off we went. Or so we thought.
Not a single car rental company operates in downtown Detroit on Sundays. So we needed to take an Uber across the border to Windsor Airport and get the car from there. It was shaping up to be a $20 ride, which was no problem. Until we got into our Uber car.
"I can't take you across the border," Marlon said.
(You know what Sam Reinhart would say in this situation..."S--- happens.")
Marlon presented us with a few options, none of them particularly appealing given the potential time crunch we were facing, but we appreciated them all the same.
We made the jump from the Uber to a cab.
"Windsor Airport," we said.
"One hundred bucks," was the reply from the unkempt driver of a van that matched his description. I can't tell you what my reply was because my mother might be reading this.
But suffice to say, the negotiation was brief, the price got cut in half and I told him I could only pay by credit card… And we still weren't sure this...driver...would ever…get us…there.
After imploring him to "go a little faster" (I should have asked him to stop smoking!), we eventually arrived at YQG. And guess what? His credit card machine wouldn't work! (That NEVER happens!!!)
I would have made him squirm for a long time if we didn't have a show to get to so I leaned on the Bank of Chris to settle the fare. Having just made the rental car reservation within the hour, we confidently strode to the counter, only to see a sign (in front of a rude, disinterested lady) saying that due to winter weather, they were all out of cars.
IT WAS 45 DEGREES AND SUNNY! AND I HAD JUST MADE THE RESERVATION.
But the sign actually said, "A reservation does not guarantee a vehicle." WTF.
Unsurprisingly, there was now a line of five people at the counter of the other car rental service (because no one else had vehicles) and I was beginning to...laugh. Honestly.
You know when you look at your friend and you're like "What have we just done?" It was really the only thing we could do.
On the inside, I was feeling pretty sure there would be no cars left by the time we hit the front of the line, but boy was I wrong.
This guy had a drawer full of keys.
A steel filing cabinet. Bottom drawer. Sets of keys upon sets of keys and he just looks up like, "What kind of car do you want?"
Not available of course, so we settled on something more mid-size.
And off we went.
And we made it.
And it was GREAT!
The show was way better than I expected and I always go in with high expectations. And given that Chuck Berry had just passed away the day before, their cover of "Johny B. Goode" just made the night.
In fact, it was that version from that night in London that my friend Bentley over at 103.3 The Edge used for Live at Five later in the week.
I'm not sure why/how I missed Green Day on their American Idiot tour, but I did. So the last time I had seen them in concert was...
One year and eight days before Jack Eichel was born.
OFF THE ICE
Another very successful Alumni Wine Festival is in the books. Thanks again to the Sabres Alumni Wives and all the staff and volunteers who make this such a great night out. The alumni jerseys are up for auction now here with the proceeds to benefit Breast Cancer Care in WNY.
This Sunday, we've got Family Appreciation Day, with a family-focused party in the Tops Alumni plaza beginning at 1 p.m., two hours prior to puck drop.
And on Wednesday, it's Fan Appreciation Night presented by ADPRO Sports with all kinds of promotions including the fan-favorite Jersey Off My Back.
During the broadcast next weekend, we'll also be announcing winners of all sorts of prizes as a part of Fan Appreciation Goes Digital. Download and register for the My One Buffalo app for more details on that.
IN THE COMMUNITY
I can't thank the Sabres and our community enough for their ongoing support of the Alix Rice Peace Park Foundation and our Annual Basket Raffle and Silent Auction Fundraiser.
We had so many prizes donated to our event that both sides of the room at the Main-Transit Fire Hall were filled with exceptional items.
We still have a ton of work to do to make this skate park a reality. Ways to donate and get involved can be found at AlixRice.com.
#DUFFALO THREE STARS
For the period ending March 31, 2017
1. Our Crew - Another season is essentially in the books and I'm thankful to work with this talented group - especially Weezy!)
2. My other group - The Alix Rice Peace Park Foundation. These folks are like family and I can't wait 'til the day we can finally break ground on the skate park thanks to their incredible efforts.
3. Christine Ivansitz - For more than 40 years, she has been a loyal worker (in the accounting department) and passionate supporter of this team. Today is her last day with us and we already miss her! Thank you Christine for your smile, your infectious laugh, and your caring nature. Enjoy your well-earned retirement!
And, as always, thank you, Sabres fans, for your dedication, resilience, and respect.