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#DUFFALO: Patience, Peace Parks and the Piano Man

by Brian Duff @duffersabres /

On the ice

With 15 games to go, the Sabres find themselves in a place similar to where they were on opening night: Uncertain of where they will end up.

The difference of course between now and then is that the club's biggest difference-maker is having a significant nightly impact.

A quick perusal of the NHL game notes can get you caught up on everything Jack Eichel has done in this injury-shortened season.

It gives fans hope.

It gives commentators and columnists reason to pause in search of more appropriate words. And it has led me to land at the feet of a highly unlikely and unexpected comparison: Jack Eichel and Le'veon Bell.

Throughout this past NFL season, the Steelers marquee running back gained more and more attention for his unique hesitation at the line of scrimmage, wading into traffic, but without the reckless abandon or sheer power moves that we are accustomed to seeing from players at that position.

It was a wading - and waiting game - for Bell that often saw defenders go right past him, thus opening up holes that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

And for a while now, this is just one aspect of Eichel's game that has been so impressive to watch.

It doesn't always happen in the same area of the ice either. Sometimes he'll be coming out of his own zone on the power play, slowing down in the neutral zone enough to draw defenders in, until he decides to either kick it into a higher gear, or find teammates who are then even more wide open.

Other times it's on the half wall, or even just inside the offensive zone. Always inviting chaos. Rarely succumbing to it. There is so much patience in his game!

It wasn't an exact example of what I'm talking about here, but even Tuesday night versus Philly, the 2-2 goal demonstrates again how he can back opponents off with seemingly little more than a well thought- out pause.

Video: PHI@BUF: Eichel tallies 100th career point with PPG

 I canvassed his old BU teammate Evan Rodrigues for a thought on the matter, and while he couldn't think of an example right off the hop, he did say that Eichel is "so effortless" and "almost makes the game look easy." Eventually, he circled around to the idea of a point guard, not unlike a Kyrie Irving, or a Steph Curry, based on the "fluidity" with which Eichel plays the game.

Shoot me your non-hockey comparisons for Jack. You can reach me on Twitter: @duffersabres.


Life on the road

Sometimes the stupidest things can lead to most exceptional moments.

I honestly believe that the newly implemented bye week, staggered throughout the season for all NHL teams, is one of the dumbest ideas in recent memory. Maybe not in the sense of the "need" for it, but just the way it was rolled out, and the scheduling problems most teams actually incurred because of it.

Regardless, as luck would have it, the Sabres break fell in line with that of our kids' school break, so we had four unexpected, uninterrupted days together - an absolute blessing in-season.

Off to Manhattan we went, and one morning we met Anthony Cavaleri, the man behind The world could use more people like him. And the place where we met him was pretty cool too! 

The brand new DSquare Café is on 9th Ave. in Hell's Kitchen, and hopefully the first impressions we felt can lead to a lifetime of success for the gracious and outgoing people behind it. 

The trip - of course - was full of great food and family fun. 

And a bucket list item being crossed off.

The renovations at Madison Square Garden are spectacular, and for a 38th consecutive month at that venue (now up to 39…), The Piano Man delivered as one who'd never seen him could only hope. 

But if I'm being completely honest here, the most rewarding part of that night was the walk to the show and back - 15 minutes each way - hand-in-hand with our youngest daughter.

Being connected with her in that way, after so much time at the rink or on the road or both, and actually being able to have meaningful conversation amidst the masses of Manhattan - was truly special.

Mr. Long Island merely provided the soundtrack.

Off the ice

Our little group known as the Alix Rice Peace Park Foundation tends to grow at this time of year, thanks to the never-ending generosity of this community.

The donations are pouring in - signed sports memorabilia, high-end event tickets, gift cards/certificates from restaurants, hotels, you-name-it, and baskets of all shapes and sizes for our annual fundraiser at the Main Transit Fire Hall on March 26. 

And if you missed it in the news, we still need some help when it comes to in-kind donations before we break ground on the skatepark at the Northtown Center.

If you are in the construction business, or know someone who is, please click the Get Involved tab on our website.

Can't wait to see you on Sunday, March 26!

In the community

"It's the ability to get up close and personal with Sabre greats and enjoy some fine wine... also we get to share many memories with loyal Sabres fans! - Danny Gare, Sabres Hall of Famer

"We get more guys come a farther distance to come help out with this than anything else we do!" Rob Ray, Sabres Analyst and President of the Alumni Association

"We have a great Eichel Adirondack chair!" - Teresa Belbas, Sabres Manager of Community Relations

(Credit to our production manager Jason Wiese for the photo)

This is no time to be sitting down as the annual Sabres Alumni Wine Festival is fast approaching!

Here's what else you should know, according to our Teresa Belbas, just in case you've never been to it before:

"There are many opportunities for everyone to come home with a great item. We will once again be featuring the Sabres Favorite Things basket and jersey raffle as well as a silent auction that includes great Sabres experiences and memorabilia. The basket raffle is quite the sight to see! 

"The current Sabres and Alumni wives really put a lot of thought and work into these baskets and everyone has a chance to win them if you purchase a raffle ticket. In addition, there is a Pink Ribbon board where everyone is a winner. Prizes in the Pink Ribbon Board include Sabres and Bandits tickets, New Era hats and items from our participating restaurants and wineries.  

The Sabres Alumni Wine Festival is a fun night out where you get the chance to taste food, wine, beer and cocktails from some of the finest establishments in the area while mingling with some of your favorite players from the past."

And here are some highlights from last year's event:

Video: Alumni Wine Fest Highlights

It's great that the Sabres have a break in the schedule that week, and hopefully we'll see you there as part of a huge turnout at KeyBank Center.

#Duffalo Three Stars

For the period ending March 7, 2017

1.   Jack Eichel - He turned a corner somewhere last month and his off-ice demeanor seems to be mirroring his on-ice excellence.

2.   Dan Lambert - With seemingly parallel schedules, it's been hard to get to Rochester as much as I would like this year, but a recent chat with the Amerks coach at KeyBank Center left me feeling refreshed about certain players, and impressed with the care he exhibits for those around him.

3.   Billy Joel - Any legend who mixes in a little Led Zeppelin before signing off is OK with me! 



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