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Random Thoughts from the Past Week

by Kevin Sylvester / Buffalo Sabres
Tyler Ennis (Photo: Bill Wippert)

I hope that all of you who were down on Ryan Miller are back to reality now that his game is back to where it belongs. He’s still an elite goaltender. The reasons for his struggles this season are pretty obvious to me. He sustained two head injuries in less than nine months time. I’m not breaking any news here. Miller admitted he was dinged from a slap shot (I believe off the stick of Dion Phaneuf) late last season and missed four games due to it. We all remember this season’s incident with Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins, which caused him to miss eight straight starts. Whether they were full blown concussions, neck injuries, or a combination of both doesn’t matter to me. He wasn’t right and his game was off because of it. Miller looks right now. He’s 4-0-1 in his last five starts with two shutouts, allowing a total of five goals against. In the least, we all can enjoy his work. At the most, and hopefully, the start of another run.

I respect Claude Julien as a coach, and he’s excellent with the media during interviews. He gives thoughtful and insightful answers to questions on strategy and match ups. However, I had to chuckle when NBC’s Pierre McGuire asked Julien what the Sabres were doing to frustrate his team during Buffalo’s eventual 6-0 win. Julien said, and this may not be exact, ‘Nothing. It’s what we’re not doing. We could be a lot better.’ Of course they could, but the reason was what the Sabres were doing to prevent that! In Claude’s defense, every coach gives that answer when getting thumped during a game so forgive me for picking on him.

The game of hockey brings people together. From the grass roots level of youth hockey, to the big events like this weekend’s Labatt Pond (street this year) Tournament, people form bonds that become quickly cemented. That also happened this year with the Buffalo Sabres trip to Europe to start the season. Specifically, the first three days spent practicing in Mannheim, and the final exhibition match up against Adler Mannheim. The fans in Mannheim were nothing short of fantastic. The tribute they paid to hometown hero Jochen Hecht prior to the game was something I’m sure he’ll never forget, because I sure won’t. They sang in chorus, “Jochen, Jochen” as he took warm ups and was the last to leave the ice, still recovering from a training camp concussion. The local fans weren’t finished there. They sang and chanted the entire game, paid another great tribute to the retiring Rene Corbet, and finished things off chanting ‘Let’s Go Buffalo.’ It was the best atmosphere for a non-playoff game that I’ve ever witnessed. But that’s not all.

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Some fans from Manheim became fast friends (hockey bond) with a group of fans from Buffalo that made the trip to Germany to see the Sabres. They discussed visiting Buffalo to see Hecht play and visit our wonderful city. The fans acted fast, organizing a trip to visit our city for a long weekend of hockey and fun. That group is in town now, with roughly 60-70 Germans making the trip over. If you were at the Bruins game, you noticed them, or will when the Sabres host the Stars and Lightning this weekend. Unfortunately, they will not see their hero Hecht play as he is still battling concussion symptoms. But that didn’t stop Hecht from being a great host to his fellow countrymen. He made arrangements (with the help of the team) for this group to the get the Blue and Gold treatment.

Finally, Dave Andreychuk is the featured speaker at the Friday’s Power Play Luncheon. It begs me to ask one rhetorical question. How is he not in the Hockey Hall of Fame? The case is simple: 1639 games played, 640 goals, 698 assists, all time leader in pp goals with 274, and captained Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup at age 40.
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