|More than 80 alumni were on hand last weekend to celebrate 40 years of NHL hockey in Buffalo (Photo: Bill Wippert) |
-It’s hard to believe that one week ago the Sabres needed a win vs. Tampa Bay to maintain the upper hand in the playoff race with the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes. Of course the Sabres won, but that didn’t clinch a spot. It took the dramatic, come-from-behind win against the Flyers to clinch a spot in the second to last game of the season. Fast forward to this week, and the uncertainty has turned into anxiety to get the series with the Flyers started. So, before it begins on Thursday, take a step back to appreciate the run this team completed to make the playoffs and the emotional high we’re all feeling.
-Speaking of highs, how great was last Friday’s home finale? To have over 80 Sabres Alumni on hand to celebrate 40 years of NHL hockey in Buffalo was awesome. Every generation of Sabres fans had some of their hockey heroes in town to thank for the memories. And each generation of players thanked the fans for their support when they played and for welcoming them back with love and enthusiasm. For some of those players, it was the first time in 30 years or more that they put on a sweater and were applauded. The pride and excitement I saw in Mike Robitaille when he put his sweater on for the pre-game ceremony is something I’ll never forget. It meant the world to him and his fellow alumni to be reunited, welcomed and honored as they all were. It was cool, classy and capped by a signature win.
-My guess is there’s a waiting list for No. 42 sweaters at the Sabres Store. Has any rookie had a better second half to a season than Nathan Gerbe
? Of his 16 goals, 15 have been scored in the second half of the season. I wasn’t sure he would be able to cap what he did in Montreal during a 2-0 win on March 22, but I’m sure he did it with the spin-o-rama backhander to tie the Flyers and send the Sabres to the playoffs. So what changed? I think experience. He’s not the first player in league history that needed time to adjust to the speed and skill of the NHL. He’s also smart and a hard worker. Lindy Ruff stuck with him when he wasn’t scoring because he worked his tail off in practice and during games. His effort could never be questioned, even though his production was. He figured out where to go on the ice to get more scoring opportunities. A great example is the first goal he scored in the Montreal game. He waded in the left corner as the puck went to Tyler Myers
at the right point. Gerbe then raced to the area between the dots because he figured if Myers was going to shoot he’d have a chance at a deflection (that’s how it looked to me anyway), and that’s exactly what happened. Another example is the first goal he scored against the Flyers last Friday. He scored on a shot from the point. Why was he there? He was covering for Tyler Myers
, who had pinched deep behind the net. Gerbe is proving to be a goal scorer at the right time. It took hard work and attention to the little things to make it happen. The Flyers would also be wise to pay attention to the little things, too.
-I almost sent Doc Emrick a text message this morning to schedule some vehicle maintenance. The NBC and Devils play-by-play wizard is right next to one of the best service men in the business on my contact list.
-How long will it take for some Philadelphia-area publication to have a column describing how Buffalo stinks, is boring, and there’s nothing to do here? Here’s a pre-emptive strike: You know what’s really boring? Reading un-original stuff by the uniformed.
-Something I am looking forward to this series is chatting with the Flyers broadcast crew. Jim Jackson, Keith Jones and Steve Coates are excellent and might be the friendliest peers in the league. While we’re on the topic of broadcasts, we will continue the pre-game show 30 minutes prior to face off for each playoff game on MSG. I would also like to recognize our production crew for their excellent work all season. Joe, Matt, Drew, Mark, Jason, Chrisanne, Jeff, and a cast of interns are here everyday working to make life easy for RJ, Harry, Roby, Razor and me. Please spend the final minute of our next broadcast reading the credits of the show. They deserve it.
-Sabres in 6 for a Happy Easter.