I am going to tell you a bit about our group. But first, I want to talk about Ryan Miller.
I knew about him before this month, of course. I knew he was loved here in Buffalo, so much so that the team was retiring his number. We were even able to meet him when we were in Vancouver earlier this season. You could tell then that he was a good person.
I thought I understood his place here. But I didn't really - not until two weeks ago.
The connection he shares with the people in this city is something you have to feel to understand. We were all in awe watching his ceremony from the bench, seeing the mutual love shared between him and the crowd. It was RJ Night all over again.
Now when I see Ryan Miller, I am star-struck.
We spent time after the game talking to Ryan and the other alumni who were there that night. They spoke about how it felt like there was nothing separating the ice from the stands during their playoff runs. The players and the fans were one, all working toward the same goal.
I speak for myself and my teammates when I say this: Buffalo, we are starting to feel it.
It's hard to describe what it feels like when KeyBank Center is full. I get chills thinking about the roar of the crowd every time we have a scoring chance. Or a big hit. Or a successful penalty kill. Honestly, the whole night feels like a power play.
It's like we are 19,090 strong - 20 of us in uniform, the rest of us in the stands. Together we are going to break the other team mentally. That's what it feels like.
We love that feeling. There are two things you need to know about our group. We believe in what we have here, and there is nowhere else we would rather be.
So, when someone who means so much to this community is being honored, or when our city is recovering from a storm, you should know we take it personally. We know we have a chance to send every person home with a memory they will never forget. How could we not give our best?
Those are the nights we have dreamt of these past two years. Tommer, Mittsy, Cozey, Joki, Sammy, Brys, Aspy, Vic - so many of us have grown up here. We've gone to Bills games together and talked about creating a similar atmosphere downtown. It's so rewarding to see it happening.
We have a sign in our locker room that says, "Earn It." We see it before every game and every practice. That's been the message all along from Kevyn and Donny and Okie, that we are going to earn the trust of this community by how we work to get better every day.
Now we're almost at the All-Star break, and we're in the race. We all know where we are in the standings and what these games mean. But the only way we can reach our goal is by keeping the same mindset. Just keep getting better, one day at a time. Earn it.
We'll see where it takes us, but we are excited to be on this journey together. I am so proud to play here - to call the guys in this room my brothers, and to call this city home.
Thank you for a special first half. I'll see you on Wednesday.