Lyndy Ruff head coach of the Buffalo Sabres has a team that many said were in rebuilding mode playing inspired hockey for the first quarter of the NHL season! I am a life-long Buffalo Sabres fan and to be honest I came into this 2009-2010 season with moderate expectations at best. The club looked to lack offensive firepower, had a defensive core in transition and goaltender Ryan Miller seemed to have a three-goal quota for each game. After only scoring four goals in their first three games with a lethargic looking offense and mediocre defense I was worried my prediction of a long season would be coming true. Boy was I wrong!
The Sabres are currently tops in the Northeast Conference with a record of 12-4-1 and 25 points. The offense is firing on all cylinders and 19-year-old 6 foot 8 Tyler Myers is dominating in the defensive end. The team is not the same star-studded team of 2007 with multiple lines of offensive firepower, but the Sabers are embracing a blue-collar work ethic and beating teams because they are flat out working harder! Personally I have not seen this kind of heart and desire since the season post lockout. Ruff who has been criticized in the past has this team playing hard and is sending a message when necessary. Just last week seven-year veteran forward Adam Mair was put up on waivers for playing uninspired mediocre hockey. Mair, who is fighting to stay on the ice is playing like a fist year rookie making a place for himself and the rest of the team is following suit!
Goaltender Ryan Miller who has been invited to the Olympic Camp August 17-19 in Woodridge Illinois is playing the best most consistent hockey I have witnessed by the still young net minder. Boasting a goals against average of 1.75 and a .940 save percentage he has been the biggest key in the Sabres recent success. Miller leading the NHL in both goals against and save percentage continues to cement himself as one of the league’s top five goalies.
Offensively Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Jason Pomminville, and Drew Stafford are combining to lead the charge in scoring while role players like Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta are bringing the physical play. Kaleta, a local native to the Buffalo area is consistently drawing penalties and entering the head of opponents while Gaustad continues to be a redwood in front of the oppositions goaltender. While this offensive core may not be the biggest names they are playing with a ton of heart and are second only to Montreal in the Northeast in scoring.
I am truly looking forward to this season. If the team continues to play with this kind of passion and heart I see them being a possible dark horse in this years playoffs. The biggest surprise however is the play of Tyler Myers. Myers at 19 years of age looks like he will be the next Chris Pronger and a shoe in for the Hall of Fame. Ok, maybe that’s getting ahead a bit, but this kid is the best young defenseman I have seen in years. The city of Buffalo and the sabers are buzzing again. Don’t be surprised to see this team threatening to go deep in the playoffs this year.
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