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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

We Control our own Destiny

Waking up on this fine Wednesday morning, the birds are chirping and the sun is shinning, and oh yeah the Buffalo Sabres are in 8th place. I'm sorry but it feels great to say that, considering a little over a month ago (Feb 17th) we were tied for 15th in the East, everyone was ready to ship Miller out of town, and the majority of our players were Amerks call ups! We've won 11 of our last 15 games and have gone 14-2-4 during the last 20 games, and Ryan Miller has 1 regulation loss in 18 starts since (Feb 17)! Not a bad turnaround if you ask me! Not to mention we won virtually the biggest game of the season last night against the Capitals who are now 2 points behind us, not only did we win, we smoked the Capitals.

The great against the Capitals was fantastic! There was a playoff atmosphere it felt like a game 7, whoever made the first mistake was going to pay. Lucky for the Sabres it was Washington's rookie goalie Holtby who cracked first! Ennis received the puck from Holtby, he then preceded to pass it to Drew Stafford who barried it, and just like that we're up 1 nothing. Funny fact just seconds before the goal Ovechkin went in on a breakaway on Miller. It was the fast start that spelled the end for the Capitals, as Buffalo jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, and that's all the support Miller really needed. 3 things I took away from this game;

1. The Ennis line is incredible
It's odd when you think about; Ennis, Foligno, and Stafford are 3 completely different players, who you likely wouldn't find hanging out at the hotel together, but on the ice they are becoming a dynamic trio an unstoppable force for the opponents. Since the Foligno call up this line has scored 15 goals, 18 assists and combined for 33 points in just 8 games (not including last night). But this line has been absolutely golden for the Sabres, they've come through in the clutch and last night was no different. Stafford scored 2 crucial goals and Tyler Ennis assisted/set him up on both! But here's the fantastic thing, for whatever reason opposing teams are not ready to treat the Ennis line as the Sabres number 1 line. I know technically they're the 3rd line, but they're playing like the first line! Washington was so busy worring about the Pominville line that they forgot to give some attention to Ennis and Stafford!
Another thing we're seeing is Stafford's confidence going up again, Tyler Ennis makes everyone on the ice better. He is a playmaker, a scorer, a solid face-off winner and he stand up for his teammates! All Stafford has to do is get open and you can almost bet on Ennis getting the puck to him for an easy tap in goal. Watching the three of these guys out on the ice is great, they're having fun out there and playing for the logo on the front of their jerseys!
I hope Lindy Ruff leaves these three together for the rest of the season (and hopefully playoffs), these guys are game changers, when other team are shutting down Pominville and Vanek's lines, the Ennis line steps up and barries a back breaker to the opposition.

2. Ryan Miller is hands down our MVP
First of all without Miller between the pipes there is no way on earth we make the remarkable comeback!
44 saves and no goals from Ovechkin? Miller is a battler no question he held us in the game last night, generally when the Capitals outshoot a team it's tough to grind out a victory. Despite being outshot 44-31, we managed to get the 2 points thanks in large part to Ryan Miller.
Also with the victory last night, Ryan Miller joins Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as the only 2 goalies to have 7 consecutive 30 win seasons! That 1 good season argument is lost again!
In the last 17 games Miller has played his stats have phenominal, out of this world so to speak; 14-1-3 with a 1.78 GAA and .941 save percentage! Teams die for this kind of goaltending during the end of the season playoff stretch.
If the Sabres were going to turn around their season, it was going to have to start with Ryan Miller, the outcome of the Sabres relies hevialy on Ryan Miller. If he has a great game chances are they're skating away with 2 points, but if he is off his game then the game is lost. Basically if Miller is playing up to his all star capability than the Sabres are winning. He has once again put the team on his back, let's just hope he doesn't crack anytime soon! Miller thrives when he noted or pegged as the under-dog (look back to the 2010 Olympics). Back in Februarary everyone said the Sabres were done, Miller was washed up and needed to be shipped out of town! Miller is a major phscalogical type of goalie, he likes to have low expectations and then over pass them with his play, so when the Sabres were pegged to have a great year and Miller was one of the favorites to have a bounce back year and win his second Vezina trophy Miller had a hard time living up to those expectations. When Miller is focused on just winning 1 game at a time, is when he's playing his best hockey!

3. We control our own fate!
It's simple we win and we're in the playoffs, heck we keep winning we could even take 7th, who knows maybe 6th? I'm getting a little ahead here, as long as we keep winning we can book our ticket to the post season. But here's where it gets tricky, we need to finish with more points than the Capitals, if we end up tied for 8th than we will be eliminated as the Caps hold the tie breaker. With the win last night the chances of us making the playoffs went up 28.2 % to 67.6%. Just win, that's the new Sabres motto.

This is really and incrediable historic run the Sabres are on, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. From 15th to 8th in a month and half, you can't write this stuff! Has any other team accomplished a feat like this? I believe if we don hang on to make the playoff we will be the first team to ever climb back into the playoffs.
As long as Miller holds up and the Sabres keep scoring there shouldn't be a problem holding on to the 8th and final playoff seed heck maybe even 7th! If I were one of the top couple teams I'd be getting a little nervous, having to play the red hot Buffalo Sabres in the first round, with Miller on his game, I smell an upset!
But the best part of being in 8th right now, is finally being able to say; if the playoffs started today we'd actually be in them!

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