Out with the old and in the Drew was the motto of the evening as Kevin Sylvester said time and time again “Happy Drew Year”. Rick Jeanneret would have been proud. Powered by another Drew Stafford hat trick (technically a four goal night, Stafford scored in the shootout, but that goal does not count towards his stats) – the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Boston Bruins on New Years Day. It was Stafford’s fourth career hat trick, and second of the year. Both of this year’s have come against the Boston Bruins.
In what should have started another year with the picturesque setting of an outdoor hockey game, weather conditions forced the NHL to go under the lights for this first time in the four years they have been going outdoors – and I think it turned into a huge miss for NBC – at least as far as many Sabres fans were concerned. I will admit, I flipped back and forth at first to watch the introductions and the start of the game; but the game did not have even the slightest bit of regional appeal, and the Sabres game was turning into a barn burner for both teams. Where a 1PM Winter Classic might have had the audience in Buffalo and Boston, at 8PM there were few televisions that would dare make the switch.
Ryan Miller and Tuuka Rask started the game, Tuuka Rask would come out after a soft goal – and Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas finished the game. Now one that may not have watched the game might have read, oh wow, the two past winners of the Vezina and the goaltending tandem for the United States Olympic team faced against one another and went to a shootout, must have been a close game. Not even close.
Terrible ice conditions at the arena due to the unseasonably warm weather in Buffalo and the sheer number of games being played on the ice at HSBC Arena because of the IIHF U20 World Junior Championships, along with a sheer disregard for defense had the Sabres and Bruins playing to the score of a Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns football game, with a 7-6 final.
Ryan Miller has continued his sub-par play, not only did the offense have to bail him out last night, but he looked mediocre in the shootout. I don’t doubt that if Chara had not gone all Kovalchuk on his shootout attempt – he would have scored on Ryan Miller. Tyler Ennis had the play of the game in the shootout, because if his move wasn’t impressive enough the spasm that Tim Thomas had trying to save it made it all the more better.
Despite the lack of defense, the Buffalo Sabres ended 2010 and started 2011 the way they needed, with a two points. If the Buffalo Sabres can turn on the switch and hit a hot streak, the word playoffs might actually mean something. With two games in hand against them, the Ottawa Senators are only one point above the Sabres. The Montreal Canadiens have play just one more game than the Sabres, and are eight points ahead of the blue and gold. Buffalo catches Montreal, that puts them second in the division and in the playoff picture.
The end of the season is still several months away, but if you are not in a better position by the All-Star game than you were at Halloween, your probably not going to get better by spring. Making the playoffs could be dangerous for the Sabres fan base, even with an early exit again, the tandem of Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff might be safe yet again, because they can say even with injuries this “core” got us to the playoffs, and the shakeup that all know is desperately needed could be placed on hold for yet another season. With just a few days left in the World Juniors, and the possible announce of the sale to Terry Pegula, the kids gloves may come off when it comes to player personnel decisions – right now thats all we hold on to as the feeble amount of hope that changes will come.
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