Last summer was an exciting time for Buffalo Sabres fans. New owner Terry Pegula opened his gigantic wallet to sign free agents Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino, plus the club took on Robyn Regehr’s sizable salary in a trade.
All of a sudden the Sabres were Stanley Cup contenders. Well, except for one little thing: they actually weren’t.
That’s just one of the things Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller told ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun in a candid interview.
“This is by no means an excuse, but I think being labeled as ‘Cup Contenders’ simply because of hype and our change in ownership hurt our mentality and approach. Instead of building toward smaller goals as a team and creating the culture and identity of a championship-caliber team, we skipped major steps in our approach,” said Miller.
“Plus, we didn’t earn or deserve the label at all, so instead of growing and building in a positive light toward being contenders by playing the games and going through the challenges, we were constantly viewed as failing in every situation in the fans’ eyes and in the media, and we had to constantly answer for something that I don’t think we should have been labeled.”
From Nov. 19 to Jan. 21, the Sabres went 7-17-5 and fell nine points out of a playoff spot. Since then, however, they’re 16-5-5 and one point out of a playoff spot.
Related: Playoff bubble watch — Buffalo Sabres edition
Well, the NHL’s two new initiatives for ’15-16 seem to be going swimmingly.
Not long after Ottawa successfully made the second-ever coach’s challenge, fans got their first look at 3-on-3 overtime.
And what a look it was.
In the span of 137 seconds, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers combined for eight shots on goal, a few breakaways, some tremendous saves — including one on a penalty shot — and, finally, Jason Garrison‘s game-winning goal on a breakaway from center, giving the Bolts a 3-2 win.
It was, in a word, fun.
Lots of fun.
A quick sampling of reviews:
Of course, not everybody was a fan:
Now, to temper things a bit — this was the first time we’ve seen 3-on-3 with something on the line, so there was a novelty factor at play. There’s also no guaranteeing future OT sessions will be as exciting as this.
But none of that takes away from the fact 3-on-3 made for appointment viewing, and immense entertainment value. The prospect of future games like this? That’s pretty exciting.
Didn’t take long for Alex Burmistrov to make his presence felt — though not in a good way.
Burmistrov, playing in his first game for the Jets after a two-year stint in Russia, delivered a questionable elbow to the head of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron late in the first period of Thursday’s season-opener:
Burmistrov received a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head, while Bergeron received a matching minor for roughing (retaliating for the elbow, specifically).
The Bruins went into the intermission leading 1-0, and have yet to update Bergeron’s status.
Update: Bergeron stayed in the game, but B’s head coach Claude Julien was none too pleased with the hit. Following the game, he called for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to look at it…