Matt and I strike up a after midnight conversation about the Sabres on facebook and decided to share it. Enjoy.
Matt: Just when I think I'm out....they pullllll me back in. It's not exactly Rocky III, or anything, a 6-5 comeback win of the Leafs, who are a charity case basically, but it's...something. It's the thing they needed to keep them alive. Two games to play for both Washington and Buffalo, and the Sabres need to get one more point than the Capitals to get into the playoffs. What did I take from tonight? Well. It's been a lot of fun. But I'm not exactly brimming with confidence going into the upcoming weekend.
Joe: I don't know where I am at. I don't have that much confidence either because they just barely beat a junior varsity Leafs squad and got the B's and Flyers next. I don't know what is wrong, but I want to get into it. I want to believe. I want to go insane because they played an amazing hockey game that if it propels them into the playoffs, this game could be the launching point. But something just isn't registering with me. I feel bad, because I want to join the fray. I want to be happy. However, when they beat the Leafs, I gave a fist pump. Followed by a "Yes!". Then I went to eat dinner. It was fun, but I just want something more titillating.
Matt: I hit the wall, which caused our salt shaker to fall off the counter in the other room. But this is par for the course. If I'm actually 'excited', I run around the neighborhood banging pots and high-fiving strangers. I don't want to ruin people's excitement -- it's been a fantastic run. But the thing for me is, I am having trouble shaking the feeling that this is a fragile team. I feel like, if they do back into the 8th playoff spot, they're just extending their season by 8 to 10 days. I have a real tough time seeing them beating the Rangers in 4 out of 7, when they're giving 3 of a possible 4 points up to Toronto. But it's all relative. They're in this position because Ryan Miller got very hot (and now it looks like he's getting ice cold again). If he gets hot again, anything could happen.
Joe: You see, I'm the exact opposite. I think they can make a run because I have zero respect for the Eastern conference. Sabres included. It seems like every year we get 2 upsets in the playoffs. Anything can happen. If the Sabres are healthy, I think they can beat the Rangers. However, the run is what has been dull because we have went through it before. I can't enjoy it for what it is because there has to be a payoff. A payoff we haven't had before.
Matt: I think the thing with the playoffs is, its sort of like the NCAA basketball tournament. You do get your first round upsets here and there, but when the dust settles you still see your 1-4 teams who usually challenge for the title. My thing is this: they've decided to make this run, and 8th place is certainly better than 9th. My preference would have been for them to have gotten that top 5 draft pick, which if you remember, was the thing we were supposed to be excited about before this new thing (the Sabres are good again!). But if they're going to make the run, then I sure as heck hope they complete the thing. 8th is so much better than 9th. I thought they were going to blow Toronto out of the water tonight, just because of how devastating that loss was Saturday. I was really shocked it took 6 goals and overtime to get this one done. Were you?
Joe: I was with you. I don't understand how this team can look like absolute shit in 1st period, in which your MVPs were rookies, and yet, your big guns didn't show up until the 2nd and 3rd, when they started to kick ass. I don't get it. Last night's game felt like a microcosm of the Sabres over the last 5 yrs. Inconsistent to no explanation.
Matt: I'm really hoping that what we saw out of Marcus Foligno tonight is the real deal. For everyone involved. For him. For me and you. For the Buffalo Wins readers. For casual fans. For the city of Buffalo. For bitter Twitter. He seems like the guy we all wanted Zack Kassian to be, and maybe a little more. I just watched his fight with Matt Frattin again. Frattin isn't exactly Milan Lucic or anything, but Foligno clubbed him like a seal. There have been maybe 3 fights all season where the Sabre involved has been dominant enough that there was no doubt who was the victor. This was one of them, and it was the most organic, because it came as a genuine reaction to a clean hit. He also has a nose for the net. I would like to see Foligno score a few more goal scorer's goals (instead of things bouncing off his ear lobes and buttcheeks and shins and finding the back of the net), because I worry that we're going to run into the Gerbe situation again next year where he ends up scoring 5 goals all season. But this is the sort of pleasant surprise that Buffalo delivers once per year to keep people interested. Foligno was supposed to be the guy next year, not this year.
Joe: I'm usually a bottom line type of person with the Sabres because media and fans always seem to find a silver lining or excuse with their play when it ends by mid April, but when it comes to positives, these kids like #63 and #82 look great. I don't know where they will be because we tend to anoint everyone as the next big thing (See: Luke Adam after 10 games), but we need something fresh to believe in.
Matt: He just plays different, too. Even in the Drury/Briere era, the Sabres didn't really have that physical presence (though no one really thought you'd need it to win after the lockout). He hits, he takes hits. He dives at loose pucks near empty nets. He seems willing to sacrifice his body. He's everything Buffalo sports fans want in a guy. He embodies their particular brand of "toughness". And you know it helps that his last name is "Foligno" and he has that bloodline.
Speaking of silver linings, I sort of wish I knew what the media and fans were thinking/saying when it was 3-0 Toronto. I couldn't bring myself to check Twitter. We all have our limits. One thing I think that needs to be pointed out is that the Sabres have scored 12 goals in the 3 games that Ehrhoff has missed, which sort of (gladly) kills the ridiculous notion that their offense might struggle because of the lack of a defensive transition game. Of course, now we hear about how they're letting up so many goals because of Ehrhoff being out. Look, the guy has played in 66 games this year. That's a lot of games. I'm sure that there is an outlying impact that his absence has on games like the one tonight, but Toronto is not a very good hockey team, and they're worse now than usual. Ehrhoff or not, it should not be this difficult.
Joe: Word to your mom. This team made the playoffs last year with Tim Connolly as their #1 center and Mike Weber/Steve Montador/Jordan Leopold being their interchangeable #2 guy. Forward wise, they have more talent than last year's team and I think their forwards up/down play is the real reason why they have struggled this season. But I don't want to gouge my eyes out with dismissing the injury excuse, because you and I know it's BS, no matter how much Jeremy White tweets about it. I can save that for a later post. I just wish I could enjoy the regular season run, but I can't. Negative guy or not, I just wanna know what this will lead to. Will I regret not pissing myself happy because we came back against the crappy Leafs if we make it to the 2nd and 3rd round? Yes. However, next week is when the season would start for me if the Sabres can get there.
Matt: You had a piece on Ryan Miller today, so before we go, I think we should touch on him, at least a little. Because this guy gave up 5 goals tonight. I mean, they weren't all his fault and how many realistically can we say, "I think we need a save there" on? Two, maybe? Ryan Miller is so quizzical to me. I love him all of the time except the times I hate him.
Think about this: From Oct. 25 to Jan. 21, which is a three month stretch and about 50% of the season, Miller played in only 23 games. But in those 23 games, most coming after his concussion, he let up 3 or more goals a staggering 18 times. And since then he has been a virtual wall, right up until this past weekend. I don't understand this guy. I don't understand the fascination with him. I don't understand the obsession with reading into anything he says. I don't understand how some people can love him for being a gamer and other people can think he's a whiny, mouthy punk. When the world ends, and there is nothing left but cockroaches, there will still be two guys calling in to apocalypse sports talk radio arguing about Ryan Miller. The awful thing right now is, he keeps getting extra lives to be "the guy" who steals a couple of games for them in the dying throes of the season, and so far he is 0-for-3. Now we go into Thursday against *gulp* Philadelphia and the weekend *double gulp* against Boston. Paging Ryan Miller of February....
Joe: Ryan Miller and the city of Buffalo are a riddle trapped in a enigma. He knows the pressure is on him because he's our Luke Skywalker, IE: Our only hope. I have no clue anymore what makes a goal a goalies fault. It has been brought up 300 times by everyone and I hate the discussion cause it's straight out of Groundhogs Day. The Sabres will go only as far as Miller will take them. Again, scoring 9 goals against the Leafs in two games isn't anything to kiss your wife about. The Leafs suck ass and I have more faith in #30 than our forwards at this point. This could be a defining moment for Miller against the B's and Flyers. A two game series that will make Miller haters or lovers put up or shut up. If he bombs out, I don't know what will happen besides discord and blame.
Matt: Last thought: Down here in Austin, we're awash in an ocean of runners. That guy 4 cubicles down from you that weighs 270 pounds and eats deep-fried lard wrapped in bacon with donuts for bread? That guy runs 30 miles every Saturday morning in the Texas Hill Country. If you're thinking, "It sounds like people in Austin are crazy." you'd be right. I prefer to sit on my couch and vigorously remote control the television. But it is also is a good reminder that you don't have to be the best to complete a marathon. It's not about how you start, it's how you finish. That's the way we need to look at the Sabres right now. There is a lot of impatience with the team, and that's ok, because they deserve most of it. But I'm not going to deny that I'd rather it be this way, however painfully redundant and awful and boring it has become, than to be Columbus. And although I was rooting for the "let's get that Top 5 pick" option, it was only because I had faith that the Sabres would actually land something major with it. What I want out of the next week is to just come out of it feeling like in the last stretches of this marathon, they gave it their best shot. There will be plenty of time for us to analyze the misgivings of this whole season when the thing is over. But for the next week, just give me your best.
Matthew on Twitter: @matthew1stewart
Joe on Twitter: @JoeBuffaloWins