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Immediate Reactions: Blue Jackets 4, Sabres 3 (F/SO)

blog by Ryan Nagelhout  • 

Let me tell you a story.

I started working at a Subway in Niagara Falls when I was in high school.

Despite slicing my pinky finger open on the tomato slicer on my first day, I kept that job through my first few years of college between newspaper layoffs. My work as a Sandwich Artist is no longer on my resume, but I certainly learned quite a bit next to the bread ovens there.

For example in the summer of 2008 a very tall, skinny blond person walked in with a half-dozen other guys.

It was Tyler Myers and a few other Sabres prospects, who were in town for the team’s rookie camp at Dywer Arena on Niagara University’s campus. No one in the restaurant knew who he was, but I immediately knew it was Myers.

After all, he was the team’s 12th overall pick in the draft a few weeks before that. He is also 6-foot-8 and surrounded by other hockey players wearing Gongshow Hockey apparel. It was not a Where’s Waldo situation in the least.

I skipped the “Are you who I think you are?” question and asked about rookie camp. He seemed surprised that I knew who he was. We chatted. It was normal, and what struck me then—and still strikes me today—is how ordinary it all was. He even seemed nervous ordering food. Intimidated, even. This guy is going to be a millionaire! And here he is, anonymously ordering mediocre sandwiches with his buddies.

I wondered if he had any idea how much things in his life were about to change.

Tyler Myers played his 300th National Hockey League game on Saturday night, a 4-3 shootout loss to Columbus at First Niagara Center in Buffalo. Myers went from the Subway on Military Road to the opening night roster for the Sabres the next fall, winning the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year while being Buffalo’s best defenseman.

Since that first season the title of “struggling” has been assigned to Myers, despite somewhat similar numbers in his sophomore campaign and a handful of injuries in his third season. Last year’s lockout and a terrible roster has essentially rendered 2012-13 as a statistical wash, but there was definitely something off about the righty blue liner. Something had changed about Tyler Myers.

It’s inevitable, really. We all change. I’ve gone from making Subway Clubs to writing children’s books during the day and blog posts at night while people scrape crap off the seats at First Niagara Center.

Tyler Myers became a millionaire and regressed a bit, failing to meet the high hopes our younger selves had for this Sabres squad. Change is inevitable and negative change stinks, but on Saturday night, Myers showed fans why they were once so excited about the future with him on this team.

He was aggressive on both ends of the ice, taking a boarding penalty on a hit he thought was clean. He scored the first goal less than a minute into the game, then tied it with less than a minute on the clock when he slipped into the slot and ripped a Cody Hodgson pass into the net past Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

Myers defended his physical play after the game on two occasions. He talked to two waves of reporters who wanted to talk about his milestone game and breakthrough performance. He talked for the better part of seven minutes, by my count. Even the daily reporters mentioned he was more energetic in his interviews than he’s been.

The results on ice were unmistakable as well. Nearly six years later, it was a very different Tyler Myers staring back at me in the Sabres locker room on Saturday night. Thankfully, it was a significantly better one.

The Sabres lost in the shootout. Ryan Johansen scored on the sixth and final shot of the skills competition. He was the only one to find the net. The second point doesn’t much matter, though. What matters is that Myers is starting to look like a guy the Buffalo Sabres can build around. The entire team looks like it is moving toward something, even if that something might not get them the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Fresh Hot Takes

— Moulson had a goal called back early in the second because it went in off his skate. Called a goal on the ice, a good hockey game was rudely interrupted by one of the dumbest rules on the books. Ryan Miller actually made a great point in postgame about kicking in hockey. He said the problem with allowing all skate contact is that some players might actually swing skates wildly in the crease and injure goaltenders. That Ryan Miller, always making me look at hockey from a different perspective. I’m going to miss that guy.

— There was a brief scrum in front of Ryan Miller with 5:18 left in the first period. Nothing happened, but I swear I heard a group of schoolchildren screaming “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!” somewhere over near section 324. I also might be losing my grip on reality, because I thought I heard it in other areas of the arena later in the game. Jury’s still out.

— The Blue Jackets had a social media meet up for this game at Buffalo freaking Wild Wings somewhere in Ohio. I think this is as good a time as any to remind anyone reading this outside of Western New York that BUFFALO WILD WINGS IS NOT A BUFFALO MAINSTAY. It barely sells what anyone around here would call “Buffalo” wings.

Buffalo Wild Wings started somewhere near Ohio State. Much like the state of Ohio itself, it is mediocre to bad. Do not go there and think you’re getting the “buffalo wing” experience. You’re getting a placebo that will probably lead directly to your fourth heart attack. Eat an apple or something, you idiot.

— Christian Ehrhoff, who plays more and more like Henrik Tallinder every game, took a penalty with seconds left in overtime. He never had the chance to serve his rightful time. There really should be some kind of harmful effect that carries over into the shootout from this. Or maybe postgame. Make him eat last from the postgame spread or something.

— During the third period someone wearing a Girgensons jersey and rubber horse head was dancing like a maniac. I joked on Twitter that we should call Girgensons “Horse.” You’ll GLUE the day you ignore my nickname requests, Sabres fans.

— Tyler Ennis had a great game on Saturday, but basketball Tyler Ennis is still the better of the sporting Tyler Ennises. Shout it from the mountaintops.

— I could not read a single name on the back of a Columbus jersey from the press box.

Zenon Konopka’s Rabbit, Hoppy, Gets Undisciplined
I chewed through three hotel towels yesterday because what are you going to do about it, chump? If my Zenon can take undisciplined penalties, why can’t I have a little fun as well?

That’s right. I do my work around here. I’m consistently cuddly and I get the job done. If I want to sink my teeth into some “fine Egyptian cotton” every now and again, it’s just something you’re going to have to deal with.

Let’s Check in with Genocide Apologist John Scott
Scott played a nice round four minutes and was on active roster while Linus Omark sat once again. Scott was also on the video board saying that his favorite physical activity was making schoolchildren cry by owning them in Magic the Gathering games. Okay, he actually didn’t say that. But he totally should have.

Hot Twitter Takes of the Game

As Peter Berkes said, I would favorite that more than once if I could.

Hit of the Night
Highlight of the night, musically speaking, was when DJ Synth Organist played a heavily synthed “Paint it Black” and cruised right into a “Let’s Go Buffalo” just seconds before the first period ended. It was a revelation. Mick Jagger is a putz compared to DJ Synth Organ. He also played Rock Around the Clock and rolled it into “Here We Go Sabres,” which is a bit unorthodox, but I like that he’s trying to explore the space a little.

Stat-line I liked:

All of Tyler Myers’ numbers are nice.

Stat-line I didn’t like:

Linus Omark would have been fun to watch in the shootout, right?

Next Game:
Tuesday (1/21) vs. Florida (7 p.m.) — It feels like the Sabres just scheduled four teams to play the entire month of January.

(Top photo courtesy of Jen Fuller at the official Sabres Facebook page.)

Ryan Nagelhout is a freelance writer who blogs at The Goose’s Roost when he’s not writing children’s books.

TAGGED: buffalo sabres, columbus blue jackets, downtown, hockey, immediate reactions, ryan nagelhout, tyler myers

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