No Secret Anymore

by Ryan

As far as I’m concerned, Jerry Sullivan asked the question of the year last night:

“Are there some things more important than the final score?”

Yes there are, and Lindy Ruff was half right. He said the playoffs are more important and that’s true, but so is your five year, $31.25 million franchise goaltender. In fact, he’s the most important piece of your playoff hopes. Ryan Miller is the only player on this team more important than Thomas Vanek, and now they’re both gone.

But this wasn’t some freak accident or a deflected puck, this was Scott Gomez making contact with your franchise goaltender behind the net. Call it “running” or “slew footing” or whatever you’d like, Scott Gomez took out the best player on the ice last night, and no one felt the need to do anything about it. Kevin Sylvester can claim Connolly went after Gomez all he wants, but that’s some pretty poor retribution no matter how you spin it.

You can slice this play any way you’d like, and I’m sure we’ll hear some crazy angles over the next few days. If you ask me, it’s all pretty irrelevant. Whether intentional or not, no matter what the score, and no matter what the penalty situation; someone goes after a Ranger following this play. Or sometime. Whenever, there was over 18 minutes left in the game and two separate three goal leads. Someone pays for Gomez’ little “accident” no matter what the score because it’s Ryan freaking Miller.

Some people have said that the time and place to react to something like this was 30 or 40 games ago, and in a way they’re right. However, that doesn’t nullify the fact that someone should have done something about it right then and there. I don’t care who had their back to the play, or didn’t see it, or whatever. How Scott Gomez and Henrik Lundqvist are off the hook on this is beyond me.

And don’t say that no one has complained about this before, because fans have been rumbling about Miller getting bumped all year. I’ve heard countless times from a number of fans that only Rivet or Gaustad or Mair will go after a guy for bumping Miller. It was obvious when Rivet was hurt that no one on defense wants to make a guy pay, and many people have pointed it out against aggressive teams. Of course more people mention it when Miller finally gets hurt, but that doesn’t change anything.

It was interesting to see what people thought of this team’s lack of reaction in the postgame. Lindy Ruff defended it and appears to have ordered it, even accusing Sully of being “angry” about the hit instead of answering just the question. Rob Ray defended the club’s absence of action as well, but it’s pretty clear he still thinks he’s on the team at times. Ray’s reaction was rather shocking considering how he played the game, but I suppose when you think you’re still in the player’s club it’s easy to defend this team.

The rest of the opinions were very critical, and rightfully so. Robitaille was clearly upset about the way this team “responded”, and Paul Hamilton was as well. I’m paraphrasing here, but Hamilton said that he would have liked to see someone go after Gomez during the last few seconds and “beat the hell out of him” regardless of the penalties or suspensions. That’s a pretty harsh reaction from a guy who is in the locker room asking questions every day, and to be honest I completely agree.

The postgame interviews were very odd, but I think Patrick Lalime was the most honest. He called this team out in the most gentile way possible, saying that he “hoped” the players didn’t see it instead of refusing to act. I think Lalime is looking ahead to Tuesday night against a hard hitting Ducks team, and hoping the team will be there for him.

Still, the way players reacted was a bit unsettling. The interviews we saw from Ruff and Lalime, as well as the reaction from Ray all felt like they were missing something. They were edging around a few questions, almost like they were hiding this deep dark secret that they don’t want to let out. No one wanted to say it, but it was there. This team does have a secret, but tonight it was clear as day to me:

This team is soft.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know how tough hockey players are. I’ve been in the locker room asking questions with players holding bloody heads and bruised bodies. Hockey is one of the toughest sports out there, and I’d never question a player’s intensity or devotion to the game, but what I saw tonight out of that group was not good. If you can’t stand up for your franchise goaltender, how do you win a seven game playoff series where teams are doing that night in and night out against you?

Even if there was not going to be retribution in the third period, finish your goddamn checks. I don’t want to see Roy skating up to a guy in the corner and peeling off for a change six inches from the puck. Take him into the wall and put some pressure on. Hit a guy who has his head down over the middle. Don’t stick check or let a guy go by you. The Rangers played like garbage all night, take out your beacon of hope for the postseason, and you’re not at all angry? Show some fire.

What happened tonight smacks of a team desperately needing some heart. I’m not asking for a brawl, but I’m asking for someone to step up and make the Rangers pay a price for hitting Miller. Run Lundqvist or Gomez or Drury. Dubinsky runs into Lalime later in the period and nothing is done. Who is the Sabres’ emergency goaltender? Do we even know who that guy is?

I respect Ryan Miller for giving an interview during the postgame, as there are plenty of places to hide in that locker room. Still, what I saw on his face was not good. He looked angry and scared, and you could tell the situation was much worse than he let on. As fans of a team battling for a playoff spot, the last thing you want to hear is your starting goaltender call his injury a good opportunity for the AHL prospect. If there was anything I didn’t want to hear Ryan Miller say, it was the name “Jonas Enroth”.

The game was fine and the win was good, but there is something more important than the final score. His name is Ryan Miller, and for some reason no one on the Buffalo Sabres felt like making someone pay for what happened to him. It’s not the end-all-be-all sign of things to come for this team, but it’s a sign I sure do hate. It bothers me that nothing was done.

I hate their utter refusal to act when some struggling hockey player even goes near my dark horse candidate for the Vezina. I don’t care how much money Scott Gomez is making, his recent game log smacks of average. The Sabres let an overpaid, frustrated hockey player on a sinking ship of a team effectively cripple their postseason hopes, and everyone on the roster seems content with this.

Yikes.

10 Comments

  1. spavery

    This is a great post, and it echoes my thoughts almost exactly.

    I saw Scott Gomez’s comments in TBN today; he says that he lost an edge, and is disappointed by Ruff’s characterization of the play. I’ll give Gomez the benefit of the doubt — he didn’t intend to injure Miller. But intent to injure isn’t the issue here. Gomez definitely intended to “rattle” Miller and knock him down. That fact alone should be enough to incense the Buffalo bench. Our opponents should be terrified to as much as breathe on our franchise goalie, for fear of getting a few teeth knocked out. The book is out on the Sabres, without Miller there is no chance for a playoff run. And if the Sabres find themselves in 9th place at the end of the year, the reason why will be obvious: they’re pussies.

    But hey, look on the bright side, we have a lot of potential Lady Byng candidates.

    Reiger should trade himself at the deadline to Toronto for Brian Burke…

  2. Caroline

    That’s the annoying part. We’ve all sat here and complained about how teams take liberties with Miller and how bad it would be if he ever got injured because of it. It actually caught up with us, and yet there was still no retaliation. It’s just a shame because Miller comes ready to play night in and night out and does his job, yet his teammates can’t even stand up for him when he gets run.

    I thought the message was the same for all teams. “Don’t touch our goalie.”

  3. Steve

    So if we’d lost the game, but Scott Gomez got a black eye for his troubles, you’d be happy? Gomez should be suspended for a move like that, but you beat him up and take a penalty, he gets exactly what he wants plus a bonus power play. Just like Robitaille said, it’s not like Scott Gomez is going to fight back. And that question by Jerry was garbage. At this point in the season, where these two teams are in the standings, nothing is more important than winning that game.

  4. Ryan

    Ryan Miller is more important than that game, and if you think the Sabres blow a three goal lead because of an extra power play then this team is in much worse shape than I thought. It’s not just about Gomez, it’s about responding somewhere, or at the very least playing with a bit of an edge. I’m not asking for Gomez on a stretcher, but at least give me the illusion that this team gives a shit.

    And I give Sullivan all the credit in the world for asking that question. I don’t care what Lindy thinks of Dan Paille’s game. I want that question answered, and I certainly want it asked by the Buffalo media.

  5. No Use for a Nick Name

    Why would you go after Gomez? This is the first thing he’s done to help the Rangers all year.Send Peters out to do what he’s renowned for. Beating up goalies.

    As RJ said when Drury got hurt way back when…you go after our best player, we’ll go after yours.

  6. Steve

    He’s so dramatic!

  7. Zach

    It was no secret that this team was soft. I can point you back to the Ottawa game a few weeks back where it took a full THIRTY seconds for someone to react to a Senator hitting Miller and that someone was Chris Butler, the rookie.

    This team does not like to get hit and they don’t like pain. That’s a simple fact.

  8. No Use for a Nick Name

    Perhaps this isn’t as bad as everyone thinks. It’s not like Thibault is the backup anymore. Without being unrealistically optimistic, Lalime has a history of being a good goalie – he has done it before. Maybe this will be the opportunity for him to return to form because this is, after all, the year of the backup goalie.

    While Lalime is holding the fort, Miller can take some time, rest up for the playoffs, the forwards can look at their new roles, the defense can do a gut check and start playing good defense (I still consider this the most improbable item)…and then we head into the playoffs with all cylinders firing.

    If this doesn’t look like its going to work out, then circle the date March 21st.

    [/crosses fingers]

  9. Jennifer

    Going after Gomez may have cost a goal, may have even cost the game, but it would certainly send a message to STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM OUR GOALIE! And that’s an important message that has been needing to go out since last season. NO ONE, intentional or not, should be allowed to intentionally rattle the goalie, without payback. Had Miller been defended as he should have all season, he MIGHT not have been injured last night and we would be in a hell of a better position going into the playoffs, if they even make it that far.