Just eight games in, the Sabres have found the season’s signature moment.
It’s hard to talk about Tyler Myers effectively. The hype surrounding the 19-year-old is only matched by his stature on the ice. Myers has no place to hide out there, and with the ubiquitous ten-game “tryout” every Sabres fan has watched and analyzed his every move.
The results have been decidedly mixed, but on a positive note for sure. There have been flashes of brilliance, of poise beyond his years. Comparisons have been made, projections and expectations adjusted, and jerseys purchased. But there have also been mistakes, missteps and the other side of the highlight reel.
Still, the memories of Myers have been positive thus far. For every slip up or giveaway there is the gigantic defenseman leading a rush down the ice or using his reach to break the play up. More and more you’ve seen him out there at “important moments”, that late power play or essential penalty kill you secretly hope he’d get despite his youth.
It has only been eight games, but Myers has been weighed, measured, and found acceptable in almost every aspect of his game. Sabres fans want him to stay and its safe to say his play has warranted it. So why was Saturday night so important?
A shootout goal for a defenseman is nice, but its statistical importance is trivial at best. No one will demand he crack the top three in the next skills competition, and I doubt he becomes the team’s next Ales Kotalik. The importance, however, comes from just what that goal meant to Myers.
The fact of the matter is that Myers didn’t have a great game on Saturday. There were rookie mistakes, but nothing absolutely killer. The team itself didn’t look great, and barring an improbable goal with a few seconds remaining the Sabres have their second loss of the season.
But that goal went in. The Sabres got lucky, and they had a chance to steal another point in Florida. After eleven shooters and a few “almosts”, the kid got a chance. Once again Lindy Ruff granted credence to that little thought in the back of your head: give the kid a chance. Even in an improbable role, we want to see just where the limit is with Myers.
Still looking for it.
If this season were a sports movie, this part of the season would be a cheerful montage of victories just after the team gets its act together. The “New Guy” came up big, everyone is friends, and the old head coach finally got the boys he wanted. Cue up the music, I’ll see you in April.
But it’s not that simple. This is a start we’ve seen before and we know what can happen. Last season’s opening games look very, very similar on paper and despite the fact that this “feels” different, there is no montage that takes us to the playoffs. There is still a roster issue to be solved once Sekera gets healthy, and we still have very few clues as to how Miller will hold up.
A fast start has become a trademark of this Sabres team over the last few seasons, but there is a long way to go and too many possibilities left to get excited. Much like evaluating Myers, trying to stay level-headed about this team has been difficult. There have been fluctuations between good and bad, but 6-1-1 is hard to complain about just yet.
The balance between expectations and reality hasn’t found its midpoint, but eight games in it looks more and more like equilibrium resides higher up the hill.