Sabres/NHL Notebook: Martin Biron’s returns to Buffalo remain special; Ryan Miller’s comments might have revealed dysfunction
Thursday December 15, 2011 | By:Mike Haim, Special to Metro
Last week wasn’t the first time that Martin Biron came back to Buffalo for a game against the Sabres. But his occasional visits still remain special for him and those who have good memories of his years wearing the Blue and Gold.
Now 34 years old and nearly five years removed from the deadline deal in which he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, Biron has grown comfortable in his role as backup to star goalie Henrik Lundqvist with the New York Rangers.
Biron’s start last Saturday was just his sixth of the season, but he has won five of them in helping the Rangers stay within a few points of Philadelphia for the top spot in the Atlantic Division as well as the Eastern Conference.
Since his days in Buffalo, during which he played in 300 regular season games, Biron has put a bit more meat on the bones and doesn’t provide as much of the rapid-fire, non-stop banter as he once did. But that’s a matter of degree – he still maintains that unmistakable enthusiastic pale-eyed gaze to go with high-energy responses. It just seems that now he takes a breath once in a while.
He also wins. Biron also improved his career record against Buffalo to 9-3-1 in 14 appearances, making him a sort of “secret weapon” despite what coach John Tortorella says.
“I don’t even want to call him a backup,” Tortorella said before the game. “He’s played very well and he’s going to play some games. We decided this was the one he’s going to play.”
And Biron was more than happy to get the chance.
“There are certain teams and certain buildings where the energy’s there and the fun feeling is there,” he explained after New York’s morning skate at First Niagara Center. “This building brings that. Having played here for many years, you have that to back it up a little bit. It’s an atmosphere that I enjoy playing in.”
Before making those comments, Biron engaged in a conversation with a New York reporter about whether the scribe had wings or beef on weck for his Friday dinner. After determining that the writer went to the original Duffs on Sheridan Drive, Biron then held audience with several other reporters – myself included – about the wing emporium’s newer locations in Orchard Park and near the airport. He also marveled at the renovations made at Chef’s, where he dined with local friends.
It brought back memories of the story about a post-game situation in Montreal where Sabres’ public relations staff had to repeatedly remind Biron – who had yet to have his shower - that the team bus was leaving and that interviews would have to end.
It also reminded me of a personal anecdote I love to share about Biron. One day after practice, while working on a piece about uniform numbers, I was waiting in the corner of the Sabres’ dressing room opposite where Biron was alone and tending to his equipment. Suddenly I heard Biron blurt out, “Why is it always so hot in here? You would think they’d keep it cooler in here when there’s hardly anyone around.” I asked if he was talking to me, since I was the only other person in the room. He replied, “Nah, I’m just saying…” before starting another rambling minute-long sentence.
Needless to say, it was great to see him once again.
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The Sabres held a closed-door post-game meeting after their overtime loss to Ottawa on Tuesday night. As expected, most players didn’t reveal what was discussed in the session, admitting only that their home-ice play had to improve and that a 1-1-2 record after four games of a five-game homestand was utterly disappointing.
As usual, goaltender Ryan Miller was sincere when assessing the club’s current problems. Upon further review, however, I wonder if his analysis hinted at dissatisfaction with the “system” utilized by coach Lindy Ruff, which seems to stifle the talents of some players.
Miller’s observation was as follows: “It’s probably a little bit between the ears. The guys need to get that trust, get the reps in practice, figure out what they need to work on, and just go out and play some hockey. We’re thinking a lot about situations and by the time you think through a situation it’s already gone. It’s already past. Hockey moves too quick. You have to be in the flow and be right in the mix of the game.”
With over a third of the season complete, I’m concerned that players haven’t established trust yet. I’m also concerned if players think about what they’ve done wrong before having a chance to review those mistakes in meetings with coaches.
Lack of trust and second-guessing one’s own play reek of paranoia. While there are no obvious signs of it in the Sabres’ inner sanctum, Miller may have revealed more in one comment than anyone else has conveyed all season.
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