November 29, 2011

Fischler Report: Delayed response OK with Sabres

The Sabres' Paul Gaustad (left) and Boston's Milan Lucic fight during last week's game in Buffalo. (photo: Getty)

By Stan Fischler

Our man in Sabreland, Dave Ricci, has this postscript on the war between the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins.

Paul Gaustad answered the bell.

Ever since the Sabres rolled over and played dead after Milan Lucic steamrolled Buffalo netminder Ryan Miller on Nov. 12, the Sabres have had their heart, courage and team bond questioned on a daily basis.

Gaustad was the most vocal of the team, saying the lack of response, especially on his own part, was embarrassing.

Last Wednesday, just 1:23 into the Sabres-Bruins clash at First Niagara Center, Gaustad called Lucic out and the two dropped the gloves.

Though Lucic was declared the winner, the simple fact that Gaustad challenged him, followed by Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr throwing punches with Zdeno Chara, showed that Buffalo wasn’t going to allow them to be doormats.

Though the Sabres blew a pair of two-goal leads, the team gained something far more valuable than any two points could ever mean. They regained respect in the eyes of their peers, the fans and the media.

“I wanted to step up after I thought I could have done more in the Boston game,” said Gaustad. “We moved on from that point in Boston and we’ve become a better team because of it.”*

This moment will galvanize the Sabres as a team. They will learn that you need a certain amount of grit and toughness mixed with the flash of skilled players to win the Stanley Cup.

Observations

Alex Ovechkin won the battle; now we will see if he wins the war. The firing of likeable coach Bruce Boudreau was a partial result of Ovechkin’s failure to fulfill his captaincy. The captain’s job is to take orders from the admiral and, in this case, the admiral was Boudreau.

Because Ovie insisted upon doing it "his way,” the Capitals became a case of being at-war-with-the-army. It’s far too premature to judge whether a successful junior coach such as Dale Hunter will make it in the NHL. But this much is certain -- he has the experience and deep Washington roots. He certainly will be welcomed by Capitals fans.

Gossip

The double-dip of firings in Washington and Carolina (Paul Maurice) prompt this question: Which coach is next?

The Ducks’ under-potential performances are casting a long, black cloud over coach Randy Carlyle.And let’s not forget that Brent Sutter – hardly Mr. Amiable in Alberta -- is not exactly burning up the league, although he is likely causing a slow burn with his captain, Jarome Iginla.

Meanwhile, Joe Sacco (Medford, Mass.) is in the final year of his contract and he needs to get the Avalanche into the postseason. Management is not thrilled with his handling of Matt Duchene earlier this season by placing him on the fourth line. Possible candidates to replace Sacco are Craig MacTavish andMichel Therrien. …

* Boston University’s match with Cornell at Madison Square Garden last Saturday night has a five-star hit from all viewpoints. It was featured on the MSG Network, it sold out the Garden and was superbly contested.

Plus, it makes one of many visits the NCAA game will make to NHL arenas this season.

Eight NHL rinks in all will host college action. The next compelling visit is to Winnipeg on Jan. 7, where Clarkson and North Dakota face off at MTS Centre.

Stan Fischler can be reached at FischlerReport@gmail.com.