The Sabres have been in rebuilding mode since getting bounced from the Eastern Conference finals in the 2006-07 season, and it looks like it is finally paying off. The Sabres currently sit atop the Northeast Division standings with no signs of looking back as the 2009-10 progresses.
David Oleksy of Die By The Blade joined us to answer a few questions about the Sabres as they roll into Boston for the first time this season to face the B's at the Garden.
NESN.com: After a disappointing finish last season left the Sabres out of the playoff picture, the team has turned it around early on this year. What has been the biggest difference for the Sabres this season?
David Oleksy: There are obvious differences on the ice. They are battling for pucks more, and the defense is very aggressive in the offensive zone. I think the biggest difference is off the ice. The confidence level of the team is back to where it was three years ago.
NESN.com: Ryan Miller's numbers have been unbelievable, which is really nothing new for the 29-year-old. Just how good is Miller?
David Oleksy: Miller is a fantastic goalie, and he seems to get better every season. Miller is playing with something to prove this season. He wants to be the goalie for USA in the Olympics, and he wants the Sabres to be back in the playoffs. I think you'll see the best he has to offer this season.
NESN.com: Thomas Vanek has scored 43 goals and 40 goals in two of the last three seasons. Is a 50-goal season a possibility for the former University of Minnesota standout?
David Oleksy: Absolutely. Vanek is off to a slow start, but like many goal scorers, he is streaky. Vanek is a rare breed because he has great hands, but he isn't afraid to go in front of the net either. He makes a living scoring on the power play, and he has only two man-advantage goals this season. Once gets hot, he could easily hit the 50-goal plateau.
NESN.com: In just his first NHL season, Tyler Myers is producing for the Sabres as a rookie defenseman. What do you expect out of Myers this season, and how do you think he will grow as a player?
David Oleksy: We all knew that Myers had the potential to be great, but nobody expected it to happen so soon. I expect he will make some rookie mistakes, but his skating and offensive ability from the blue line have instantly made the Sabres a better team.
NESN.com: Which player do you think will have the biggest impact on the Sabres' season?
David Oleksy: Off the ice, it is already Mike Grier and his leadership abilities. On the ice, it's Ryan Miller. The Sabres go as he goes. When he was injured last season, the Sabres immediately went into the tank and missed the playoffs.
NESN.com: What are the keys to the game for the Sabres against the Bruins?
David Oleksy: The Sabres just need to play their game. They had some success against the Bruins last season, which should breed confidence. The Sabres have been most successful when they play their style and take advantage of their opponents' mistakes.
Thanks again to David for sharing his insight on the Sabres. Don't forget to check out his blog, Die By The Blade.