Archive for April, 2011

Life After Sabres

This has nothing to do with anything, but I got temporarily wrapped up in the royal wedding today. I fully concede that the whole thing is nonsense, but I do love a spectacle. I’ve always gotten a kick out of the royals (how about those Fergie daughters today? Hillllarious), but I’ve never paid super close attention to them.

Anyhooch, I spent a few minutes tonight reading about Diana and Charles’ wedding, and, as things tend to go on the interwebs, one thing led to another, and then next thing I knew, I was looking at this picture.

Did they get this photo taken at Sears?

Made me laugh.

*Sigh*

I wish the Sabres were still playing.

About That Game 7…

That was lame.

I hate it when people (especially beat writers- ahem) say “there’s no excuse,” for this or that. In reality there is almost always an excuse, it’s just that some excuses are a lot better than others. In the Sabres’ case, I actually think their excuses for game 7 are pretty solid:

- The Sabres are reeeeeally not as good as the Flyers.

- After game 6, I accidentally drank a beer brewed outside of Philly. That’s a powerful jinx. (Sorry, guys.)

- The return of a probably-still-concussed Jochen Hecht was billed as great news. Think about that.

- Daniel Briere is a cheap-shotting, whining, disgusting-faced, DIVORCED, sniveling baby, AND I HATE HIM, but it would have been a LOT easier to win that series if he were playing for the Sabres instead of the Flyers.

- The Flyers refused to play Leighton, and thus refused to give us a three-goal handicap in the first period. Bastards.

- Half the roster was injured, and the other half was playing injured. Jordan Leopold has, like, 10,000 injuries/flus, and he was STILL deemed a better choice than Steve Montador.  (And Steve Montador was considered a top 4 defenseman by the Sabres at the trade deadline.) My point is that, due to a variety of reasons, the roster was profoundly effed up last night.

- Apparently the Sabres need both Pominville AND Connolly in order to win. Who knew?

- Is it even possible to come back in game 7 after that game 6? I say no.

But, after all the excuses are gathered and accounted for, the last game of the season left me with a few burning questions.

1. What are the Sabres going to do in the offseason? I loved this season. LOVED IT. But, if I’m being honest, I never really bought into this team as a legit Cup contender.  They were a “Well, if the cards fall just right, they might have a shot!” team. Which is certainly not nothing. (Again, I cannot emphasize enough how much I enjoyed this team and this season.) This crew overachieved, and as fun as it was, it would be silly to assume they can do it again. Or… maybe it isn’t. Honestly, I have no idea, and that’s kind of my point. I have NO IDEA what is up with these guys anymore. I mostly mean that in a good way.

The only thing I know for sure is that if they’re going to let Timmy walk (and sweet merciful heaven, I hope they do), they HAVE to get someone as good or better. If we come back in October and Darcy is all, “Paul Byron is the new Tim Connolly,” I’m going to be irked. Paul Byron is not the new Tim Connolly, he’s the new hopefully-someday-he’ll-be-as-good-as Tim Connolly.  There’s a difference.

I’m REALLY curious to see how Darcy proceeds when the expectations are increased. If winning the Cup is the goal, then the plan for getting there must assume that the team is better next season than they were this season.  You can’t assume that the young guys are going to all pan out. The teams that win the Cup go out into free agency, and they pick up proven performers. DO IT, DARCY.

2. Why has no one mentioned that Jochen Hecht almost certainly played last night with a concussion?  As much as I like to pretend that I don’t care about the players as people, I’ve gotten increasingly grossed out by concussions this season. Frankly, I was a little disturbed that Hecht came back last night. Concussions are no joke. If the Sabres are trying to suggest that Jochen being cleared to play just happened to miraculously coincide with their monumental need for non-AHL forwards they’re assuming that a). we’re REALLY stupid, and b). we don’t care about Jochen Hecht’s brain. (Both assumptions might be totally true, actually.)

All I’m saying is that the NHL is going to have to learn how to deal with concussions like grown-ups eventually. The sooner the better, if you ask me. In retrospect, I have to assume Jochen Hecht (and his family) would agree the risk was not worth the reward.

3. What’s up with Butts? I do NOT understand Chris Butler. One second he’s benched for four months, and the next second he’s playing for 30 minutes a game, and the next second on the ice for 45,000 goals against during the playoffs. Some players really confuse me, and he’s one of them.

4. Why did Lindy pull Crunchy when he did? And why did the Sabres seem so defeated from the very beginning of the game? As I covered earlier in this post, there are lots of totally reasonable excuses for this loss, but the fact that the team never, not for one second looked mentally prepared was a real disappointment. I mean, there’s losing, and then there’s complete submission. Unfortch, the Sabres pretty much laid down and exposed their bare, vulnerable bellies to the Flyers, which is the international sign for, “Please don’t hurt us.” It’s not the end of the world, but after the run they had, the lopsided loss was pretty unexpected. I mean, at least smash someone’s face into the boards, guys.

As for Lindy pulling Crunchy when he did- I thought that was totally bizarre. There are three types of goalie changes. There’s the, “OMG, you’re the worst goalie in the world”, (this one did not apply to Crunchy last night), there’s the, “I’m going to try to wake you guys up by taking away your star goalie,” and there’s the, “Fuck it. We’re losing this game, let’s just get the poor guy out of there.” Lindy’s decision to pull Miller when he did felt like the, “Fuck it, we’re losing anyway,” variety. Which is weird, because, well… it was pretty obviously the last game of the season.

I dunno. Maybe Miller was just relieved to get the eff out of there.

5. How awesome was Rob Niedermayer?  Look, I know he was mostly poo during the regular season, but the way Nieds elevated his game in the playoffs was impressive. It made me realize that it IS possible to have players who magically find another gear in the postseason, and it made me want MORE of those kinds of players. I hope the baby Sabres were paying attention to Old Man Niedermayer this year.

All My Respect, Sabres.

Honestly, I have no complaints. (Well okay, I’d launch Mike Richards into the sun to die a miserable death if I could, but that’s not so much a complaint as is a heartfelt dream. I’m also pretty bummed that the game was so lopsided.  It was such a great series, and to have it end like that was a major letdown. I wish the team hadn’t looked so scared tonight. I also think it’s weird that Lindy pulled Crunchy when he did. And frankly, if I never hear the name Daniel Briere again, it will be to soon. Fuck that guy. And I have no idea what to think of Chris Butler or Drew Stafford. And I’m flat out annoyed with Brad Boyes. Okay, fine… I have a few complaints. But let’s call them quibbles, not complaints.  There will be plenty of time to address our minor quibbles this summer.)

The Sabres gave us a great season. In the end, they were severely outmatched. The injuries piled up too high. Regardless of the eventual outcome, it was a wonderful run, and a wonderful year. I feel great about the future of this team, and I enter the offseason with hope in my heart.I am incredibly proud of this team. I’m proud to be a Sabres fan.

Last year at this time it felt like nothing could ever change, and then it all changed. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Thank you, Sabres!

Soothing

In the aftermath of game six, I was mega-glum. I bet you were too. That game was a swift kick to the softest, fleshiest part of my sports soul. I walked into the arena with an open heart and a joyful spring in my step, and I limped out, wincing and clutching my chest.

That game was so rough that after it was over, Jessica and I opted to go home to our respective houses rather than even put one toe in the Harbor Club. This is unusual behavior, but neither of us had the heart to look on the bright side.  If I had to rank my friends in order of those most likely to say, “Eff it! Let’s drink and be merry! The disgusting Flyers will die miserable and alone, but they will NOT interrupt my gallivanting schedule,” Jessica would be right at the top of that list.  So, it’s a true testimony to our heavy hearts that we couldn’t even muster the strength for one postgame “Beer of Commiseration”.

On the sad walk back to our car, we joked that we were going to go home alone and “angry eat” something extremely unhealthy.

Half an hour later we exchanged these photos via text.

Kate

Jessica

Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

_______

Today is a new day.

Today, my hockey train-of-thought (and really, is there any other train-of-thought during the playoffs?) has been a series of pleasant realizations:

- At no point yesterday was I angry with the Sabres. (Okay, maaaybe I was a little angry with Brad Boyes for a few minutes.)

- Ryan Miller has been downright heroic this series. I don’t think it’s even debatable. There are people who are going to point at him and blame him for the lost leads in game 5 and 6, but those people are stupid. Also not debatable. If you took Ryan Miller and put him on the Flyers, this series might have been a sweep. Crunchy has almost single-handedly made this a series.

- The following Flyers can fall down a well for all I care: Mike Richards, Daniel Briere, Scott Hartnell, Dan Carcillo.  This isn’t so much a “pleasant realization,” as it is a helpful focal point for my feelings of disgust and rage. If they fell down a well, I would probably stop by and toss them food and drink so they wouldn’t starve to death, but I wouldn’t help them escape, and I’d be 100% willing to taunt them by repeatedly asking about their recent divorces.

- Hey, at least we’re not rooting for the Canucks.

- Yesterday afternoon the Sabres were down Roy, Hecht, Pominville, Sekera, and for half the game Tim Connolly, and they made a great game of it. That means the Sabres played the second half of that game with Gaustad, Niedermayer, and McCormick as their top three centers.  The Flyers played with Richards, Briere and someone-else-who-I’m-too-lazy-to-look-up as their top centers. To call this series a mismatch at forward is an insult to people wearing plaid shirts and polka-dot pants everywhere. And yet, the Sabres are right there, taking this series to game seven.

- But. Roy-Z might be back on Tuesday! ROY-Z! Think all the way back to when Roy-Z first got injured, and we all thought the season was over, and he told us that he was hoping to be ready for the second round of the playoffs. Oh, how we laughed and laughed at Roy-Z back then. Roy-Z was right, and we were wrong. Hooray!  (Incidentally, Heather and I had a good chuckle the other day joking about how when he said it, Roy-Z probably didn’t believe the Sabres would make the playoffs either. Hopefully he hasn’t been sitting on his ass for four months eating bon-bons and assuming he wouldn’t have to play in the playoffs. Can’t you see Roy-Z all fat and lazy, playing video games, being all, “Wait… WHAT?  They actually MADE the playoffs?! And now you expect me to PLAY?! *looks down at flabby legs* Um, I might need a few days to find my skates.  Also, my stomach hurts. I don’t think I can play. And, um, I think my grandmother died and I have to go to her funeral. And I might be concussed.  Yeah!  I’m concussed! I should go to the quiet room, NOT play in the playoffs. FUCK! Is Pronger going to be there?!”)

- Fuck the Flyers.

- The Sabres were down and out, and then, through a series of minor miracles, beginning with Pegula and stretching down through every rank of the organization, they rose like a phoenix from the ashes. Every single playoff game is a gift.  And now?  Now we get a game seven. Bring it. For reals. If you could go back in time and offer a first round game seven to your December-self, your December-self would be so overjoyed he/she would probably try to make out with your current-self.  (FYI, that’s a variation on a joke of future and past selves that Jessica often tells. She’s a keeper.)

- This team has been a joy to watch, and I’m proud to root for them. Even if they lose on Tuesday 10-0, this season has been a success, and I love them. This sense of peace is something new for me as a fan. The Sabres have already earned my love. It’s a done deal. I hesitated to write about this because in some ways by saying, “I’m okay with them losing” it sounds like I expect them to lose.  But I swear, that’s not the case.

- If there is one thing I’ve learned from watching this Sabres team for the last four months, it’s that we shouldn’t count them out, ever. They might be mismatched, and they might be young, but they have more heart than the Philadelphia Flyers.  Time and time again, the Sabres have found a way to win. And as overpowered as the Sabres forwards are, there is really no overstating the shittiness of the Flyers goaltending. The Flyers are better than the Sabres, but they have a glorious vulnerability in net. The Sabres have given us no reason to doubt them. They deserve our respect.

- Sabres in 7.

Let’s Go Buff-a-lo! WOO!

Comeback To Me

Well.

That game really had it all, didn’t it? A shockingly easy-to-come-by lead, hilariously bad goaltending, the sense that nothing could ever go wrong again, a terrrrrrible second period, terror, Daniel fucking Briere, the sense that nothing would ever be right again, depression, MORE terror (I have to confess, I spent a lot of the 3rd period sitting in silence on my back stoop.  I literally couldn’t stand to watch), overtime, and then… bliss.

Wow.

This team is so young, and so surprising. I’ll admit, after the Flyers tied it, I went to a dark place. I did NOT think they would win this one. I lost a little faith. This is the type of game that I’ve seen them lose SO many times in my four years of fandom. But this team is different from the other teams. This team doesn’t give up, ever. I love that about them. They coughed up a three goal lead and then won in overtime. Hell, I didn’t even know that was possible. The other Sabres teams I’ve watched couldn’t have won this game. It wasn’t a pretty win, but it was gutty. I’m still in happy shock that they won that game.

The Sabres never trailed during the game, but it felt like a comeback win. I lost a little bit of faith, but then it came back.

The playoffs are agonizing and wonderful. I can’t wait for Sunday.

I love this team.

Series Score, 2-2 WOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I freaking love this. I love the Sabres. I love going to these games. I love being so effing nervous that I forget to breath.  I love the feeling of my body trying to relax and recover from the stress of the game during the intermission.  I love the fact that I’m still buzzed with adrenaline an hour after the game ends. I love it when Lindy is proud in the postgame interview. I love it when Nathan Gerbe is a honey badger. I love it when Mike Grier gets a scoring chance. I love it when Goose puts his head down and pumps his arms and skates as fast as he can. I love it when Tyler Myers knocks Briere over, repeatedly. I love it when Sabretooth has his little drum. I love the little “ding ding” sound that the ticket readers make as they scan the tickets. I love trying to decide which outfits are lucky. I love watching the players lean against the bench during the tv timeouts. I love that I have such a great view of Ryan Miller’s saves from my seats. I love whooping with victory on the escalators on the way out. I love my usher. I love listening to the postgame in the car on the way home (when they win, ONLY when they win). I love having a pom-pom. I love watching the out of town scoreboard. I love watching them fist-bump Sabretooth at the end of a game. I love how Niedermayer really IS better in the playoffs. I love the responsiveness of the crowd. I love how “Let’s go Buff-a-lo” twirls around the arena. I love that all around me I can hear people saying, “I can’t handle this stress,” when really, they can. I love drinking beers faster than I ordinarily would, because I’m nervous. I love watching the other half of the arena leap to their feet a split second sooner than us when the Sabres score on that end. I love how I manage to look from the ice to the clock, from the ice to the clock, a hundred times in those last 5 seconds. I love it when Ryan Miller is the hero. I love being with Buffalonians, all of us cheering for the same thing.

I love this.

Nathan Gerbe Don’t Care

If you want to get pumped up for Game 4, watch this video and every time the narrator says “honey badger,” just replace it with “Nathan Gerbe.”

Look, game 3 sucked. If I could, I’d kick game 3 square in the crotch. But I can’t, so eff it. Honey badger don’t care.

You know what the Sabres have been for the last THREE months? Spunky. Resilient. Tough. Smart. Brave. Loveable. Feisty. We can count on the Sabres.

Fuck off, game 3.

I’m really truly excited for game 4, possibly even more than I was for game 3. Game 3 was all nerves and anticipation and fretting. Game 4? Game 4 is all about biting the heads off of cobras. Honey badger don’t care.

The Sabres just played three months of “must win” games. We’ve got the Flyers right where we want them.

Let’s Go Buff-a-lo!

Series Score: 1-1, Splitsville

Here is my recap of yesterday’s game.

1st Period

Redonk shenanigans.

One of the weirdest phenomenons of hockey is that sometimes when two teams play truly terribly, the hockey winds up being super fun. The first period was one of those times. Crunchy was pretty bad, as was the team defense, but we almost didn’t mind because everything else was borderline hilarious. (3-3 tie)

2nd Period

WTF, Sabres?

The Sabres were so stupid in the second period that it’s completely reasonable to assume they all took bong hits during the 1st intermission. Thankfully, the Flyers also apparently took bong hits because they only converted on one of their 3498439728349098 power plays. (5-3, Flyers.  But for realz, the score could’ve been 10-3.)

3rd period:

The Sabres seriously almost came back. Which is absurd. (5-4 Flyers, final score.)

Preliminary Analysis: The Flyers won because they were sliiiiightly less incompetent than the Sabres. But only slightly. It was basically a toss-up.  The good news is that there’s been exactly zero evidence in this series that the Sabres can’t hang with the Flyers. The bad news is that the Sabres basically lost the game for themselves and if they had played this game with only one or two brain cells they could be coming home with a 2-0 series lead.

What we’ve learned: It’s hillllllarious when Goose upends Briere for no apparent reason at the face-off dot. Also, the Sabres and the Flyers appear to be almost the exact same level of awesome/lame. But, when both teams play nearly perfectly, the Sabres win, and when both teams play terribly, the Flyers win.

Final Analysis: The Sabres are slightly better at being really good, and the Flyers are slightly better at being really terrible.  I’ll take it.

Mood: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! Suck it, Flyers!

Series Score: 1-0, Sabres!

In regards to the game last night, I think Goose said it best:

He's a poet, that goose.

I’m in full playoff mode now.  For me, the best way to experience the playoffs is to consume as little analysis as possible. This happened to me last year too.  Suddenly I’m TOTALLY disinterested in thinking rationally about the Sabres. At this point, if you’re not, like, “RYAN MILLER IS A HERO AND I WOULD DIE TO DEFEND HIM,” I’m like, “STFU, loser. I will karate chop you.”

The playoffs are a lot simpler than the regular season. In my not-at-ALL humble opinion, all we should be doing is “WOOOOOOOOOO!”ing and “BOOOOOOOOOO!”ing. Everything beyond that is just a distraction. Personally, WOOing and BOOing requires my full-time attention. Every game requires a full day of anticipation, and a full day of reflection/celebration/recovery. We have to stay FOCUSED.

Don’t let Twitter, or The Buffalo News, or various local radio stations convince you that this is a nuanced situation. It’s not. Cheer like hell for the guys with the swords on their chest, and hate the living crap out of the guys in orange. That’s it.

Once I simplify the process, the rewards seems sweeter. I don’t want to waste my time worrying pre-game over whether or not Kaleta should play, or if he should be a scratch. When he scores, I scream at the top of my lungs and I high-five everyone within reach. And nothing else matters.

I wish I could bottle the feeling I felt after Kaleta score his goal so that I could periodically sip from it throughout the year.

When the playoffs are good they’re incredible, and when they’re bad… well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Heh.

So far, so so so good.

Let’s go Buff-a-lo!

Here We Go!

You guys, I think I’m still sort of reeling from the news that the Sabres freaking MADE THE PLAYOFFS.  The fact that we now get to watch them in the playoffs just feels like an absurdly wonderful/terrifying bonus.

I am determined, DETERMINED, to enjoy this.

Let’s just give 110% and try to have fun out there.  We’ll meet back here tomorrow and swap stories.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Lets Go Buff-a-lo!


…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

Observations 2
I can be reached at: willfulcaboose [at] gmail [dot] com

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