Archive for the 'Hooray For Winning!' Category

10 Things

If you’re like me, for the last few weeks you’ve been all, “Hey, I should write something on my Sabres blog,” but then you put it off for a few days, and even though all sorts of Sabre-y stuff happened you KEPT not writing about it, until it became a “thing.” Not writing on your blog was just LOOMING over each day, but you STILL did not write on your blog. Eventually all your blog post fragments stacked up into a giant pile of “THINGS THAT WOULD’VE MADE TIMELY BLOG POSTS TWO WEEK AGO,” and you got overwhelmed and felt sort of like taking a nap instead of blogging. So, you were just like, “Eff it. It’s nap o’clock. Zzzz.”

In an effort to get back on the blogging horse, here’s a post that I’ve pieced together from stuff I’ve written over the course of two weeks. Disjointed and outdated blog posts are fun! Right? …RIGHT?!

1. I’m still pretty firmly in the, “Don’t get your hopes up because everything about this season REEKS of 10th place,” camp, but still, it was SUCH a delight to watch the Sabres cream the Bruins on Tuesday and then come from behind against the Stars. A DELIGHT. All I really want for the rest of the season is to enjoy watching them play. There is a very real part of me that enjoys “meaningless” games. I’ve already made my peace with this season, so anything exciting from here on out will be greeted as an added bonus.

A couple of weeks ago I had a passionate conversation with some friends at a game about all the implications of finishing 10th place rather than finishing last place. I think everyone with a brain can agree that in the grand scheme of things if you’re going to miss the playoffs there is a real benefit to being truly bad- like, last place bad – but I think we can also agree that as it’s unfolding, a 10th place season is at least 8xs more fun than a 15th place season.

When the Sabres are winning we are happy. That’s just how it is and that’s how it should be. Even if the end result is 10th place.

2. All that said, I am starting to dare to dream about an epic run to make the playoffs. Hope has definitely begun to creep in. We have reached the part of any almost-lost season where every single win and especially every single loss creates a ridiculous amount of emotional response.

After a win, I go to Sports Club Stats, and check on their chances to makes the playoffs.

We finally got a piece of the pie. Unfortunately that pie was Ville Leino, but whatever. The Sabres won, the graph is moving upwards. We rejoice!

I go to Sports Club Stats after every loss as well, but the reaction is sliiiiiightly more dramatic.

Every time the Sabres lose it’s pretty much the saddest song in the world. And it will remain this way until the season ends or the Sabres are eliminated from playoff contention. Whichever comes first.

3. After the Bruins game, Ian Ott (Sabres PR Extraordinaire) tweeted this:

Say what?

We can now update this stat to 16-8-1 with six of their top seven defensemen playing. Is it possible that is WAS the injuries?! That stat doesn’t excuse the suckiness of players like Stafford or Roy, but still, it’s an eye opener. The team that looked irredeemable three weeks ago suddenly looks truly capable. They got healthy and Ryan Miller got good again. Turns out they’re not chopped liver after all.

I suspect that the truth of this team lies somewhere in between “chopped liver” and “contender.” I’m honestly not sure where. What I AM sure of is that if they keep playing well, Darcy will use injuries as an excuse not to make any significant changes at the deadline. Be prepared, Sabres fans.

And while we’re at it, we might as well keep an open mind. Maaaaaybe they’re actually good.

4. Derek Roy has to be injured, right? I know we like to bag on him and act like he’s worthless in every way, but until he got injured last season he was a very reliable points getter for many consecutive years. It’s hard to believe that he won’t have a bounce-back season next year. He’s definitely not totally worthless. I strongly suspect that Roy-Z will remain a Sabre throughout this year and next. Trading Roy now would require trading low, and the mere thought probably gives Darcy hives and facial tics.

5. You know who might actually be totally useless? Drew Stafford.

6. If I’m fed up with Drew Stafford, I’m still remarkably patient with Ville Leino. I think Ville Leino is an interesting character. Yeah, his contract is horrible, but I can’t quite shake the feeling that he’s somehow important. (Like good-important. Not necessarily “his contract will sink them”-important.) The Sabres have had some undeniable chemistry issues this season, and there’s something about Ville Leino that seems like maybe he hasn’t fit in with the locker room. On one hand, you obviously don’t want an overpaid new guy to throw off locker room chemistry, but on the OTHER hand, I kind of like the idea of Ville Leino smirking all over the “core.”

When the injuries started piling up and the team started to free fall in the standings, once again, we were faced with the hard truth about the “core” (Miller, Pominville, Vanek, Gaustad, Stafford, and Roy). There is something missing, something lacking, about this core. There just is. It doesn’t mean they’re bad players, or bad guys, or bad Sabres… but they are a less-than-ideal core. I don’t see how it’s even debatable at this point.

It’s kind of interesting to me that the media and fans still refer to the same six guys as “the core.” Who knows where Ryan Miller is going to be after next season, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff will be right here in Buffalo. If we, as observers of the team, have a hard time accepting Ville Leino as a “core” team member, imagine how it felt in the locker room.

I can’t quite explain it, but to me, Ville Leino seems like he’s at the center of some type of team mentality shift. Regardless of whether or not Darcy makes trade deadline moves, the “core” of this team has in fact already changed. It’s not just Miller, Vanek, Pominville, Roy, Stafford, and Gaustad anymore. Ville Leino is at the core now too. (I know. Scary. But really, is he any scarier than Drew Stafford? I say no.) Ville Leino and how he fits in is very interesting to me.

For some insane reason, I remain hopeful about #23.

7. OBVIOUSLY, the most pressing issue that I haven’t yet addressed is the fact that a Buffalo Sabre (Jordan Leopold, you wily SCAMP!) literally took out Lindy Ruff.  I’ve make a lot of jokes around here about coach killing, but… whoa.

(The fact that I’m only writing about this now is a real indication of how effed up my blogging rhythm is these day. Three years ago, I would’ve written about TEN THOUSAND post about just this topic.)

8. In light of his significant injuries, I thought it was a little odd that Lindy did the postgame press conference after the Bruins game. It seemed like the media really enjoyed talking to him, and Lindy was certainly entertaining that night, but there was something about it that made me say, “… huh.”

Part of me thought, come ON Lindy, just let James Patrick be the head coach for one night.

I have no idea what part of Lindy’s personality compelled him to be there (Super hard worker? Control freak? Tough guy? Paranoia? His true love of hockey? Martyr? A “team first” mentality?) but if you ask me, the sane thing to do when you break three ribs is to sit on the couch in comfy outfit, enjoy the Vicodin, and trust that everything at work is going to be there for you when you get back. Obviously there are a bunch of factors involved with his situation that I couldn’t begin to comprehend, but the whole injury has put Lindy in a different light than I’m used to seeing him. Because of the injury, Lindy has looked vulnerable this week.

It’s interesting and different to see Lindy this way, but I hope he feels better soon. I wish him a fast recovery.

In one way, Lindy has looked vulnerable, but in another way…

9. Jordan Leopold took the concept of “coach killing” to preposterous new levels, and yet, he STILL FAILED TO FINISH THE JOB. Lindy, the most unkillable coach in the history of the NHL, has now survived an actual physical attack. Lindy did not survive unscathed, but I think there is reason to believe his rib injury will only add to his power. Frankly, I don’t see how Lindy can ever be stopped now, and I worry that this brush with death has infused Lindy with supernatural immortality. He’s like a vampire now. Surely there IS a way to kill him, but it’s probably incredibly complicated and involves some type of Lord of the Rings-style journey to collect an all-powerful orb/ring/horcrux.

Not only do I believe Lindy Ruff will NEVER be fired from his job, he’s also probably also about to stop aging. And showing up in mirrors.

10. Having nothing to do with the Sabres:

My viola-playing BPO BFF (Janz) is the type of guy to exaggerate things for the sake of a good story. (I love this quality in a person, so trust me, I’m not criticizing.) Anyway, many years ago we were playing some Tchaikovsky, and somehow Janz and I got to talking about how Tchaikovsky was pretty crazy (he was kind of a piece of work) and Janz said, “You know, he used to eat his scores.” When I was all, “WHAAAAT?!” Janz said, “Yeah, I can’t remember where I heard this, but if Tchaikovsky didn’t like the piece, he would eat it.

This was a level of crazy that I had not previously attributed to Tchaikovsky.

I was skeptical, but I was willing to believe the story, mostly because it led to all kinds of jokes. Now whenever we’re playing Tchaikovsky and we’re not totally in love with the piece, or maybe the rehearsal feels a little slow, or we’re just feeling kind of cranky one of us will inevitably say, “I kind of wish Tchaikovsky had eaten this score.” Yesterday at work Janz pretended to take a tiny bite out of the corner of our Piano Concerto No. 1 part. This is good solid fun.

Janz and I have friendly-squabbled for years about whether or not Tchaikovsky actually ate his scores. I accused him of spinning a tall tale, and he insisted that, “No, I swear. It’s true. I heard it somewhere. I think from an old music history professor. Tchaikovsky ate his scores!” A few months ago I spent a good hour scouring the internet looking for even one reference to “eating the score,” to no avail. Later on, Janz did his own research and found the same. Sadly, although this joke that has stood the test of time, I don’t think it’s true that Tchaikovsky ate his scores.

BUT, from now on, because of this blog entry, there WILL be a reference to Tchaikovsky eating his scores on the internet. My dream is that years from now one of you will casually mention to a friend that while you can’t remember where you heard it, you remember hearing that Tchaikovsky used to eat scores that he didn’t like. And then years after THAT, the person that you told that story to will do an internet search and find this blog.

Basically, I’m trying to start a rumor that Tchaikovsky used to eat his scores. Pass it on.

The Ecstasy and the Agony

The Ecstasy

That Leafs game was some seriously good times. Leafs fans are annoying mothereffers, but the arena was undeniably  amazing on Friday. The Leafs fans added to our experience tremendously. At times (like, every time the Sabres scored) it was AWESOME to have so many Leafs fans there, and times I wanted to light myself on fire with rage, but the entire night was passionately experienced, which is more than I can say for most games at FNC these days.

In the past I’ve avoided Leafs games (because, as previously mentioned, Leafs fans are annoying mothereffers, but also because you can completely rip them off by selling them your tickets), but Friday was a real eye opener. Leafs games are high risk, high reward. If the Sabres had lost it would’ve been playoff-loss-level misery, but when they won it felt like no win could ever feel as good as that win. Sometimes it’s good to just lose your head during a game, and the Leafs game certainly provide plenty of opportunity for that. (Along those lines, about halfway through the game, while watching a drunk, moronic nearby Leafs fan stand up in a sea of Sabres fans [during a commercial break, no less] and do that infinitely retarded thing where he grabbed the logo on his jersey to “taunt” other fans, Robin suddenly blurted out, “I’m gonna to punch that guy.” And for a brief moment, I think she meant it. After the moment passed, we laughed REALLY hard about that one, because of all the people I know, Robin might be the least likely to punch someone at a sporting event. The fact that she was tempted to punch someone speaks volumes about Leafs fans and also about our level of emotional commitment to the game. We went all in on Friday, and our reward was sweet.)

Robin and I sit low in the shoot twice side, so the Leaf fan presence wasn’t that horrendous (visiting fans tend to gravitate more towards the other end), but I know that my friend Roman didn’t fair as well. He estimated that up in his section in the 300s, the ratio was 70/30, Leafs fans. Ew! Poor Roman! But down in our end, we were mostly okay. In fact, the closest guy to us in a Leafs jersey turned out to be a Sabres fan who had lost a bet. We discovered this when, to our complete confusion, he turned around to high five us after the Sabres’ second goal.

Me: (high fives a dude in a Leafs jersey) WTF, dude? (points to his Leafs jersey)
Him: (shakes his head sadly) It’s okay. I’m a Sabres fan. I lost a bet.
Me: Ouch. Does your skin burn in that thing?
Him: Yeah, it does.

There was a moment late in the third period when I remember thinking to myself, “No matter what happens with the final score, I need to remember how fun this game has been.” Thank you Hockey Gods, for not testing my resolve on that pledge.

I had so much fun on Friday that after the game ended I was tempted to make a pact with the devil: As long as the Sabres manage to beat the Leafs at FNC forever and for all eternity, I don’t care what else happens. But thank GOD the devil wasn’t taking my calls on Friday night because the VERY next day, I was whistling a different tune…

The Agony

I was playing a concert Saturday night, so I didn’t see much of the game. But I saw enough. I saw enough to say definitively that the Sabres are in deep doo-doo. If Ryan Miller is going to play like crap, and half the roster is going to be injured, and the other half of the roster is going to be Roy and Stafford… the Sabres are in serious trouble. Not, like, cute “we just need time to gel, but it’s okay because we beat the Leafs last night” trouble, but real, “OMG. This season will be lost,” trouble.

The thing is, the more I think about it, the more I agree with Ted Black. We need to be patient. It’s not that I think that if we’re patient this roster is suddenly going to be good, or that Lindy Ruff will suddenly figure out how to make Roy and Stafford stop sucking, or that everything will be better once Tyler Myers and Brad Boyes come back. I just think it’s going to take time to fix this team. The fix is way more complicated than we want to believe.

Personally, until Ted Black and Terry Pegula give me reason to feel otherwise, I trust them to make measured, intelligent changes. It probably wasn’t what I would’ve done (no one will ever accuse me of being intelligent and measured), but keeping Lindy and Darcy after the ownership change was the intelligent, measured thing to do. The problem is that right now, in this situation, there isn’t a measured, intelligent change available. A new coach wouldn’t suddenly heal the injured players, and a new GM couldn’t make new cap space appear out of thin air.

As longtime readers of this blog know, I’m not one of those, “Lindy should have a job for life,” people. I’ve called for his head before. Right now, I don’t think the problem is coaching, and even if I did, there is just NO WAY Lindy should be fired while his forward lines look like this.

As for Darcy: So far, this season is looking like a perfect storm of suck for Darcy. I’m not willing to argue that any of his off-season signings were disastrous on their own (okay, maybe Leino, but… I still want to believe in Leino, so dammit, that’s what I’ll do), but the cap situation is h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e. The Sabres have exactly zero space under the cap right now and they are in injury hell.  The lack of cap space puts Darcy in a severely weakened position when it comes to tinkering with the current roster. Even when the plan was “cross your fingers and pray everyone stays healthy,” Darcy was still walking a very dangerous line with his cap space, but now, with all these call ups, he’s in serious trouble. This is the very definition of cap mismanagement, and in my opinion, depending on how the season shakes out, it’s a fire-able offense. But again, we’ll see.

It’s annoying as HELL to admit it, but it’s pretty difficult to fairly assess the roster with this many injuries. The intelligent, measured thing to do is to wait and see. Ted is right.

It seems to me that a lot of Sabres fans reacted to Pegula by upping their expectations dramatically without much consideration for how these new expectations could be met. I upped my expectations too, but unlike in the past, I now have faith that Sabres ownership is going to keep trying. When things don’t work out, Pegula and Ted Black aren’t going to do nothing. No, the first two and a half months of the 2011/12 season have not gone spectacularly well, but, I fully believe that they’re going to keep trying. So, if Darcy and/or Lindy need to go, I think sooner rather than later they will go. I couldn’t say that about the previous ownership.

Instead of feeling angry about the roster, I feel oddly pacified this season. It never made sense to me that Pegula could waltz in and be all, “I am a billionaire, and I want a Cup! BEGIN WINNING CUPS, BUFFALO SABRES.” That would’ve been too easy.

I believe that when Pegula took over, he gave Darcy Regier just enough rope to hang himself. Whether or not Darcy’s summertime moves have doomed him is still up in the air. I like Darcy as a person, and I love it when the Sabres are successful, so I hope things turn around here, but if they don’t, I do trust that things will change.

For now, we wait.

(But if Darcy wants to get to work trading Roy and/or Stafford, that’d be fine by me.)

The Jaws Of Victory

I used to have a cat named Trixie. Trixie wasn’t the brightest. Once I watched her bat around an ant for a good ten minutes. (Now that I’ve written that last sentence, I’m wondering if maybe this story says more about me than it says about Trixie.) Anyway, eventually Trixie ate the ant and I was all, “Good work, Trix. You got him.”

But then, Trixie looked over at me all wide-eyed, and she stuck out her tongue, and the ant fell out of her mouth and onto the ground.  I kid you not, THE ANT STOOD UP, BRUSHED HIMSELF OFF, AND SAUNTERED AWAY. I think I heard him whistling a little “don’t mind me,” song as he nonchalantly slipped out of Trixie’s reach.

The Sabres reminded me of that ant tonight. I do not know how they walked away from that game victorious, but they did.

(Actually, I do know how they did it: MILL-ERRRRRRRR!)

The Sabre Are RE-HIRED!

Woo!

I don’t have much to say about last’s night’s game other than, “Nice job, Sabre-ramma-ding-dongs!” I mostly wanted to put something a little cheerier up on The Willful Caboose so my post about the poopy Carolina game wasn’t the first thing people see when they wander through here. So, consider this post to be an official proclamation: THE SABRES ARE NEVER GOING TO LOSE AGAIN!

Maybe the Sabres were just confused on Friday because that I wasn’t sitting where they’re used to seeing me sit. I bet that threw them off. Now that we’ve ironed this out, the 81-1 season is BACK ON TRACK!

10 Things

1. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! WOOOOOOOOOO!! WOOOOOOOOOOOO! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

2. Hot DAMN, that was a fun weekend of Sabre-y goodness. After our Friday morning concert, I zipped home, dropped off my viola, threw on my new BITCHIN’ Sabres tee, and hauled ass over to Lanette’s where I got to experience her SABRES THEMED ROOM for the first time. (She’s got a goal horn and a red light, you guys.) Then today, I wandered over to the arena, and watched the game with lots of peeps while eating bratwurst and freezing my ass off. (It’s much, MUCH colder in the arena this season. For reals.)

3. Look, I know it’s only two games, but the Sabres are obviously going 82-0 this season. It’s preeeetty much a done deal. The thing I enjoyed the most about the games was that they were just so breezy. The Sabres won with ease. They didn’t even appear to break a sweat. I’m just kidding about the Sabres going 82-0, but it sure is nice to get a good start.

4. Today Patty and I were a little confused about the lines, and we were just naming guys, trying to figure out who’s playing with who, and at one point we just sort of paused and I was all, “…It feels like the Sabres have lots of good forwards all of a sudden.” It was an odd and thrilling realization. In almost any combination, the Sabres have three really good scoring lines, and a rollicking fourth line. (Although, [and this is barely a complaint], I’m sad that Lindy seems to have broken up Kaleta, Goose, and Gerbe. I looooved that line, and they were such a fun combination of punch-y and score-y. Bring them back, Lindy!)

5. We knew Leino would be an improvement on Connolly (at the very least), but if Luke Adam continues being so compatible with Vanek, we are REALLY in business. One of the perks of refusing to learn about our prospects is that every time a new kid shows up in a Sabres uniform and he isn’t a pile of puke, I’m pleasantly surprised. I remember being fairly impressed with Adam during his stint with the Sabres last season, but obviously he wasn’t getting time on a line with Vanek back then. This is a whole new situation. Kudos to Lindy for putting that combination together, and mega-kudos to Adam for stepping up to the plate. It’s fun to root for the young guys. (Private to Luke Adam: I just made a “category” on this blog for you. That means you should go ahead and find a permanent place to live in Buffalo. The only guy I’ve ever incorrectly put on the”Sabre” list was Mark Mancari, and really, that was just a rookie mistake on my part. Find yourself an apartment, kiddo. Call me if you ever need viola or ridiculous-blogging lessons.)

6. The defense is remarkably better. Here’s how we can tell:

  • Miller’s job has looked easy (rather than terrifying).
  • Myers hasn’t freaked us out at ALL so far. Remember how scary he was at the beginning of last season? It’s hard to say how much of  Myers’ non-suckiness can be attributed to him being older and wiser, and how much of it can be attributed to the fact that he now gets to play with Robyn Regehr instead of a rotating collection of spazzes, but either way, HOORAY.
  • Ehrhoff, Ehrhoff, Ehrhoff, Ehrhoff, Ehrhoff, Ehrhoff. I love me some Christian Ehrhoff
  • Mike Weber. Perfectly serviceable Mike Weber, is sitting in the press box because we don’t need him. When someone inevitable gets hurt, it won’t be a total crisis (unless it’s Myers), because we’ll still have Mike Weber. It sucks for Mike Weber that the Sabres don’t need him, but it ROCKS for us.

7. It really struck me today how appropriate it is that this team started the season in Europe.

Europe is where North Americans go when we want to “find ourselves”. I’ve been to Europe twice, both times for viola-related reasons, and both times I came home all starry-eyed and inspired to TAKE ON THE WORLD. Europe is where we go to be young, and romantic, and to ride trains, and think Big Important Thoughts. I can’t imagine a better place for our young team to start this season. As much as I’m looking forward to the home opener I almost wish we could leave the Sabres over there for a little while longer. Obviously they like Europe. I love the idea of them having adventures, and writing flowery prose in their journals, and tasting weird fish-y foods that Ville Leino swears are a Finnish delicacy.

8. I feel obligated to comment on Lindy’s choice for the captaincy, so here goes: I approve. Good job, Lindy.

9. Heather’s talking sense here.

10. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

7 Things

1. I had the MOST fun hockey day yesterday. I wandered down to the arena in the morning with the intention of cashing in on Slug Appreciation Day, but I quickly realized that not standing in those lines was worth at LEAST the amount of money I would’ve saved had I waited. (It should be noted that I intended to buy a hoodie that was already on sale, so my savings for standing in line for an hour would’ve only been in the $10-$15 range. It’s not like I was planning to buy a $200 jersey. THAT probably would’ve been worth the wait.) So, I sacrificed my opportunity to buy a cheap hoodie, and I plopped down in the arena to watch practice and a scrimmage.

2. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: open practices are the B-E-S-T. You get to see all sorts of ridiculous stuff, like Darcy skipping down some stairs, and Miller strutting around, all “cool guy on campus,” and dozens of baby-faced Sabres prospects that you don’t recognize in the slightest. (Related: The Sabres are being kind of top secret about the practice/scrimmage schedule this season. In past years I feel like they’ve published a complete training camp schedule online. This year I can’t find anything on their website.)

3. Last night I attended the Sabres/Canes game. As most of you probably know, the Sabres won due to the extreme feistiness of the Gerb/Gaustad/Kaleta line, and a good time was had by all.

4. I was kind of nervous and excited about going to the arena last night because it was my first chance to see my new seats.

OUR NEW SEATS ARE FANTASTIC! When we were offered the chance to move (a giant, ETERNALLY GRATEFUL thanks to Jessica in account services for hooking us up), we didn’t have very many options. That whole “99% season ticket renewal rate” they’re always celebrating means that there just aren’t that many seats available. The tradeoff for escaping the dreaded gate at the end of our row meant that instead of row 20, we’d have to move much closer to the glass. Sitting low is kind of a double-edged sword. Row 8 provides a super awesome view when the action is directly in front of us, and a super weird view when we’re looking through the glass at action on the other end of the ice.

All this AND a women's bathroom at the top of the aisle.

Last night was my first chance to actually watch hockey in our new seats and I LOVED IT SO MUCH. I LOVED the view, I LOVED being on the shoot-twice side, and I LOVED not being trapped behind a gate! Everything that felt “wrong” about the old seats felt “right” about these. If you ever catch me whining about these new seats, feel free to pop me in the kisser.

5. I’m pretty sure I’m going to love Ville Leino. Of all the players on the ice last night, I found him to be the most compelling. Every time he was out there, I just couldn’t take my eyes off him. Maybe the Toni Lydman effect was really just a Finnish thing? I dunno. Only time will tell, I guess.  On a non-hockey note, I find Leino’s ability to instantly morph from kind-of-hideous to fully-handsome (depending on the angle) to be QUITE compelling. I’ll admit, I was always really aware of him when he was a Flyer too. I think just really like that guy.

6. How about those Billz, huh? I’m an admitted Bills bandwagoner (I lose all interest in them when they suck), but I absolutely adore happy Bills fans. I’m happy when you guys are happy, and I certainly can’t complain about the entertainment value of the first two Bills games. Go Billsies!

7. The picture I took of Vanek and Ehrhoff in the limo last week is now posted on Thomas Vanek’s personal website. His website does not link here, but still, that miiiiight be the pinnacle of hilarious weirdness. I mean… whoa.

Meet Matt Phillips, Super Violist.

I’ve known Matt Phillips, a violist in the Buffalo Philharmonic, for about ten years now. For the first five years I knew him, he was basically just an ordinary violist like the rest of us. Matt was certainly never visibly out of shape, it’s just that he was no more or less athletic than your average classical musician.

At some point along the way, things changed. At some point, Matt started jogging. I say “at some point” because from my perspective, one day Matt was just a regular, non-runner like most people, and the next day he was… running marathons. It seriously seemed like it happened overnight. Even now, if you ask Matt, “So, let me get this straight. One day, out of the blue, you just started running extremely long distances?” he’s just like, “Yeah, pretty much.”

Matt is obviously really good at running. He’s also really good at the viola. He seems to be some new breed. A “Super Violist”, if you will.

First he will try to defeat you by playing the viola, and if somehow that doesn't work, he will beat you in a foot race. Enemies, beware.

Now whenever Matt takes a day off from work we all assume that he’s running a race somewhere. When he returns to work he’s always extremely nonchalant about whatever ridiculous feat of strength he’s accomplished.  I don’t know much about racing, but Matt always seems to place very high, and sometimes he even wins the race. (My favorite story of Matt winning a race is when he won the Erie Philharmonic’s 5k. Orchestras are very supportive of one another, because as an industry there is absolutely no benefit to being competitive. That said, it’s still amusing when someone in one orchestra wins the 5K of another orchestra.)

Why am I writing about this on my hockey blog? I’m glad you asked!

Yesterday, Matt ran in the “Hamburg Character Chase”. If I’m reading the race results correctly, he placed 5th overall, and 1st in his age group. That’s some pretty good running, Matt!

Here are the results. I’ve blocked out most of the other names because I don’t know if it’s kosher to re-post race results, but please scroll down for an amusing surprise.

It’s official. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has defeated the Buffalo Sabres on the field of athletics. When the Sabres feel they are ready to challenge us to a Battle of the Orchestras, we will be ready to defend our turf.  For now… advantage, BPO.

Your move, Sabres.

 

 

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.

Sabres vs. Flyer 4/8/11

I often have a difficult time writing about the biggest games. When the Sabres play a wild game with lots of different storylines, I find it difficult to focus a post.

I wish I was a better writer so I could describe to you how the game on Friday busted my heart right open.

Usually I write this blog with an audience in mind, but this post is mostly for myself.  I want to have a detailed description of this game.  I don’t care if I can’t figure out a way to package this post into one cohesive thought, I just want to have something to read later, to remind myself of the day the Sabres clinched their spot in the 2011 playoffs.

Going with Renee: Those of you who follow me on Twitter, know that until Thursday, I didn’t have tickets to the game.  (This may, or may not, be because at the beginning of the season, I may, or may not, have sold my tickets to a Flyers fan.  How could I have POSSIBLY predicted Pegula and Alumni/Fan Appreciation Night?!)  But, at the last-minute, Renee THE WONDERFUL, decided to bring me to the game.  Renee’s seats are AWESOME.  First row balcony, center ice.  I had so so so much fun watching the game and then celebrating the victory with Renee.

The alumni: I’m a new fan, and I’m naturally suspicious of nostalgia, so the alumni aspect of the evening wasn’t necessarily designed to cater to me, but, I’ve been feeling more and more attached to the history of the Sabres.  I was genuinely moved to see all of those men in Sabres uniforms on the ice. Once a Sabre, always a Sabre.  I’d like to think the alumni played a role in the win on Friday.  Somehow, all of the hopes and the dreams of every past Sabre were on the ice in the 3rd period.

Thomas Vanek: I know that Gerbe scored the goal of the year, but Thomas Vanek was the story for me. He made two passes to Pominville during the game that were so beautiful I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about them.  And then, of course, the OT goal, and the moment he spent plastered against the glass, celebrating, face-to-face with the front row. I am so proud to root for Thomas Vanek.

The guy sitting next to us: I was sitting next to a guy who came to the game alone, just because he felt he had to be there. I was strangely moved by this, probably because the day before, I’d been scrolling through Stub Hub, considering buying a single ticket to the game.  I understood where that guy was coming from, and I admire that he made it happen.  He DID have to be there.

He and I were of similar minds about the game.  We kept turning to each other, and saying determinedly, “One point.  We just need one point.”  There is something so special about bonding with a stranger over sports. It doesn’t happen with every Sabres fan I meet, but he and I seemed to have a similar Sabres-disposition, and at times it felt like we were working in tandem to will the Sabres to OT.  At the end of the night we shook hands, and thanked each other for the experience.

Lindy putting Miller in the 3rd Period: I could NOT have been more shocked and electrified when Ryan Miller skated out to start the 3rd period.  I loved it.  LOVED IT.  WHAT a move by Lindy Ruff.

As much as I loved Enroth’s performance during the stretch-run (and seriously, he saved the season), I always wanted Crunchy back. The shock factor of seeing him skate out for the 3rd cannot be overstated, and after the shock, came the charge of confidence. At least that’s how I experienced it. Lindy put it all on the line with that goalie change, and it paid off. The team responded. Miller is the backbone of this team. End of story. It was an amazing and truly gutsy move by Lindy.

Lindy in general: I have a new appreciation for Lindy Ruff. Even at my most critical, I’ve never doubted that on a fundamental level, Lindy is a good coach. But truthfully, I’ve mostly been taking your word for it, because I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by his work during my fandom. Things are different now. Now, I’ve seen firsthand what Lindy is capable of when he is firing on all cylinders. I seriously doubt I’ll ever be a, “he’s got a job for life” kind of Lindy fan, but I will never again call for him to be fired without a profound awareness of what we’d be losing if he got away.  It has been an honor and a treat to watch him work these last few months.

The last minute of regulation: Without question, when I think back on this game, my most prominent memory will be the last minute of regulation. It was such an oddity to see the Sabres and the Flyers essentially standing around, letting the clock run down. I will never forget the feeling of the arena, welling up with noise and pride, as we watched Tyler Myers twirl around with the puck. The Sabres came so far for that moment, and it was such an unexpected treat that we as spectators got to experience their clinch in one loud, glorious minute. Usually the last minute of an important game is terrifying, but this one was fearless and electric. I will never forget it. Ever.

Seeing SarahJess7 in the bathroom: Right after the game, as I was walking out of the bathroom, I heard someone say “Kate!” and I turned to see Sarah standing in line. In an instant we were hugging and screaming and jumping up and down. We behaved like children. It was a moment of pure joy, and a highlight from a night full of highlights.

Which brings me to my last, and most important, point

Harbor Club and Swanee House: The best thing about Friday night was how it felt like every time I turned around at the arena, I saw a friend.  From the plaza, to the very end of the night at The Swanee House, I laughed and celebrated with wonderful people.  The arena is starting to feel like home, and friendships that started online, are now relationships that I will cherish forever.

I cannot possibly express enough gratitude for the richness that the Sabres have added to my life in Buffalo.

Thank you, Sabres fans!

Every Game Is Like a Snowflake: Horrible and/or Awesome In Its Own Unique Way

Last night, before the Canadiens game:

Sigh.  I’ve had a rough day already.  I don’t think I can handle a Sabres loss with grace tonight, especially if the game has the slightest tinge of oopsies-we-crapped-our-pants-instead-of-winning to it.  It’s not that the Preds game bothered me that much (I erased it from my accepted reality banks, after-all), but… I just can’t deal tonight.

Maybe I’ll listen to the game on the radio instead of watching it on tv.  That seems safe.  Or, I know!  I’ll wait until 7:30 to start cooking dinner, that way I’ll be occupied during a lot of the first period.  Or, I could start calling people and inviting them over to my house so I don’t end up watching a stinker alone.  Games are always less painful with friendies nearby.  The absolute ONE thing I must MAKE SURE I do not do is sit down in front of the television alone and with my laptop open to Twitter.  I’m just not up for that tonight.

At 7:30, on the nose:

Hm.  I seem to be sitting in the comfy chair in front of the television with my dinner fully prepared, repeatedly clicking “refresh” on Twitter.  This is exactly the situation I was trying to avoid.  I get an “F” at avoiding easily avoidable situations.

After the 1st:

Hey, the Sabres look pretty good!  I’m proud of them for coming out all orderly and non-sucky after their stunning collapse against the Preds.  I kind of wish the Sabres had scored on one of those 45 power plays though.  But whatevs.  Crunchy looks good so far.

After the 2nd (1-0, Sabres):

Dude. This game is intense. How about Tenacious G! He’s unstoppable. It’s fun to see a guy come alive like this, especially one we’d all written off.  Good work, lil’ Gerbs.  We’re sorry we tried to leave you for dead earlier this season.

I am a liiiiittle worried that the game is only 1-0.  The Sabres would’ve been wise to score more goals.  I am SO not in the mood to listen to people bitch on Twitter about how Miller lost this game even though the forwards only scored one goal.  I’m not saying I think Ryan Miller is incapable of shutting out the Habs, I’m just saying it’s a bad “Plan A”.  Let’s see if we can’t score Crunchy some more goals, m’kay boys?

I really want them to win. I really, really want them to win.  I think I might actually cry if they lose.

I’m scared, fragile, and alone, with only Twitter for companionship.  THIS IS EXACTLY THE SITUATION I WAS TRYING TO AVOID.

During the 3rd

This is scary.

THIS IS REALLY FUCKING SCARY.

I’m going to PUKE!  I’m jumping around!  I’m yelling at no one! When did the regular season get this stressful?!

To Ryan Miller: You can do it!  I believe in you!
To everyone else on the team: HE CANNOT DO THIS, YOU GUYS!  YOU HAVE TO SCORE MORE GOALS.  ARGH!  SCORE A GOAL!  SCORE A GOAL!  SCCOOOOOORE ANOTHER GOAL!  *BARF*

THIS GAME IS KILLING ME. IT’S TORTUROUS. THIS IS SO MUCH WORSE THAN THE SITUATION I WAS TRYING TO AVOID.  I DID NOT NEED A GAME THIS STRESSFUL TONIGHT. IF THEY DO NOT WIN THIS GAME I THINK I’M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND.

After Tenacious D scored his righteous empty net goal (2-0, Sabres): WOOOOOOOOO!!  TENACIOUS G is the greatest Sabre EVER!  WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

30 seconds after Gerbe’s empty net goal:

Oh god.  It’s the dreaded two goal lead.  Come on you little bastards, you only have to hold on to this two goal lead for 30 seconds…. IF THIS TURNS OUT TO BE A RYAN MILLER SHUTOUT, OR THEY FIND SOME WAY TO GIVE UP A TWO GOAL LEAD IN 30 SECONDS I AM NEVER WATCHING HOCKEY AGAIN.  I REALLY MEAN IT.  NEVER!

30 seconds later, at the end (2-0, Sabres)

WOOOOOOO!  Hockey is so wonderful and I love it so much.  This game was horrible, beginning to end, but it was totally worth it in every way because now I am filled with a sense of well being and smug peacefulness.  My hockey team is wonderful, and I will sleep well tonight.

The next morning:

I would suggest that winning a game like the Sabres did last night is the best case scenario after a meltdown like the Predators game.  Sure, it would’ve been fun to see them score 8 goals again, but I’ll be honest, those big blowouts make me a little nervous.  It’s fun when it’s easy, but it’s not actually as convincing.  Give me a hard-fought, intelligently played chess game if you want to convince me that you’re mentally tough.  The Sabres were genuinely impressive last night.  Miller looked great, but the team was brilliant in front of him.  Crunchy didn’t have to work that hard, because the Habs were never allowed to gather any steam. 

But I stand by my assertion that that game was torturous.  This shit is getting stressful.  I, for one, am grateful for a few days sans-Sabres.

So, congratulations on your nearly perfect road game, Sabres!  Now, please leave me alone for a few days.  Thank you.


…A Blog About the Buffalo Sabres

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

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