Archive for the 'Ryan Miller' Category



Leave It At That

I’m experiencing an intense desire to just enjoy the Sabres for what they are, and then call it a day.

Last night I went to the game with Jessica, and we had a grand old time.  The Sabres lost, then we had a beer at the Harbor Club, and that was really the end of it for me.  I didn’t think the Sabres looked bad, and even if they did, I’ve banked enough good will for them that I don’t think I would’ve cared that much.  They are what they are, and by that, I mean, I love them….because they’re ours and they’re interesting.

Sometimes I think all this obsessing we do over sports- with the blogs, and the articles, and the radio shows, and the tweeting, kind of detracts from the experience.  By this I mean, there’s always someone demanding that you justify your position with stats or facts, when in reality most of what we get out of sports is emotion-based.  Most of my opinions about the Sabres are based on how they make me feel.

What’s wrong with occasionally just rooting for the Sabres to win and then saying, “Oh well.  Get ’em next time!” when they lose?  Do we really need to analyze Miller from every angle because he’s having a bad season by his standards?  Can’t we just say, “I believe in you, Crunchy,” and root a little harder?

Is that too cheesy or something?

_________

Here, watch this:

This is a video of Spaniards making human towers just for the joyful sake of making human towers.  As far as activities go, making crazy human towers (and topping them off with small children) is pretty bonkers, but watching it fills me with happiness for reasons I can’t quite explain.

Casteller from Mike Randolph on Vimeo.

Sometimes you just have to treat the Sabres like an improbable tower of human bodies.  You don’t really know why you love it so much, but you do.

And just leave it at that.

6 Things

1. Happy Valentine’s Day, all you lovable little chickadees! Whether you are in a couple, or as single as single can be, take a minute today to close your eyes and send a few extra love vibes out into the world. After that, celebrate Valentine’s Day however you see fit. Personally, I prefer the “eat some candy-hearts and then otherwise go about my business,” method of celebration.

2. Maybe it’s because of Valentine’s Day (and my belly full of soul-nourishing candy hearts), but I’m just not too worried about the Islanders game. I mean, seriously.  It was one game.  The Sabres kept pace with the Hurricanes, the offense looked robust, Drew Stafford is completely blowing our minds, and it’s warm enough outside that some of this snow is finally going to melt.  Chin up, soldiers!

The bad news: Miller was terrrrrrible (Bad, Ryan!  Bad!), and the defense looked quite poopy.

3. Apparently, things got all cranky and bitch-slappy during the postgame, but whatevs.  People get cranky sometimes, especially cranky goalies when they are in cranky moods. I don’t think I care what goes on between Ryan Miller and the local media. Sometimes Miller’s going to be a brat because he’s a crazy-assed goalie, and being a brat kind of comes with the territory.  *shrug*

Here’s a dramatic interpretation of events that would rouse my genuine interest:

Vogl: Did you feel okay?
Crunchy: (screeching) WHAT ARE YOU IMPLYING?!
Sullivan: He’s not implying anything!
Crunchy: Why don’t you let him speak for himself?!
Vogl: …feces?
Sullivan: You’ve given up 4 goals or more 14 times this season, LOSER.
*Crunchy karate-chops Jerry Sullivan*

Call me if (when?) Miller karate-chops Jerry Sullivan, but until then, I’m unmoved.

(For the record- I have absolutely no problem with how Vogl handled himself in the audio I heard, so it’s probably not very nice of me to reference his famous “feces” twitter-analysis.  But I couldn’t resist.)

4. Would it be nice if Ryan Miller returned to Vezina form? Absoluuutely. Is it reasonable to demand that he do so?  Sadly, no.  Frowny faces all around.  :(

Corey Griswold made a pretty good case yesterday on Twitter that the Miller we’re seeing this season is the real Miller, and that last season was an anomaly. (I believe Corey used the Malcolm Gladwell-approved word, “outlier” to describe Crunchy’s last season.) Corey used a bunch of stats to make this point, so, you can rest assured that numbers and mathematics were consulted when I came to the following conclusion:  Every needs to calm the eff down about Crunchy.

I’m not in the mood to get all pissy about Ryan Miller. He’ll be fine. He’s just doing his thing and unfortunately that thing does not include winning the Vezina every year. That’s a bummer for us.

The Sabres lost yesterday because of Ryan Miller. It’s true. Deal with it.

Be glad it doesn’t happen very often.

If you really have your undies in a bunch about Ryan Miller, you can begin crossing your fingers that he gets traded before the deadline. (Lemme know how that works out for you.)

5. That said, a competent backup goalie would be REALLY HANDY right now.  I have no idea what’s got Miller all out of sorts, but it sure would be nice if there was another NHL-ready goalie on the team. Riding Miller into the ground has always seemed like a bad plan, but it seems like a particularly bad plan this season.

Not only is it a bad plan on an intuitive level (I mean honestly, look at Ryan Miller. He looks like he belongs on a Depression-era soup line), but we’ve seen AMPLE evidence that Miller is not up to the task.  It didn’t work when Lindy played Miller for the entire second half of 07/08, it didn’t work when Lindy played Miller for the entire second half of 08/09, and Miller was not particularly sharp in the playoffs last season (an Olympic year).  In my opinion we’ve waded WELL into “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” territory.

The Sabres need another competent, NHL-caliber goalie on the roster, and they also need a coach who is willing to play him.  They will need this for every year that Ryan Miller is on the team.  (Mr. Pegula, if you’re reading this [and I assume you are], you might want to add that to the list of “needs”.)

6. The thing we really should be talking about today isn’t, “Ryan Miller vs The Local Media, Hair Pulling Galore!”  We should be talking about the wondrous, shocking, titillating, confusing, glorious, and jaw-dropping recent play of Drew Stafford.

Yesterday during the game, Kevin Snow tweeted that Staffy had six goals, on his last six shots.  THAT’S RIGHT, YOU FURRY BEEYOTCHES.  Six shots. Six goals.

Personally, I have absolutely no idea how to analyze Staffy these days.  He’s a mystery, wrapped in a hat trick, and smothered with club sauce.  Staffy is currently the most beloved wonky-browed player on the Sabres, which is title I NEVER thought could be wrestled from Ryan Miller’s bony grasp. This is a stunner, Sabres fans.

Behold, our new Wonky-Browed King:

Nice highlights, Staffy.

Crunchy?

My worldview is being ROCKED TO THE CORE.

Everything about this video is fascinating to me.   Is Ryan Miller being….funny?

Ordinarily when I laugh at Crunchy it’s because he’s doing something unintentionally hilarious by being the most serious person imaginable.  This here?  This is something new.

I’ve never seen Caddyshack (I know, I know, it’s a classic blah blah blah. I’ve also never seen Slap Shot.  YES, YOU HEARD ME RIGHT), so I only have a vague understanding of the character Crunchy is playing here, but still.  I’m amused that a. Ryan Miller’s love of Caddyshack is apparently very genuine, and b. he’s wearing a funny hat and and lugging around a big hose, and c. HE’S OBVIOUSLY LOVING THIS GIG.

I really truly don’t know what to make of this.

Honestly, it’s almost impossible for me to believe that Crunchy is capable of this type of lighthearted tomfoolery.  Maybe the video is CGI?  It has to be CGI, right?  RIGHT?!

You know, now that I think about it, I bet this project has been meticulously planned for years.  At some point, years ago, ESPN magazine contacted Ryan Miller’s agent and told him that they’d like to reenact some scenes from Caddyshack. Ryan agreed to do it, but only on the condition that he be given the proper chance to prepare.  He then hired an acting coach, and spent years researching the role and rehearsing his “improvised” lines.  Crunchy has spent countless hours trying to capture the essence of this character, driving everyone around him insane with the constant and relentless pursuit of Caddyshack-recitation perfection.  Finally, when the conditions were right (when Ryan was feeling well rested, well hydrated, and during a period of time when he and his team of performance psychologists felt his self-esteem was at it’s highest), he was willing to perform his impressions in front of an ESPN camera crew.

Crunchy just wants to be the best impressionist he can be.  With hard work, plus a schedule of short AND longterm goals, Ryan Miller believes he’s got what it takes to do a good Carl Spackler.

Okay, phew.  Worldview restored.

5 Things That Aren’t So Bad

I woke up this morning in a surprisingly good mood considering I stayed up too late watching election coverage.  I’m happy to report that even though the Sabres are grody-to-the-max, I still thought, “Yay!  We’re going to the game tonight!” as I opened my sleepy eyes and pondered the day to come.  So, that’s good news.

Here are 5 Reasons to be chipper about the Sabres game tonight:

1. Jason Pominville is not dead.  The last time we saw little P-Doods, he was being carted away with his head bloodied and strapped to a stretcher.   That was lame.  In addition to not dying, Pominville managed to escape October without contracting the terrible stench of failure that now wafts around all the other Sabres.  Since Pommers has played his entire NHL career virtually injury-free, this little stretch was our first opportunity to see who the Sabres are without him in the lineup.  The answer?  The Sabres are TOTAL POO without Jason Pominville in the lineup.  Maybe his return will solve everything.

2. It’s a beautiful day.  During most of the hockey season, hockey fans are forced to make an impossible choice for each and every game, “Do I wear my winter coat so that I don’t freeze to death during the walk from the car to the arena, or, do I leave my coat in the car so I don’t have to deal with it within the cramped and dingy confines of my seats?”  It’s a question with no good answer.  I almost always leave my coat in the car, and then it’s miserably cold when I put it on when I get back to the car after the game.  Not to mention the fact that while the walk from the car to the arena is nearly always tolerable (since we are warmed with the flush of anticipation) the walk BACK to the car is usually worse (unless you’ve had a LOT of big beers). It sucks to walk five blocks without a coat in the winter after you’ve just watched the Sabres lose pathetically.

Tonight we will walk to the arena in relative comfort in just our hoodies and jerseys, and that is a beautiful thing.

3. Ryan Miller is hurt, and we’re not freaking out.  This is a rare occurrence indeed.  Ordinarily when Crunchy is injured Sabres fans immediately begin running in panic circles and freaking the eff out, but not so today.  Miller’s pedestrian stats combined with the team’s horrific record have put the fanbase in an unusually complacent mood.  It’s not that we want Crunchy to be hurt (good heavens, NO NO NO), it’s just that it doesn’t really feel like we’re living and dying with him right now, you know?

Tonight Crunchy can sit up in the press box, with his lower body resting comfortably on a giant red satin pillow, while various Sabres minions hand-feed him grapes and caviar, and the fans can just…not freak out.  Sometimes not freaky out is nice.

4. Enroth is here.  I hope Lindy plays him.

We pretty much know what we’ll get with Lalime:  He’ll play a basically solid game except that every time a Sabres defenseman makes a bad mistake Lalime will fail to make the “don’t-worry-Tyler-Myers,-I’ve-got-this-one” save,  and then the fans will boo, and then in the postgame interviews all the players will act mortally offended that the fans DARED to boo a man as noble and wonderful as Lalime, and then everyone will bitch on Twitter about how if-the-Sabres-love-Lalime-so-much-why-don’t-they-play-better-in-front-of-him, AND THOSE FANS WILL BE RIGHT TO WONDER.  And no one will feel good about it, and no one will win.

Enroth however, is a wildcard.  We don’t really know him, and neither do the Sabres.  Maybe he’ll surprise us all and turn out to be a tiny hero.

5. When the Sabres are good and stinky, that frees us up to pay attention to other things while at the game.  Last year I wrote about how during a bad loss I decided to focus solely on Tyler Myers for the entire third period.  It was actually a lot of fun and I learned quite a bit about Mylers that night.  Since I’m beginning to forget what a Sabres win looks like, I feel less obligated to focus on willing the team to victory and more free to figure out, once and for all, what Shaone Morrisonn looks like.  I suspect that Shaone Morrisonn might be hot, but frankly, I have no idea if that’s true, because I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup if my life depended on it.  Tonight, I will get to the bottom of the “Is Shaone Morrisonn hot?” question, and I’ll report back to you tomorrow.

That Was Really Awesome

I really wasn’t prepared for how much more awesome the playoffs would feel.  Oh sure, you guys kept telling me, but I guess I had to experience it for myself.   Playoff hockey in person is just astounding.

First of all, the crowd.  Wow.

I’ve bristled a bit all season when I’ve heard people bagging on the HSBC crowd for being too quiet.  As most of you know, this was my first year as a season ticket holder, so even if the crowd was a little subdued compared to previous years, I wanted to love it, and I did.  I loved HSBC Arena and the people I shared the games with this season, passionately and with all my heart.  So, when people kept telling me, “You won’t believe how much wilder the arena can get during the playoffs,” a small part of me was thinking, “Oh please, that’s just the old ‘everything-was-better-a-few-years-ago’ Buffalo thing, talking”  I kind of didn’t believe that the crowd would suddenly change, as if a flip had been switched, just because it was playoff time.

But that’s exactly how it was.  It was as if a switch got flipped.

I think Jessica said it best in the comments a few days ago: “This is the best time of year for fans to lead with their hearts and not their heads.”  That’s exactly how if felt last night.  All of a sudden, everyone was on the same page, cheering for the Sabres.  Everyone was cheering with their hearts instead of their heads.  It was loud and raucous and wonderful.  The atmosphere was incredibly special to me, and even though I’ve been to nearly 50 games over the last three seasons , I think last night was the game I became a real citizen of HSBC Arena.

Second of all, the game. In the immortal words of Rick Jeanneret, “WOW.  DOUBLE WOW.”

There were times last night when I was thinking, “WHO IS THIS TEAM?!  Who are they…and can I marry them ALL?”  A flip was switched with the Sabres, as well as in the crowd.  Playoff hockey really is a different game.  It’s wilder, and harder, and all around MORE AWESOME, which seems weird to say, because frankly, I think regular season hockey is pretty damn awesome already.

Of course I’ve watched the playoffs before, so I know what playoff hockey looks like, but to suddenly see the Sabres, my Sabres, playing real playoff hockey like they meant it, well, it was super cool.  My doubts about how the Sabres would perform in the playoffs were always there just because I couldn’t imagine them playing as hard as, say, the Pens and the Caps played last postseason.  But now, after seeing Jason Pominville (!) lay a hit on Chara with my own two eyes, I’m a believer.  I was really impressed.

The Sabres have looked like a playoff team all season, but last night they looked like a team in the playoffs, and it made me incredibly happy.

I can’t believe I get to go back tomorrow.

___________________________

A few thoughts about the game and last night in general:

– I’ve always booed Chara, mostly because it cracked me up.  Truthfully, I’ve actually always liked him, and I really only booed him because it cracked me up.  (Robin and I referred to him for years as “The Guy We Boo For No Apparent Reason.”)  But things are different now.  What a douche.  Last night I booed that guy with genuine malice in my heart.  I will do so again tomorrow.

– A lot of forwards had impressive games, but the one who really amazed me was Thomas Vanek.  He had a few shifts last night that reminded me of last year, when some nights he was the only guy I could see on the ice.  I LOVE it when Vanek is the only player I can see on the ice.  I love it so so so much.  If Atlas is back…..*stops to ponder what it might mean for this postseason if Atlas really is back*……man oh man.

– Last night during the first period for awhile I was thinking, “Gee, the Bruins are hitting REALLY hard, I don’t know if the Sabres can deal.”  And then, a few minutes later I realized that the Sabres were dealing.  Quite capably, in fact.  I was actually impressed with the Bruins last night (rightly or wrongly, I think of them as a passionless team), but I was MORE impressed with the Sabres willingness and ability to push back.  Screw you, Bruins!

– Derek Roy played a terrific game.

– Toni Lydman is the best.

– I heard Julien’s postgame comments in the car on the way home, and I was very unimpressed.  Basically all he said was, “Well, I thought we played well enough to win.  Hopefully we’ll win on Saturday.”  Thems fightin’ words!

– I also heard Ryan Miller’s postgame comments on the car on the way home, and I was, as usual, very impressed.  The thing that he said that I loved the most was about the second period (which was fairly puke-tastic).  He said something like (I’m paraphrasing), “If we do this right, we’ve got two more months of hockey.  Not every period is going to go our way.  The important thing is that we were way better in the third.”  That’s pretty much how I felt about the second period too.  Yeah, the second period was WAY lame (that’s where having Crunchy comes in SUPER handy), but they pulled themselves back together, and they WON THAT SHIT.  The Sabres are now 31-0 when entering the 3rd period with a lead this season.  31-0. That’s THIRTY ONE WINS, and ZERO losses.  This team knows how to lock it down.

– Sabretooth rappelled from the rafters, you guys!  I’ve always assumed that maybe it was actually Daniel Briere in the Sabretooth suit back when he regularly rappelled, because that tradition seemed to disappear after the Briere-era.  It’s something I’ve always been sad I missed.  Was it always just a playoff thing?  At any rate, I might have squealed out loud when I saw the spotlight on Sabretooth way up there.

– Raffi Torres!  All of a sudden!  Raffi Torres!

– I have two minor quibbles about the crowd last night: 1. I DISAPPROVE of goalie taunting until the goalie has DONE SOMETHING DUMB.  For goodness sakes, people were busting out the “Tuuuuka, Tuuuuka,” when the game was still scoreless. I didn’t think Rask did anything that warranted a goalie taunt last night, but I will admit that in the third period when the score was locked at 2-1, I did feel a strong urge to join in.  “Tuuuuuka, Tuuuuuuka,” seems like a VERY satisfying thing to chant.  Hopefully he’ll have a bad game tomorrow and I’ll be able to taunt him with a clear conscience. 2.  I realize that chanting U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A is really just our way of chanting “We love you Crunchy!” but the Olympics are over, AND BOSTON IS IN THE UNITED STATES.  We need a better, “Yay for Crunchy” cheer.  (May I suggest, “Yay for Crunchy!”)

– Tyler Ennis really is good.  He came close to two highlight reel goals last night.  One of these nights he’s going to score a beauty.

The Bandwagoner’s Guide to the Sabres, Part One: Ryan Miller

The concept of “the bandwagon fan” is very controversial, but I have a fondness in my heart for the new fan.  After all, it was at this time of year that I myself hopped on the Sabres bandwagon.  Every fan has to start somewhere, and often fandom is inspired by the playoffs.  The current Sabres may not feel like a bandwagon-y situation to a longtime fan, but I’m writing this series for the “Katebitses of 2007”; the guy or gal who is suddenly drawn to the Sabres, but doesn’t know where to begin.

Begin here, Bandwagoner!

__________________

Part One: Ryan Miller

The most important thing to know about the Sabres is that our goalie is Ryan Miller.

Here’s the thing about his playing: it’s QUITE nifty.  The more you watch him, the more you’re going to love him.  At his best he exudes a palpable confidence and calm (which is good because his teammates can be a bunch of spazzes).  He’s not exactly flashy, but the dude really gets the job done.  In past seasons by the end of the year he’s looked a little worn out and haggard, but this year he seems to have found a new reserve of energy.  He appears to be pacing himself incredibly well, especially considering his extensive and emotional participation in the Olympics.  AND, if the Olympics are any indication, we can expect him to UP his game as the stakes get higher…which is (singsongvoice) AWEsome.

Now, some people are going to go on and on and on about how he’s a great goaltender (and those people will be right), but the MOST important thing to know about Miller is that he’s fascinating and hiLARious.

Ours, all ours.

When it comes to the Sabres, there is one thing you can ALWAYS count on, and that’s that Ryan Miller will say something interesting the next time he speaks.  Compared to other athletes, he’s much more open about his emotions and thought processes.  He never gives you the old, “We just have to go out there and give a hundred and ten percent,” interviews.  He’s always got something interesting to say, and he’s always got an articulate and often funny way of saying it.  And while he DEFINITELY seems semi-bonkers, it’s in a really fun, easy-to-love, charmingly neurotic way.   For example, when asked how he was going to stay energized for the playoff push after the Olympics, Miller explained that he was going to live very simply, “like an infant child”.   He could’ve just said he was going to get lots of rest, but no, he had to plant the image of himself sitting on the couch in a onesie, living the simple life with a bottle of warm milk on the coffee table.  (Okay, there might be a liiitle bit of creative indulgence on my part in this instance.  I’m just saying, this is the kind of thinking a Ryan Miller interview inspires.)

As a new fan, when picking a favorite player, you should approach the Sabres with extreme caution.  Many of them canNOT be trusted to treat your fandom with loving care.  Roy-Z. Just when you think it’s safe to trust them, they can suddenly become lazy, careless, and TERRIBLE at shooting the puck into the net.  And don’t even get me started on free agency.  When I first started watching the Sabres, I made the terrible mistake of falling for Chris Drury, and I paid DEARLY for this mistake when he trampled on my heart four months later by revealing himself to be a loathsome Ranger.  Don’t let this happen to you, Bandwagon Fan.  Not only is Ryan Miller genuinely and fantastically terrific, he’s under contract for another four years.

Ryan “Crunchy” Miller is the heart of the Sabres, and that is very, very good news for Sabres fans.  To know him is to love him.

Welcome to Sabres fandom, Bandwagoner.

Crunchy Never Fails To Amuse

One thing I like about being a fan of hockey players is getting small slivers of information to chew on.  Sometimes just a little information is better than a lot.

A case in point is this quote from Ryan Miller from the Sabres Edge regarding his participation in the closing ceremonies:

I tried to have fun with the whole Olympic experience and that’s why I went and did it. I kind of planned on doing it from the start if I had the chance. If we played in the game, I wanted to do it. No matter the outcome, I was going to be there.

I had to do drug testing and I had about five minutes to shower and get into that outfit which took a little bit of work because everything was explained on a pamphlet and you tried to do everything right so you didn’t look out of place. It was a fun experience to be part of an Olympic moment not just with my event. It was something bigger where people were celebrating the whole Olympics.

How much do you love the mental image of Crunchy trying to get dressed while consulting a pamphlet?  Personally, I love it quite a bit.

(But there is no way I’m buying that Crunchy went into his wardrobe change unprepared.  I bet he read and re-read the pamphlet for weeks leading up to the big day.  Hell, I bet he had certain parts highlighted and underlined.)


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