I love, love, love reading good game diaries. The game diaries are what led me to one of my favorite websites, Interchangeable Parts. I've also really enjoyed Gambler's diaries of the Sabres Games to Remember over at Desperation Hockey. And today Kate tried her hand at one at The Willful Caboose (and did a very fine job despite what she might tell you). I've thought off and on about giving it a try but now it's official: All the cool kids are doing it.
Let me set the scene for you. It's February 2007. The Sabres got off to a great start but cooled off some and then started getting hit with a rash of injuries. The team lost six starters in seven games and then lost one of its better call-ups. Chris Drury had his brains scrambled by Chris Neil. Danny Briere was down with the flu. It was trade deadline day so Marty, one of the best locker room guys on the team was on a plane to Philly. The average age of the line-up starting against hated rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs was 12.7 years. Let me emphasize this point: Chris Drury and Daniel Briere were both out of the line-up which surely spells certain doom since the team has no talent, desire, experience or discipline beyond the two of them. What happened? Let's see together, shall we?
FACE-OFF Rick Jeanneret informs us that Danny Briere is out with the flu. Oh, Rick, it's okay. We all know Danny is heart-broken over the loss of roommate and bosom buddy Marty Biron. He's probably back at the hotel right now, all the lights off, curled up in a little ball, listening to How Am I Supposed to Live Without You on his Walkman, while choking back sobs.
19:50 Hank gets the puck off the face-off, carries it into the offensive zone and shoots. It doesn't go it, but it should have! I may as well tell you up front that I intend to document every single thing Hank does in this game.
19:10 Rick and Jim Lorenz tell us what a couple of the lines are tonight. Jochen Hecht is centering Michael Ryan and Jason Pominville and Derek Roy is centering Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford. Jim tells us this Roy line has been together for several games now and has been "terrific." Without Drury or Briere? Inconceivable!
18:55 Buffalo's defense decides it rather likes the challenge of playing in its own zone and allows Steen to get offa pretty good shot that Stafford deflects out of play. No glaring mistakes on our part there but how about clearing that puck, fellas?
18:42 Mair, MacArther, and Kaleta are also a line tonight. Kaleta takes a run at his check. Kaleta hitting someone? How surprising!
18:28 Brian Campbell turns over the puck behind the net and then makes amends by hooking Battaglia to the ice. Go sit in the box, Soupy!
17:31 PK starts shaky. Toronto isn't making much of their shots but they are getting them. With 1:04 left in the penalty Hank decides he's had enough, takes the puck off a Toronto player, and gracefully and handsomely clears it down the ice, even with 2 Leafs hanging on him. I know guys, he really is irresistible, isn't he?
16:58 Toronto regroups quickly but a couple of blocked shots and big saves keeps them off the scoreboard. The crowd is chanting "Go, Leafs, Go" but I know that deep in their saddened hearts they're wishing they could be chanting something with the beautiful cadence of "Let's Go Buff-a-lo!"
16:49 Pominville and Roy bring the puck up the ice. Derek tries to squeeze between two defenders, falls down, and while sliding across the ice, manages to get control of the puck and fire off a fairly dangerous backhand. It doesn't result in a goal but A for effort. He then hustles down the ice, skates up behind the puck-handler, snatches the puck away from him, and clears it down the ice, killing off the last 10 seconds of the penalty. This is the Derek Roy I love watching. Too bad his penalty killing skills are non-existent without Drury beside him. What's that? Drury's not on the PK tonight? Interesting...
16:26 Soupy comes out of the box and Vanek goes in. Vanek and Lindy don't like the call but Vanek did pretty much chop the guy's midsection with his stick. You can't do that, Thomas!
16:12 Kalinin clears the puck. See, Buffalo! Tri's not all bad!
15:48 We take a look at a graphic telling us the stats for Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe. I am, as always, surprised to see that Kaberle has dark hair. For some reason I want to make him a blonde. Every single season I see a picture of him and say, "That's Kaberle? I thought he was blonde!"
15:25 Pominville steals the puck but can't get it up the ice to a streaking Tallinder. Hank was right there, all ready to score a goal too. Way to go, Pommerdoodle!
15:06 I was just about the say Toronto hadn't done much with this powerplay when the PKers decided to play another round of "Let's Keep the Puck in Our Zone." Miller goes down a little too soon but Steen shoots it just low enough that Ryan manages to snag it with an outstretched glove.
14:10 Tonight's Cold FX "Who's Hot for Buffalo?" Jim informs us that it's none other than Hank Tallinder! Jim, that's who I'd pick too! What good taste you have! He reminds us that the previous Saturday against Ottawa, Hank recorded his first two goal game. I totally remember that! Mark complained that he missed a defensive assignment and I said, "Pshaw! He's too busy carrying the offense tonight to worry about defense." Hank was adorable in his postgame interviews that night, sheepishly admonishing us "not to get used to that." I decide to go pull up that interview but the Sabres.com archive doesn't go back that far. Phooey. Oh, well. Here's to you, Hank Tallinder, Cold FX's Hot Sabre!
(I cannot believe how long this is taking. Seriously.)
13:34 Oh, look Andrew Peters is on the ice! He and Gill go at it and they do it without that ridiculous pre-fight dance that Peters likes to do. He actually looks a little bit like an enforcer here. Okay, I take that back. On replay it was really just a lot of pushing and shoving. Go back to the bench, Peters.
12:47 Lydman saves a goal by blocking a shot and then flicking the puck into the corner. The team should let him listen to the speed metal CD of his choice in the locker room tonight because Kaberle had Miller completely out of position and down on the ice.
12:12 MacArthur makes a nice move to get the puck into offensive zone and then makes a drop pass that actually connects with the intended recipient, Vanek. So that's what it looks like when those work! Vanek shoots and then shoves through the defense to get his own rebound. He doesn't score but does draw a penalty. That brief flurry made me feel that maybe, maybe Thomas Vanek will earn his absurd paycheck. He made that second scoring chance happen all on his own.
12:08 I will admit that we do need some of the younger guys to do better in the face-off circle. I'm not sure anyone not named Hecht has won one tonight.
10:42 MacArthur takes a shot that "just went wide." If by "just went wide" you meant "managed to stay in the building" then yes, Rick, I totally agree.
10:24 Stafford and White both go for the puck, totally run into each other, fall over, and hit each other in the face with their sticks. Stafford is called for interference. Curious.
9:29 Ryan makes another great save but it requires him to slide over to one side of the net. Hank sees this, pulls in to cover the other side of the net, puts his stick flat against the ice, stops a shot, and clears the puck into the corner. Whew, that was totally hot.
(When I want to pretend like I know what I'm doing in hockey games during gym class I'll put my stick flat on the floor. It actually works and every time it works, I'm a little surprised. When I want to really pretend I know what I'm doing, I put my stick down and sweep it back and forth. I'm sure it doesn't look quite as impressive as it does when Hank does it with those long arms, but it makes me feel good about myself.)
9:18 Our first close-up of Mats Sundin! Even though there's no one in the room with me I bust out with, "Excuse me, sir! Are you Swedish?" in my very worst French Canadian accent. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, watch this video immediately. And learn how to make a kick save!
7:24 We come back from commercial break to a split screen of Hank and Toni and then we re-watch a couple of their great defensive plays tonight. Awww... Toni + Tally 4EVER!!!!
6:19 Kaleta, Roy, and Ryan - okay, that's quite a crew - work up some good offensive pressure. Roy gets destroyed in front of the net and Rick tells "Lindy Ruff is about to have kittens." Trust me, it's even funnier than you think it is. This was an ongoing theme for Derek last season. His reputation for diving clearly preceded him and he had to absolutely brutalized to draw a penalty. I know he brought it on himself but come on, he's just a tiny little guy. I am pleased to note that Derek just kept playing which he doesn't always do when he feels a call should be coming. More of that, Derek!
5:58 Pominville makes a nice pass to MacArthur who shoots. He misses but Pomminville crashes the net and roofs the rebound to make it 1-0. It's really too bad for Jason that he won't be playing alongside Briere next season. Clearly Danny brings out the best in him. What's that? Briere isn't on his line tonight? Interesting.
3:56 Roy, Vanek, and Stafford get a nice buzz going. Stafford passes up a great opportunity to shoot to make a dumb pass. Are we teaching them that move in Rochester or what? Can we stop?
2:54 Jim takes us back to the Sabres goal and shows us how the break-out started with Dmitri Kalinin beating a Toronto player to the puck and then firing a perfect pass up the ice. See, Buffalo! See?!
1:36 Mancari? Where the heck did he come from?
END OF FIRST PERIOD
It's 4:23 in the morning - what am I doing?! - and it took me forfreakingever to do that one period! Maybe I'll finish the game later, but I'm going to get ahead and post this just in case I never get around to it. Man. This is a lot of work.