Regular readers will remember that a while back, around the beginning of the summer, I placed a ban on the Buffalo News and certain message boards. I just couldn't handle all the manic obsession with the loss of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. People have the right to feel the way they feel but I really felt like it was a situation where people were making it worse by gathering together and pissing and moaning about it endlessly. I got over it relatively quickly and reading that stuff was still totally bringing me down. I also understand that part of the local newspaper's job is holding the team responsible for its actions but I also think there's a point where it's time to move on and focus on the team as it is with the players who are still here.
Well, yesterday I was looking at the stack of newspapers that had been delivered to my classroom and I decided to check out the sports section. I found this gem from Jerry Sullivan:
Hard to believe, but the Sabres play their opening exhibition two weeks from Friday. Something tells me Buffalo fans aren’t close to being ready. To borrow a time-honored players’ cliche, losing Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to free agency hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
It hasn't sunk in yet? It hasn't sunk in yet because you won't leave it alone! Maybe if we didn't have to read all summer that our GM is an idiot who never does anything right, it would sink in. Maybe if we didn't have to read interviews with Briere and Drury's freakin' agents weeks after free agency ended, it would sink in. Maybe if the news wasn't running stupid stories tracking Briere's movements all summer (Briere's house on the market! Briere buys a house in Philly! Briere has Belgian waffles smothered in whipped cream with a slight drizzle of chocolate syrup for breakfast!), it would sink in.
Why is everyone so intent that Sabres fans be depressed and pessimistic? Am I alone in not feeling that way? Because me? I'm excited. I can't wait. I can't wait to see how Afinogenov and Vanek respond to the higher expectations and pressures. I can't wait to see if Miller's confident postseason performance carries over into the regular season. I can't wait to see the young leaders like Paul Gaustad and Derek Roy and Brian Campbell step it up to the next level. I can't wait to see Tim Connolly for a full season after an off-season of hardcore training. I can't wait to see Henrik Tallinder playing, broken arms and sprained ankles completely behind him. I can't wait to see what Drew Stafford does in a full season in the starting line-up. I can't wait for hockey. And if you don't feel the same way, well quite frankly, that's your loss. And that goes double for you, Jerry Sullivan.
Why I Love Hockey #23 - Penalty Kills
I'm a defensive minded girl. Always have been, always will be. I think a diving catch or a throw from the outfield to nail a runner at the plate is more exciting than a homerun. I think a blocked shot or steal is more exciting than a slam dunk. I think an interception or blocked kick is more exciting than a completed pass.
Defensive defensemen and defensive forwards in the NHL are vastly underrated, sometimes even by fans of the team they play for. I think there's a lot of truth in the old adage that a defenseman had a good game if you didn't notice him but that kind of stinks for them. Penalty kills are one of the few times in a game that those guys get the chance to shine and it's one of the few times the crowd audibly appreciates them. I love when Derek Roy swipes the puck from someone and then skates around and around and around with it and I love that when he finally dumps it, the crowd gives him a hearty round of applause. I love when Toni Lydman backhands a puck down the ice and the crowd cheers, especially if the penalty is winding down. I love watching guys like Tallinder and Lydman, each seeming to know what the other is going to do and where he's going to be. I love watching them dash from side to side, follwing the puck. I love that move where they put their sticks flat on the ice and swing them back and forth. I love Miller coming up with that one awesome save that seems to happen in every penalty kill. I love Teppo swooping in to save the day by clearing a puck out of the crease or protecting the net when Miller is down or out of position for the shot. I love the desperation, the frantic pace, the edge of the seat-ness of it all. I love fans appreciating anew players that usually get taken for granted because generally when they do their job well, they don't stand out.