Saturday, November 24, 2007

Buffalo vs. Montreal... Again and Again and Again

In honor of NaBloPoMO, I'll be attempting to post something every day in November. If you're not checking in every day, make sure you're catching all the posts! Geez, whose idea was this?

- Well, I guess there are worse teams to play 18 times in one month. Montreal was one of my favorite teams to play last season and the games have definitely been fun this season too. It's nice to see some fast, wide open hockey. And it has been kind of entertaining watching these two teams get feisty with each other. Still... I'm ready to see someone else.

- The feature on Thomas Vanek during the first intermission was one of the worst pieces I've ever seen. Kevin Sylvester teased us with "Here's a little about what Thomas Vanek does off the ice" and then we got what felt like 45 seconds of him playing bubble hockey - at the arena! - with Michael Ryan. I suppose technically he was off the ice, but he never even left the building. I learned more about Mike Ryan watching that. Usually these little fluff pieces are pretty good so I was really disappointed. Geez, Vanek seems like a kid though, doesn't he? I always forget just how young he is. When did these guys all get so much younger than me?

- Jocelyn Thibault has been unimpressive in every other start this season, but he looked really good tonight. Strike that - he looked great. He came up with a few big saves in the first period to keep the game scoreless and he stood strong for the rest of the game. He couldn't stop grinning after the game and I love when guys are like that. All his teammates looked really happy for him too, especially Ryan. I admit, I thought Lindy should have started Ryan tonight and saved T-Bone for the Capitals on Monday. Shows what I know!

- Thomas Vanek's goal was a thing of beauty. He got that puck in the net on sheer will. He decided he was going to score and nothing was going to stop him. I know I've said this after the last couple of games, but this is the player you build a team around. He's so much fun to watch right now.

- I knew Henrik Tallinder was hurt the second he took that hit. My Hank senses were tingling like crazy. I was waiting through the entire second intermission for them to tell us he'd re-broken his arm while Mark kept insisting he was fine. (Me: "QUIT SAYING HE'S FINE! I'M TELLING YOU HE'S HURT! HE WILL NOT BE BACK ON THE BENCH TONIGHT!" Mark: "Are you nervous?" Me: "NO!") Dear Sabres, I told you! Adamantium skeleton! Anyway... Kudos to Toni (Tony Tone) Lydman for stepping up in his partner's absence and helping hold the Canadiens to a big fat zero. And hey, how good has our penalty killing been? Holding Montreal to 1/9 over two games is pretty impressive.

- Part of the reason I love Derek Roy: Vanek is getting cheap-shotted behind the net and Derek comes flying in to take care of it. Derek could fit very comfortably in my pocket so he's not going to do much damage, but hey, he was in there swinging away.

- This is totally unrelated, but I've been meaning to mention it for a few days so I'm going to shoe-horn it in here. Last season Mirtle attempted to develop a formula to determine the best defensive defensemen in the league. It's not an easy task and what he came up with is imperfect - it doesn't factor in how good the team goaltending is for one thing - but I thought it was interesting. He narrowed down the list to the top 90 d-men in even-strength ice time and then narrowed that list down again by picking out the top 60 in shorthanded time, the idea being that good defensive d-men will be a big part of their team's penalty kill. Within that group, he looked at three different criterion: rate of goals against at even-strength, rate of goals against at shorthanded, and strength of opposition. Again, it's not a perfect science and I'd argue that part of the reason defensive defensemen (and defensive forwards) are so underrated and underappreciated is because defense is such a hard thing to quantify. There's no stat you can look at and say, "See? That guy's a great defensive player."

A few days ago, Mirtle wrote an entry about the best d-men so far this season, again using his formula. You can follow the link to see the whole list, but the top ten were Anton Volchenkov (OTT), Brian Rafalski (DET), Chris Phillips (OTT), Nicklas Lidstrom (DET), Chris Pronger (ANA), Jan Hejda (COL), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (SJ), Hal Gill (TOR), Michael Rozsival (NYR), and Kimmo Timonen (PHI). Squeaking in at number 11? Henrik Tallinder, BUF. Again... not a perfect science and I recognize that, but I liked seeing Hank up there, especially since he got off to such a rocky start.

"He likes me! Mirtle really likes me!"


Gambler said...

That game last night was awesome. Awesome!

I actually kind of liked the piece on Vanek, just because he and Ryan were cracking me up with their comments while playing bubble hockey. But yeah, I didn't really learn anything about Thomas outside of the fact that he's not above poking fun at himself. ("I should come here to work on my breakaways." Hee!)

His goal was amazing. Sheer will is right.

Sorry about Hank! My dad knew he was hurt right away, too, and I thought of you. Hopefully it's not too bad, but the poor guy is so fragile!

I love how Derek may be tiny, but he's no wimp. For all his whining and diving habits, he never backs down from a big hit or a fight. He's like the chihuahua who thinks he's a great dane!

Heather B. said...

Gambler, I probably would've liked the Vanek piece better if Kevin hadn't teased it with, "Here's Thomas Vanek off the ice!" After that I was expecting to see him around Buffalo, maybe get a glimpse of his fiance or his baby, seen him doing something that wasn't hockey-related, something like that. He and Mike were cute and in addition to the line you mentioned I also liked him breaking down the arrangement of the bubble hockey players with, "I could really use a right-handed shot in the middle."

Yeah, last year when Ottawa's players all turtled and ran during the brawl, Ottawa fans kept saying to me, "Yeah, but those guys aren't fighters. Imagine if Briere or Roy or Afiongenov had been on the ice." First of all, Heatley and Spezza are big dudes, much bigger than Derek and Briere atleast. Second of all, Derek and Max both would have been swinging like crazy. They may have gotten their butts kicked or hurt themselves, but they don't back down.

He's like the chihuahua who thinks he's a great dane!

Yes! He totally is.

Gambler said...

Heh. I remember that line. I also liked "I wish I had another camera angle on that goal," and Ryan saying "There's a lot of money tied up in this game." Atta boy, Mikey. Take him for all he's worth.

Spezza's like the size of three Roys, so there's really no excuse for him wussing out like that. Roy still would have gotten his ass kicked, but he would have gone down swinging at least. I respect that. And I love when Max starts scrapping. You should have heard me egging him on when he joined the Vanek scrum last night. "Fight, Max, fight!"

James Mirtle said...

Tallinder's a very good defensive defender; he'd score right up with the top five or six if the team was doing a little better this season.