Friday, November 16, 2007

Hockey, I Love You But We Need a Break

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!

If for some reason this is your first visit to my little blog, I apologize in advance. This post is particularly long, rambly, and just generally all over the place. I'm usually not like that, I promise.* You've been warned...

This was the scene at Casa B. last night. It's halfway through the first period and the Sabres are once again outplaying an opponent but losing. I'm sitting in the recliner, blanket over my head so I can't see the TV, almost crying in frustration.

Mark (great concern in his voice): Uh... Are you okay?
Heather (muffled): No!
Mark: What's wrong?
Heather: Hockey hurts me!
Mark: I think maybe you and hockey need to take a break.

It was terrible. Even while this was going on part of my brain was saying, "This is pathetic. It's a stupid hockey game. You didn't get this upset about games you actually played in, ya big galoot." But the other part of my brain was completely committed to weeping and gnashing of teeth. How did I get here?

It would almost be easier to watch the Sabres lose like this if they were playing like garbage. But they're not. They're playing hard and they're mostly doing things right. The Senators did not blow us out of the water. If you break the game down minute by minute, I think we actually outplayed them. We controlled a lot of the play and our scoring chances were a much higher quality than theirs. But the Sens did just enough more to win and we did just enough less to lose. Derek Roy's tripping penalty in the last four minutes of the game was a perfect example of Bad Derek. It was in the offensive zone, it was right in front of the ref, and it was totally out of frustration. It was stupid and selfish and I hope Lindy ripped him to shreds after the game. His teammates should have each gotten one punch to the head after the game. He should be in a dunking booth outside HSBC Arena all day today so fans can stop by and take a whack at him. Derek: You talked a big game before the season. You said you were excited about taking on more responsibility, being one of the go-to guys. That means growing up, playing smarter, and being accountable. I don't want to hear, "We did everything right, it just didn't go our way," and I don't want to hear, "I was trying to bank it in off the post and it banked out instead." I want to hear, "I took a stupid penalty at a critical time and it cost my team," and I want to hear, "I missed an empty net and there's no excuse for that. I need to be better." Because dude, you need to be better. And I like you. You should hear what the other guys are saying.

I don't know. I feel bad for all of them because they certainly do seem snake-bit but at some point don't you have to stop blaming losses on a lack of fortunate bounces and start saying, "We're not doing what we should be doing." Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek should not be missing empty nets. Jason Pominville should not be whiffing on shots. Toni Lydman should not be driving to the net harder than almost every forward. I don't think complaints about a return to pre-lockout hockey and suffocating defenses are totally unfounded. I hate watching five players collapse around the goalie. I hate watching sixty minutes of shots from the point bouncing off guys before even getting to the goalie. And for the Sabres organization I'm sure it's disappointing to spend two years building a team around a skilled, wide open game only to have almost every other team focus on ways to shut that kind of game down while the league starts to backslide on officiating. But last night's game wasn't about that. The Sabres were getting pucks down low - an accomplishment against Ottawa's defense - but they weren't cashing in rebounds, they weren't making good shots, and hey, did I mention they were missing wide open nets? They can't blame that on anything or anyone but themselves and it might be kind of nice to hear someone say, "Man, we really screwed ourselves out of that game."

Honestly, I'm beginning to worry just a touch about the team's mental health. They're starting to look and sound really defeated, like they just don't know what else to do with themselves. Hopefully they can focus on the fact that they're mostly playing well and continue to tighten up the little things that need work while not getting too hung up on their record. That's gotta be tough though. I'm extremely frustrated just watching these games. I can't even imagine actually playing in them. Then again, plugging away and working hard is part of being a professional athlete. Things have to start going their way eventually. Right? Please? Can we hire Teppo Numminen to just hang around the room and calm everyone down?

Anyway, I'm thinking about taking a break from tonight's game. I think I'm going to go to the library, finish reading The Three Musketeers, and send my mom a long overdue email. When the library closes I'm going to come home, go back in the bedroom and watch one of the DVDs that have been sitting on our TV for what feels like years (Gracie, Knocked Up, and Veronica Mars, Season One, Disc One). Sabres, I love you, but this is not healthy. You'll have to survive without me for one night. I'm too old to be watching games through my blanket, you know? I'll be back next week for the Ottawa rematch.

*Total lie. I'm almost always long and rambly. Sorry.

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