So somewhere in the course of last year's playoffs, I met Kate of the Willful Caboose. After I spent weeks talking her down off the Chris Drury ledge and answering her every email, she appointed me her Sabres Mentor. (No giggling out there, please.) In case you haven't noticed, it's been kind of a rough season for a first-year fan, our personal highlight probably being an all-night IM session that was more or less some variation of "RYAN MILLER IS GOING TO BE A RED WING!" "No he isn't, I promise," over and over and over. So recognizing that Kate was a fan in crisis, I did my mentor-ly duty and went over to her place to watch the Ottawa game last night. After all, no one should be watching the Sabres alone. Well, okay that meant Mark was watching them alone. But he's been a Buffalo sports fan all his life, he can handle it.
Anyway, we did really well. We managed to get through fifty-eight minutes of hockey without getting too high or too low. Even when Ottawa scored the go ahead goal we stayed relatively calm. We were working on a project and kind of distracted by futzing around with our laptops, a microphone, and GarageBand so that probably helped but still, we were healthily engaged in the game. And then Goose, that little punk, had to go and tie up the game and the crushing anxiety and pathetic hope returned. Seriously, these guys can't even go away without some kind of drama. Like every other Sabres fan we figured it was a sure loss but we were sucked in again. I spent the evening bargaining with the Hockey Gods about Daniel Alfredsson (Please just don't let Daniel Alfredsson get the game-winner, Please just don't let Daniel Alfredsson get the game-winner while Hank is on the ice, Please just don't let Daniel Alfredsson get the game-winner while Hank is on the ice looking ridiculous) so I was sure he was going to score and all the Sabres were going to miss and that was going to be it but what do you know? We won. I don't know whether to be pleased that we finally won another shootout or annoyed that we lost nine to begin with. I guess I'm both. Even if they don't make the playoffs (see the hope creeping back in?), it would be nice for them to at least finish the season well. But seriously, five more shootout wins - five points for us, five points away from the teams ahead of us that we lost to - and this season is at least a slightly different story. It's frustrating.
I have to admit to being pretty annoyed with Ryan Miller. I usually appreciate his candor. I really love how open he is with how he's feeling and I enjoy listening to him wind through all the different things he was thinking and expecting on a goal or a good save. But after the game on Tuesday he was pretty bratty to his teammates which would be fine if he had been playing wonderfully himself but he's had a pretty rough month. And if you're going to point fingers at other people you sure as heck better follow it up with the best game you can play and maybe I'm crazy but last night was not it. I say "maybe I'm crazy" because all the postgame guys were saying they thought Ryan played better than he did the previous game but I don't see that at all. I thought he was okay on Tuesday and terrible tonight. He did pull out the victory in the shootout and I suppose the win is all that matters in the end but again, if you're going to call out your teammates, try not to play like garbage. We were joking that someone really quiet and non-confrontational like Toni Lydman needed to make a crack about the bratty goalie playing behind him.
So the Canadiens tonight, huh? I tell myself that Jochen Hecht was out for the last game and that's why the Montreal powerplay destroyed us but I'm a little frightened of them, I have to say. Let's see if we can maybe wait an entire minute before taking a penalty, fellas?
Oh, hey, I forgot. I started up a group for NHL.com's Playoff Fantasy Hockey game if anyone wants to join me. Right now it's just me and Mark (Mark doesn't know yet) so there's plenty of room for everyone and I don't think there's a team limit. I played in a similar game last year and it's pretty fun while also not being a lot of work. Every week during the playoffs you pick a line-up of six forwards, three defensemen, and a goaltender and you earn points based on how well they play that week. The only real strategy is that you can only pick a player three times so if you ride Nicklas Lidstrom for the first three weeks and then the Red Wings end up in the Finals, you won't be able to use him. You do have to sign up for an NHL.com sign-on if you don't have one but it's free and relatively painless. If you're interested, go here. Password is hank.