Around 6:58 I decided that since it was the last Sabres game of the season (:::sniff:::) I would do a live blog. The game was kind of boring though - I'm so glad we got to end the season with a trapping team that we've played 18 times in the last week - so it really ended up being meanderings and snippets of conversations that Mark and I had during the game. Just so you've been warned.
The pregame quote is from Thomas Vanek. My feelings about Vanek have been all over the map, but at the very least, I can appreciate him not trying to put a pretty ribbon on the season. He knows he's expected to be the guy who carries the team when it needs it and he knows his struggles are part of why they missed the playoffs. As frustrating as it was to watch him at times, I do respect that and I appreciate the way he's never shied away from criticism. (I also think he'll be just fine.)
Part of the reason I'll never cheer for Boston is all that yellow especially on the goaltender. I hate those yellow pads. Ugh.
Five and Dime (Tallinder and Lydman) are separated! My world is rocked! The defensive pairings are Tallinder-Numminen, Lydman-Weber, Sekera-Spacek. Very interesting. I wonder if Lindy Ruff is considering breaking up Tallinder and Lydman and Sekera and Weber next year or if he just felt like tinkering. I figured he'd just plug Teppo in with Spacek but maybe he wants to get a feel for how someone who will definitely be here next year looks with Spacek since he's going to need a new partner. I'm probably over thinking this though.
Lots of discussion here on Drew Stafford being scratched. Is he not 100% healthy? Does Lindy want to give some of the guys who haven't played some ice time? Is it a reminder that his spot is not guaranteed and that he needs to work hard in the off-season after what has to be considered a disappointing season?
TEPPOOOOOOOO! Doing exactly what Vanek's Hair was talking about in the comments on an earlier post: Gathering up the puck and immediately getting it out of the zone. Nothing flashy just good solid defense.
Chintzy call on Vanek. I thought refs swallowed their whistles at the end of the season? That seemed to be the case in the last few games. I'm a game behind but for the record, I was OUTRAGED that Begin didn't get called for SOMETHING for his hit on Sekera in the Montreal game the other night. I know sometimes you just catch guys in bad spots (though even accidental hits from behind should be penalized) but Begin wrapped an arm around Sekera and slammed him into the boards. I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be illegal.
For once, I think Harry Neale might be right. No defenseman will ever match Bobby Orr's two Art Ross trophies. I know the league was different back then but I can't even wrap my brain around a d-man leading the league in points. If I could go back in time and see any hockey player who I missed, it would be Orr.
Mark's favorite commercial of this season: The Wizard of 'Za who thinks everyone in Middle Earth would make a good roommate. My favorite commercial of the year: Sven, the Scandinavian PDA, who makes sure his charges are on time for kung fu and dressed appropriately for the weather. Runner-up status to the Geico race card kid. "When it comes to Mike Wallace, the story ends with me putting him in the wall."
Mark makes an interesting point. Last off-season the Sabres were kind of caught off-guard. It was pretty obvious that they were expecting Chris Drury to re-sign and were thrown when he didn't. That was all immediately followed by the Vanek offer sheet. The organization suddenly had holes it wasn't planning on having and not a ton of time to cover those holes and they had no idea how various players were going to respond to being in different roles. This time around Darcy and Lindy have had an entire season to watch the team and assess its strengths and weaknesses. Going into draft day and free agency, they'll know what needs addressed and who can be cut loose. Should be an interesting off-season.
Mark: "Let's trade Max and Harry Neale for a third round pick and a new color man."
It's too bad Mike Ryan doesn't have more talent because he's so fast. He's had at least two breakaways but he just doesn't seem to know what to do with the puck once he gets near the net. He's not coming back next year, right? I like his accent but between Spacek and Sekera I think I can make do.
The final dagger of this season: having to play the most boring team in the history of the NHL in the final game. This game has Admiral Ackbar written all over it.
A little shove to Mike Ryan's head slides his helmet up to the top of his head. Cute but his helmet is way too lose for my taste. Tighten that chin-strap, Mike! Wherever you are next year, I want you healthy!
Kevin, Rob, and Robi discuss their pluses and minuses for the season. I'm not a big fan of Robi's - they're too specific for the conversation, I think - but I can't argue with Kevin (plus - Jason Pominville, minus - injuries to Spacek and Connolly) or Rob (plus - Derek Roy, minus - Tallinder and Lydman) no matter how much I might want to. (I'll let you guess which one I desperately want to argue.) I'll save the specifics though because I'm going to touch on some of them during the off-season.
I feel like this game has been going on for days. Days.
Beautiful pass from Yo-Yo, scorched shot from Vanek for a goal. I'm surprised that shot didn't fly through the back of the net. FINALLY. Roy-Z gets the secondary assist and a 12 game point streak.
Great defensive play from a Boston player on a Vanek breakaway. Player X stretched out on the ice and got all puck. Very nice.
MSG flashes a stat showing the players who have scored the most goals since the All-Star break. The top three are Ovechkin, Vanek, and Malkin. Vanek has still been kind of streaky with his goals coming in big bunches but it is nice to be reminded that his production really did amp up in the second half of the season. The two guys around him had awesome second halves and Van was right there with them.
RJ endorses Alexi Kovalev for the Hart. At first I was sure he just screwed up Alexander Ovechkin's name because he was so unhesitating but no, he meant Kovalev. Props to RJ for marching to a different drum. I haven't heard anyone else mention his name and he probably does deserve to at least be in the discussion. The Canadiens are one of the best teams in the league and he's a huge reason why.
Vanek with a PP goal on a very nice tip-in to make it 2-0. Love the Bruin quickly firing the puck down the ice like no one noticed it went in. (I totally didn't see it go in.)
Derek trips bringing the puck up the ice. I missed whether it was a real trip or an exaggerated trip but I feel pretty good saying that last year's Derek would've stopped and looked for a call instead of scrambling across the ice before getting on his feet again, desperate to keep the puck.
Teppo looks pretty good for a guy who hasn't played in the NHL in a year. I think the old man probably does have another year in him. Do the Sabres try to re-sign Teppo for another year? Does Teppo stay in Buffalo after everything that went down this season? Does another team take a chance on a guy who had open heart surgery the previous year? I am all about Teppo sticking around for another season. I'm not sold on Nathan Paetsch in the top six and as much as some of the young'uns have grown this year, I think we do need a veteran in the mix. Why not a veteran the team already knows and loves? I will admit though, if I'm Teppo, no matter how much I love the rest of the team, it might be tough to come back to the Sabres. I understand why the team did what they did but it doesn't mean it wouldn't hurt my feelings if I were in his position.
MSG is showing Caps highlights but I can't hear them over the Muppets video that Mark is inexplicably watching on YouTube. I'm a huge fan of the Muppets and YouTube, I'm just a little confused as to why Mark is watching that particular video right now. (But we do spend the last few minutes of intermission laughing at Muppets videos.)
Kevin, Rob, Harry and Robi make their postseason predictions. In the Western Conference I'm not sure what I think although I'm leaning toward Detroit. (They say Anaheim, San Jose, San Jose, and Minnesota respectively.) In the Eastern Conference I agree with Rob and Harry (Montreal), think Mike is crazy (New Jersey), and will stab myself in the ear with a screwdriver if Kevin is right (New York Rangers).
As the last team standing Robi picks Jersey (still crazy), Kevin picks the Ducks (please, God, no) and Harry and Rob pick San Jose (I'll stab myself in the other ear).
I really like Roberto Luongo (as far as I know) but his Stanley Cup commercial is a little funny since the Canucks didn't even qualify for the playoffs. Also "That's how a Cup changes everything. I guess. I've never gotten out of the first round so I'm going on hearsay."
Harry Neale just said something along the lines of "The Sabres have been the better team for two periods so only one more to go." You know what happened against Ottawa after Harry declared that the Sabres had a stranglehold on the game, right? And what happened after Harry started praising the Sabres halfway through the first period of the Montreal game for keeping the Habs off the scoreboard in the first period? We're doomed.
Holy cow, I think I broke my nose just watching Weber fly into the boards face first. Ouch. Wear a visor, Mike! Please! Oh, geez, that was even worse in slow motion. I can't believe he got up so easily from that.
Awww, Roy-Z gives up the empty netter to give Van the hat-trick and make the final score 3-0. Mark joked that Van should have passed it back. The perfect capper to the season would have been them passing the puck back and forth until they've both missed the chance to take a shot which they've done more than a few times. But I like this ending better. It's not the playoffs but it's a nice moment. And there are even hats on the ice! In Boston!
And... that is all she wrote for the 2007-2008 Buffalo Sabres. Sad. I don't think I believe it yet.