A couple of posts have already popped up about the Sabres-Wild game I had the pleasure of attending with Kate and really, they've already covered what I wanted to say. But heck, I'm going to say some of it anyway very quickly before heading off to bed for the night.
- Early on Sunday I was feeling a little melancholy for some unknown reason. I had a major case of the blahs and not even the thought of hockey was doing much to cheer me up. But once I got out of my car and started walking toward the arena, my spirits were immediately lifted. Seeing people walking around in Sabres jerseys, slipping in with the crowd filtering into the arena, seeing skaters on the ice... I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. I sat down in my seat and just stared all around, taking in every detail I could. It felt amazing to be in HSBC for real(ish) hockey again.
- Speaking of seats, thanks to the awesome Keller for giving Kate, and in turn me, his fantastic seats for the night. Kate has a picture of our view in her post but we were nineteen rows back right behind the goalie on the end where the Sabres shoot twice. It was a very cool perspective. I've sat in similar seats once before and I love watching guys clear the puck down the ice from that angle. You really get a good feel for just how hard and far they're hitting the puck and just how fast it's moving.
- A lot of people have been really high on Nathan Gerbe - TBN's John Vogl has been practically raving about him - so I was really anxious to see him in action. He's clearly talented and based on what I saw probably should be the first call-up but I don't think he's ready to start in Buffalo. I'm just not sure who he should leap over at this point except for Clarke MacArthur and I think most of us can agree that it would be much better for Gerbe to be playing regular minutes in Portland than sitting in the press box in Buffalo.
That said, I don't think Gerbe will be in Portland long. He definitely looks confident and comfortable and I'm sure he's eager to prove himself.
- Tim Kennedy looked a little more overwhelmed. He was by no means bad but he definitely needs some seasoning in the AHL. It was very cool to get to see his first moments in a Sabres uniform though. The crowd gave him a huge roar of approval every time he had the puck, especially during the shootout. I can't even imagine how awesome that must've been for him.
- Maxim Afinogenov was easily the best Sabre on the ice. Granted a lot of the veteran forwards were out for this game but Max looked really good. There was very, very little of the bad Max - no stupid drop passes, not as much stick handling through the entire crowd, no pulling his line mates offside - and a lot of speedy reasonably smart hockey. It was pretty remarkable. If Max puts together a good season I think the Sabres are really in good shape. I'm sure someone somewhere will complain that he isn't locked up long-term even though we've spent all summer complaining that he's not playing in another city right now but I'll gladly take one more good season out of Max before we part ways. For the record, I'll point out one more time that it's really important that Max play with guys who can skate and think fast.
- Second game in a row where someone in a Buffalo sweater dropped the gloves to defend a teammate. I love it and I hope it continues. Paul Gaustad is usually pretty good about that anyway but I also think this is Craig Rivet's presence in the line-up making an impact.
- Despite the loss, the Sabres looked really good. I have no idea how many of Minnesota's players were NHL level and how many of them were AHL/juniors babies but for the most part, the Sabres really controlled the play and outside of the Jaroslav Spacek's deflection into his own goal I don't remember any glaring mistakes especially on the defensive end which is what's going to make or break this season, I think.
- Henrik Tallinder was fantastic. Amazing. SPECTACULAR even. I'm confident he's going to have a fabulous 2008-2009 season.
- Kate and I really did have a pretty lengthy discussion about Mike Weber's number change. I seem to be in the minority but I really liked him in 34 and I'm not a fan of 4 at all. It's partly because I don't like the way most single digits look on a jersey - 5 is good, 9 is acceptable and that's it - but I realized tonight that it's also partly the font. I'm not a big fan of the number font used on the slug jerseys.
- Hockey is BACK, you guys!