Like much of Buffalo, I had hockey on the brain from the second I woke up yesterday. My new commute to work takes me right past HSBC Arena and since I happened to have my camera with me, I had to whip it out and document my first sight of it on this glorious day.
Listen, I was trying to drive on the skyway while taking this, okay? (If you were almost sideswiped by a small blue car driven by a woman with a camera in one hand around 7:30 Friday morning, my apologies.)
Fortunately, my current class keeps me so darn busy that the day went by pretty fast. I picked up my mother-in-law and we met Mark downtown for dinner (Cabaret: I had a fish fry) and then it was off to HSBC. Woooooooo!
Before the anthems they introduced each Sabre and every time the next guy skated out I was convinced he was going to trip over the carpet they had rolled out (see above picture). Some of them came awfully close before dodging around it and Henrik Tallinder actually jumped over it at the last second. I'm not sure if he was going for style points all along or if I just missed seeing my favorite player get a season ending injury in the pregame introductions when he attempted to skate over a carpet, flipped and rolled and broke his arm.
Some thoughts about the game:
- When Montreal scored on their first shot and the replay revealed that the goal was very much the result of crossed signals between Andrej Sekera and a certain Swedish d-man, I groaned. And while I can't remember what exactly happened, there was something that made me say to Mark, "Wow, Toni really CAN'T play without Hank!" But the d-men seemed to settle down pretty well especially since two of the three pairings really didn't play that much together during the preseason. At the point when they showed the Save of the Game on the jumbotron, it wasn't a particularly tough save so the defense must have been doing its job for the most part. (The save of the game at that juncture was really Toni Lydman's. Holy moses.) The power play was definitely in mid-season form - and by that I mean frustrating, annoying and not-at-all effective - but the penalty kill was very good all night which makes this girl a very, very happy girl.
- That's not to say that Ryan Miller wasn't good because he was rock solid in the third period and the OT when we needed him to be. I'm so relieved to see him looking so much more like himself than he did most of last season. When he came coasting out of the crease to meet the shooter head-on during the shootout, Mark and I both said, "He's back." It makes me nervous as heck to see him out that far but I know it means he's feeling confident and on top of things.
- I swear, I thought Thomas Vanek was holding onto the puck so long because he was planning on passing it to someone in worse position than him. The screechy, panicked "SHOOOOOOT!" you heard from the rafters was me. How delightful then to see him pull off the move he made for his goal. I was joking with Kate via text that he had more quality shots in the first period last night than he did in the entire first half of last season but I don't know that it's really that much of a exaggeration. A rejuvenated Miller AND an entire season of good Vanek? Be still my beating heart.
- Tim Connolly, you're fired.
- A few really cool things going on with the jumbotron. Every once in a while the game footage shrinks to the middle of the screen and the rest of the screen is overlaid with various stats - team leaders in shifts, shots, hits, ice-time for the players on the ice, that kind of thing. I think my favorite was when they put up who was on the ice for each team. It's a pretty simple thing but it is easy to lose track and it was especially helpful when we were starting on special teams and forwards and d-men aren't necessarily out with their regular partners. It's also nice when you're not familiar with the opposing team's lines and pairings. I tried to get a picture of it but I was always too slow with my camera. Never fear though! There's nothing I won't do for my loyal readers so I drew a picture.
My only complaint is that I wish they put the two d-men together and the three forwards together instead of putting them in numerical order. I would guess maybe it's some programming thing and it automatically does that but when I'm looking to see who's on the ice, that's how I'm trying to group them in my brain. Definitely some neat stuff going on there though.
- I was really bummed that the first game of the season was going to a shootout but after talking to a few people later I would have to agree that it's nice to get the shootout monkey off the back now. Ryan didn't seem particularly interested in talking about this victory as cathartic and that's fine. I'd definitely prefer that the team focus more on what's ahead than what's behind. But as a fan, whew, that's a relief!
- Really the thing that has me the most excited is that the whole team worked really hard overall. There were way too many games last season where I think they tried to coast on their talent and they learned the hard way that in a league full of talent, talent isn't enough by itself. They gutted out very few close games last season so to see them do that against one of the more talented teams in our conference was definitely a fun thing. If they can combine their undeniable talent with a tough, strong work ethic, it really should be a good season.
- I don't know, guys... Do we have room for Bucky on the bandwagon? (Note to TBN editors: I've read that third sentence numerous times now and I still have no idea what it's supposed to be saying.) When even Bucky can't think of anything to criticize outside of a half-hearted swipe at Maxim Afinogenov, it was a good night.