Here's the truth about me, Heather B. As far as rivals go, I really like the Ottawa Senators. I love Dany Heatley, Anton Volchenkov and Mike Fisher and even though I held a grudge for quite a while after his blatant boarding of Henrik Tallinder, I even like Daniel Alfredsson again. Oh, sure there are Senators I hate - Chris Neil for obvious reasons, Jason Spezza for reasons unknown even to me - but I'm pretty okay with most of them. I've also never met a Senators fan I didn't like. Anytime I've seen the Senators play at HSBC their fans have been friendly and good-natured. At the draft we sat next to an Ottawa fan who spent almost all of the first round trying to tell Pookie and Schnookie that Brian Gionta is really good and the Devils aren't all that bad and he refused to give up even though they could not be convinced. In a league that is increasingly defensive, the Sabres and Senators usually still have very offense-driven, wide open games. I think they're fun.
That established, I've been getting a huge kick out of Ottawa continuing their struggles from the second half of last season and I was super excited about them coming to Buffalo while we were playing so much better than them. I hate losing to them. This was... not the game I anticipated.
In some ways I guess it was bound to happen. Once again the Sabres had gotten a little comfortable with playing off and on in the first forty minutes and turning it on in the last twenty and tonight it finally bit them in the ass because they put themselves in a five goal hole instead of a two goal hole. They were just on a road trip that involved traveling across time zones and getting back in town early, early, early yesterday morning. I think they also might have finally hit the wall as far as injuries go. A couple of seasons ago we lost a lot of bodies at one time and adrenaline and energy carried the day for a period of time before missing so many starters finally caught up with them and they started to struggle. The Sabres are currently without three centers and two defensemen which is certainly enough to make a difference most nights. And then ... well... some nights just stink. Over the course of 82 games it happens. There's also the inexplicable fact that Alex Auld is some kind of Sabres killer. Seriously, I feel like we've never, ever beat that guy. Mark and I both groaned when we saw he was starting in net tonight.
But still. Did it have to be Ottawa?
The thing I find the most annoying is that while the Senators certainly outplayed us, they didn't look that good. We set the bar pretty low. Three of their goals came directly off horrible turnovers and while yes, good for them for capitalizing on those turnovers generally we do a better job of not clearing the puck softly in front of our own goalie, Jaro. No hustle, no fight, no passion. Once the score was 5-0 Mark changed the channel which rarely happens in our house. Hopefully this will be a reminder that winning in the NHL requires a sixty minute effort even against teams that are struggling. This was the first real clunker of the season so I'm not going to read too much into things yet.
A few other quick hits:
I think the penalty on Maxim Afinogenov was questionable since he appeared to already be in the wind-up of his shot when the whistle was blown but it's ridiculous that he got a call while Jason Smith got nothing for manhandling him to the ice. I totally understand what Smith was doing but come on. I'm also still not sure why Mike Weber got a penalty for checking the puck carrier.
I know it drives some people crazy when Rob Ray refers to the Sabres as "we" - we need to show more hustle, we're not winning the battles - but it doesn't bother me. I think it's cute. A little unprofessional maybe but cute.
Speaking of Rob, over on Sabres Edge tonight John Vogl mentioned the classic game that was being shown on the jumbotron and around the arena before the game and included a clip. This same game was shown before a Senators game that Mark and I attended last year and while it's a fun game - it features a baby-faced Jay McKee in his very first NHL game - I'm pretty sure it's bad luck. The Ottawa game it showed before last season was the one toward the end of the year where we gave up an 18 goal lead in the last 75 seconds. And then of course it showed before tonight's Ottawa game. I think it's time to retire that particular 1996 game from rotation.
Before we retire it however here's an awesome clip from it. I love Rob, helmet shoved down over his eyes, big grin on his face, high-fiving the goalie as he leaves the ice. And those are some serious punches he's throwing.
I love, love, love the commercial for Roswell (I think - it's some kind of cancer center) with Teppo Numminen. I love that they shoved "TEPPO NUMMINEN" on the front of his jersey even though it goes from one armpit to the other like we wouldn't know who he was if it just said "TEPPO." How many Teppos does Roswell think there are in WNY?
The intermission "interview" with Tom Golisano and Gary Bettman was embarrassing. I realize Bettman was in town for the announcement about the World Junior tournament and that his appearance during the broadcast was a big PR thing but we were basically treated to five minutes of Tom and Gary seeing who could kiss the other's ass more. It was a total waste of time and I actually felt a little bad for Mike Robitaille.
Before tonight the Sabres penalty kill only allowed two power play goals in 34 opportunities. Tonight alone they allowed two more. I'm pretty sure that means the entire Buffalo penalty kill revolves around Henrik Tallinder.