Sunday, November 30, 2008

Heather and Mark Do Buffalo: The Bills Game

We went to the Bills game today. As the second half started I realized it was suddenly very cold, my jeans and gloves were completely soaked through by the drizzling rain, I hate drunk people especially when they're yelling "CALIFORNIA QUEERS!" and "SAN FRANCISCO FAGS!" over and over and over and over, even I could've done a better job coaching today and I know very little about football in general or the Bills specifically, the TV timeouts are aplenty and interminable, the 49ers are not that good at football, the Bills are evidently every bit as not good at football as the 49ers and football is not the same thing as hockey i.e. it's really slow and really boring.

Save me.

We've been home for five hours now and I still feel chilled right down to my bones. I currently have on two blankets, two comforters and two pairs of socks but it's not working. I'm pretty sure my teeth are chattering.

Only two things salvaged my day.

One, I finally got a chance to wear the kicking hat my mom made me for Christmas last year. Automatic favorite reader status to anyone not named Mark B. who can tell me what the inspiration for the hat is. Here's a better look:

"How's it sit? Pretty cunning, don'tcha think?"

And two, dinner at one of my favorite Buffalo eateries:

Thank God for foot longs and fries.

So yeah. That's a big FAIL on the Bills game. Good thing this is a Sabres blog.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Love the Sabres!

Isn't it crazy how you can be completely exasperated with a sports team one moment (Mark said to me earlier this week, "Hockey is making you very violent") and then just completely overrun with affection for them the next moment? That's how I feel right now. Henrik Tallinder played well again, Maxim Afinogenov had one of his best games of the season, the penalty killing was awesome and game-changing, Derek Roy and Drew Stafford both look like hockey players again and Paul Gaustad, dear sweet Goose, had two goals, earning a solid 20 cents from Grandpa Goose. Nice. The Sabres played hard tonight - two games in a row - including in the third period! I almost don't know what to make of it all. A few quick thoughts before I head to bed:

- I have no stories about Milt Ellis and Dave Andreychuk because they were both before my time (I do remember Andreychuk in his last stint with Buffalo but I don't know if that really counts) but I've always thought it's really, really cool that Sabres Hall of Fame inductees get a freakin' SWORD! Think they'll ever give a blogger one of those? Because I really want one.

- Nice glasses, Darcy.

- Very rarely do I complain about officiating. I generally think that calls even out over the course of a season if not over the course of a game. Some things get missed, no big deal. Good teams kill off the penalties and seize their opportunities to score when they get them. But tonight the officiating was abysmal with the primary problem being the inconsistency. When I'm frustrated because I can't tell what's going to get a call and what isn't, I imagine the players have to be feeling the same way. I'm pretty happy that the Sabres were able to put aside any frustration about calls/no calls and focus on the game. They should be able to do that but focus hasn't been their strong point so far, eh?

- I'm afraid Patrick Kaleta is developing a reputation. Even if you put aside tonight's poor officiating, he's been on the rough end of more than a few calls the last few games. I'm not sure what do with that. The way he plays right now, he's not going to be nearly as effective if he's gaining more penalties than he's drawing. I'm also really tired of the TV broadcast showing us HUGE HITS than consist of him hitting 90% boards and glass and 10% player. I get that he brings a physicality to the ice that very few Sabres do and I know he has opponents looking over their shoulder at him but I don't know, my personal jury is still out on him, I think.

- Wow, it sure is nice to win a game - two in a row now! - that Thomas Vanek didn't score a goal in. I was afraid we were going to have to live and die with him all season. Nice to know someone else might step up and put it in the net when Vanek cools off for stretches. (Short ones, Thomas! I am NOT giving you permission to stop scoring goals.)

- John Curry played well tonight. I don't know enough about goaltending to comment on technique and stuff like that but he kept the puck out of the net a lot and that's what counts, right? If I'd voted, he would've been one of the three stars tonight. He and Sidney Crosby kept the Penguins in the game.

- Sidney Crosby is really good at hockey. I know, this is in the amazing insight that keeps you coming back here. Both of his goals were pretty impressive though. I love when guys knock the puck out of the air and he absolutely blew Ryan Miller away on his second goal. As much as I usually like Sid however, I did enjoy his stick slamming snit fit. In fairness to him, it was a very quick whistle and I'm sure he was frustrated at the missed opportunity. That said, hey, screw you, Sid. Ha!

- Back in 2006-2007, I joked that the Sabres started spiraling when one of them caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and pointed out to the team how ugly they looked in their jerseys now. But you know, we're 2-0 now in the new third. Makes you think. Even hockey boys need to look good. I'm still not a fan of the silver piping - it's not the color so much as the style of the piping not meshing well with the simple, classic striping on the sleeves and waists - but it's unquestionably better looking than the slug. In case I haven't made myself clear, I'll be very, very happy when the slug moves into oblivion. The ugly piping is keeping me from rushing out and ordering a new jersey right this very second but when the time comes to replace my current vintage, I'll gladly wear one of these.

- Overall a good win for the Sabres. I'll gladly take it.

Wow, when did it get to be 2:57 in the morning? Hope this post makes sense.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Short and sweet Thanksgiving post.

I'm thankful to see these guys playing well again.

Hank and Roy-Z are two of my favorite players so seeing them finally play some good hockey was such a relief. The first goal was Hank to Stafford to Roy-Z and never have three guys needed a play like that more.

I'm also thankful to see a TBN columnist finally write a cranky column about the Sabres. Jerry Sullivan has a good point buried somewhere in that nonsense, I think, but he lost me the second he said the kids rode Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to the ECFs. Eff that. Yes, the kids are entitled and sometimes lazy. But they were entitled and sometimes lazy in 2006-2007 when The World's Greatest Hockey Players According To The Buffalo Media were sharing the C too. 23 and 48 were part of that particular legacy.

I'm not thankful for those Favorite Holiday Memory Car Commercials. The idea is cute and the big wheel one in particular brings back some memories. (My best friend Joel and I used to ride his big wheels down his driveway, through his backyard, through the backyard that joined his, down the hill of that house's front yard, across the street and into my front yard. Considering how fast we were moving by the time we crossed my street and considering that we crossed the street at the crest of a hill that a car couldn't see over top of, I'm surprised we're both still alive.) That said, I'm just not into the idea of leasing a car as a Christmas present. "Merry Christmas, sweetheart! Here's a pile of debt we probably didn't need!"

Before I head out, here's a heart-warming Thanksgiving story. (Adult language ahead.) The first year at my current job, we showed the kids A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. For those of you who haven't seen it in a while, the plot involves Peppermint Patty inviting herself and a couple of friends over to Charlie Brown's for Thanksgiving over Charlie Brown's mild protests that he had to be at his grandmother's house. He and Linus come up with the idea of having a pre-Thanksgiving meal for all the kids and for some reason, put Snoopy in charge of the meal. (Note to all parents and parents-to-be: Letting a bunch of kids and a dog work 50 toasters and the stove top by themselves is a CPS call waiting to happen.) Everyone sits down at the (ping-pong) table and Snoopy serves up the meal: toast, popcorn, jellybeans, pretzel sticks and some kind of ice-cream sundae. Peppermint Patty takes offense, demanding turkey and stuffing.

At this point, Dom*, 12, got a little upset. Dom was a tough-talking little guy who basically wandered the streets without supervision when he wasn't at school and he had a mouth on him unlike I've heard on very many kids since then. I loved him though. Five years later he's one of the kids I still think about and wonder about the most. Anyway, he doesn't like Peppermint Patty's attitude and lets us all know. "Oh, no, oh, no. That stupid, fucking bitch invites herself over to Charlie Brown's house and now she's gonna complain about the shit they feed her? I don't think so. Snoopy oughta bite that bitch right on the leg and then Charlie Brown should kick her whiny, complaining ass. You a bitch, Peppermint Patty! A bitch!" To which Matt adds, "Yeah! I'd love to have popcorn for Thanksgiving!" I died. I had to get on to Dom about his language but I was laughing while I did it because he was right and it was funny.

So happy Thanksgiving! Try not to be a whiny, complaining ass.

* - Kids' names have been changed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things I Like

Well, for once November's wretched schedule is working in my favor. Immediately after Saturday night's game I was trying desperately to think of plans I could make for Wednesday night so I wouldn't have to sit through another second of Sabres hockey. But now it's been so long that I'm actually looking forward to another game. Kind of.

Listen, it's all been whining and moaning and pessimism and woe-is-me around here lately. Today we're going to try something different. It's a holiday weekend and I do still like hockey and the Sabres. No, I'm pretty sure I do!

I like how sincere Jason Pominville is. When Derek Roy talks about sticking to The System, he's just saying words. I think Pommers actually believes if they just stick to The System, everything will be fine.

I like how Danny Paille plays really hard and always finds ways to contribute even when he's not on the score sheet.

I like that Lindy Ruff said on the radio that his favorite part of Thanksgiving is the mashed potatoes and gravy, even above the turkey. That's my kind of man.

I also like that, no matter how bad things get, we always have Lindy's sense of humor even when it's a little more grumpy and pointed.

As annoying as it can sometimes be when we hang on to a guy too long, I do like that the Sabres tend to show some loyalty to players, especially ones they drafted and developed.

I like that Thomas Vanek seems to have found a level of comfort with being the go-to guy on the team. I like seeing him with some confidence. I like seeing him get a little attention from people outside of Buffalo.

I like seeing Teppo Numminen on the ice. He may be old and he may have slowed down a step and we can debate whether he should have been re-signed another day. For now I just want to appreciate what a miracle it is that he's playing at all. I like seeing him out there with all the youngsters.

I like that Henrik Tallinder, unlike some people, seemed really upset about being scratched and I hope it means he really buckles down.

I like that Craig Rivet, a reluctant transplant, seems to have fallen in love with Buffalo a little.

I like how steady Jochen Hecht is. He just shows up every night and goes about his business, never getting too high or too low.

I like how hilariously, sincerely blunt Jaroslav Spacek is. I like that he always says what's on his mind and I like that if the team stinks, he'll usually say, "We stink." Only he'll say it faster and funnier.

I like that it's a long season which means there's plenty of time for the Sabres to right the ship. There's a lot of hockey left to be played.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Good Old-Fashioned Rambling

I admit, once it became clear that Bucky Gleason was going to be somewhat rational this season, I quit reading him. That was SO not what I read him for and the change in attitude had really made him a lot less entertaining. So when someone emailed me today and said, "I wonder what you think of Bucky's column today?" I kind of thought, "Hunh. He's still writing those, huh?" But I flounced off to read it and it was kind of interesting.

First I feel like I need to say a word about Maxim Afinogenov. I don't love Max like a fan loves a favorite player. He was never at the top of the pile for me and I'm not overly attached. But I feel the same way about him that I felt about Dmitri Kalinin last season: He's a scapegoat and Lindy Ruff has no idea how to handle him. Max is never going to produce in a defensive system. He's just not. That's not who he is. You do what you did with Daniel Briere and put him on a line with two players who are more responsible than him and you let them compensate for his deficiencies. Accept that he's going to make some mistakes and do what you can to minimize them while also putting him in a situation where his strengths can flourish. His strengths are not going to flourish on a line with Adam Mair, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta and Andrew Peters. Putting him with those guys and then getting upset when he doesn't produce is akin to pulling Kalinin from Nolan Pratt, his established partner, after the trade deadline and bumping him up to tougher competition and expecting him to keep it together. It's absolutely ridiculous.

Max is Max is Max. As someone who loves and appreciates good defensive play he gives me a headache. But he's getting a bad rap. Max signed his current extension after the 2005-2006 season. He immediately went out and had a point plus per game season. He was well on his way to career bests before he got injured and actually came pretty close to his career high in points anyway. Last season he struggled but again, he was injured much of the season and it was an injury (groin) that's tough on a guy whose entire game rests on his skating and speed. It was last season that he also started playing with garbage linemates. Goose and Mair and those guys have their strengths but corraling Max is not one of them. He's been misused and when he plays for a coach who knows how to deal with him and linemates who can keep up with him, I think he'll go right back to being productive on the offensive side. Scratching him was the right choice - again, if you're not going to even try to put him with talented players why play him? - but it was also the easy choice. I'm not giving Lindy credit for that one. Scratching Derek Roy? That would've been a message-sender.

Before this season I was a proponent of keeping Max. We're obviously not going to get much for him since the Sabres couldn't dump him in the off-season, may as well keep him and hope he has a bounce back season while he's still here. But now I'm fully with Bucky. If you're not even going to ty to use him well, get rid of him and get whatever you can, even if it's a terribly low draft pick.

I agree with Bucky's overall premise actually. This isn't working. It's not. I don't know what the problem is but it's not working. Like Vanek's Hair said in the comments of the last post, "Get new players or get a new system." The system probably isn't changing as long as Lindy is coaching and as long as most of the league is playing a defensive system so it's the players who are going to have to change. Move Max, move Timmy, move another starter (yes, I noticed that Bucky mentioned Hank as no longer being untouchable and yes, I think he is an option - a heart-breaking and devastating option but an option nonetheless) and start bringing the Portland kids up. Start seeing how they're going to mesh with the guys already here, start figuring out lines and pairings and all that fun stuff. Let them get experience at the NHL level. Maybe it pays off next year and the next and hey, maybe if we're really lucky it makes a difference this year. It wasn't that long ago that a bunch of boys from Rochester came in and added just the right amount of youthful energy and talent to the veterans already in place. Remember those guys?

Where Bucky loses me a little is when he brings up Jay Bouwmeester. Dude, come on. We're not getting Jay Bouwmeester for our rejects, even if we package them together. All the players Bucky mentions are projects, players who are big maybes. MAYBE Max starts to flourish again under a new coach and system (like I said, I think he will), MAYBE Timmy quits shedding body parts (HA HA). Even if you throw in Hank, MABYE he returns to 2005-2006 form. You're not getting a difference maker for that pile of players even if that difference maker is a UFA who's made it clear he's not returning to his current team. Florida has to get better offers for Bouwmeester than that, don't they?

I think the more likely way to make room on the roster as far as Max and Timmy are concerned is waivers. Put them out of their miseries, spare us from having to listen to discussion about them for the rest of the season, leave Mark Mancari here and bring up Tim Kennedy. There, all done. Or just dump them for whatever picks you can get. Darcy Regier and Co. have certainly spun gold out of low draft picks before.

If you want to trade someone who might still have some value, trade Drew Stafford but please do it quickly before the other GMs figure out he sucks out loud. I never warmed up to him personally - Kate and I were discussing his Pralien interview during the "You Asked For It" segment of a recent Sabres Show and while, yes, I get that it was a joke I hate that whole ironic hipster thing. I prefer my athletes personable and sincere - like Patrick Lalime listening to Maria read the question from Carol in Lockport and then turning toward the camera, smiling and saying, "Well, Carol..." like he was actually talking to Carol. That was pretty cute. Where was I? Oh, right, Drew Stafford. He's still young, pretty talented, loads of potential but maybe not quite as untouchable now that some of the Portland guys are producing the way they are. He might actually get a little something in return.

For the record, here's my breakdown:

Jason Pominville (one of the few players that seems comfortable in the current defense-is-as-important-as-offense system)
Jochen Hecht (ditto)
Ryan Miller (I'm down on Ryan right now but unless you can come up with a valid idea for getting a comparable or better goalie, he's ours)
Derek Roy (he sucks but I think he'll come out of it and we're not replacing his production at his salary)
Thomas Vanek (I'm pretty sure he's the only Sabre with a goal)

Everybody else (back and forth on Danny Paille though)

Henrik Tallinder (obviously)

Thoughts? What do the Sabres need to do? Agree that the line-up needs a shake-up? More benchings or should we lose some players? Who are your untouchables? Do you think Ken Holland will take Timmy, Max, Al and Staffy for Nicklas Lidstrom? I mean, they are getting WAY more players than us in that deal.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

No Words

I have no words.

(Record without Hank? 0-2. Just sayin')


What?! Hank is scratched AGAIN?! But we LOST! It didn't work! Scratching Hank didn't make it better! We still got zero points!

I had a wonderfully thoughtful and inspiring post planned for today but unfortunately for you, I'm too busy pouting to write it now. I was resigned to watching one Hank-less game in person this weekend. I was NOT planning on watching two.

I'm feeling (and looking) a little unhinged.


Nothing good comes of scratching Henrik Tallinder. You brought this on yourself, Lindy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hockey-Filled Weekend! Yay?

I left a comment on the last post but I got nothing really new for now. I fell asleep literally while blogging last night. Guess you shouldn't blog curled up in blankets on the couch. For now I'll just say that obviously I love the Sabres. Even though I hate them. I'll still be at HSBC twice this weekend. And I still love Hank even though I'm also exasperated with him. Even if he's a scratch I'll be sitting in my seat in my Tallinder jersey. That's just the way it goes.

That said, if I have to watch two games like the Boston game in two nights, I'm dropping a body slam from the 300s on some poor unsuspecting Sabres. Any requests?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Sabres Are Douchebags

Seriously. The Sabres are douchebags. And idiots. And jerks. Listen, you little bastards suckered me into thinking you were a talented young team last year. "No, no," I said when people insulted you and wanted to trade you and wanted to blow up the roster. "They're good, really. They're just adjusting. They're babies, they need time." I defended your sorry asses for an entire season. Well, no more! You are clearly a talented team. You are clearly capable of playing both offense AND defense. You are clearly capable of playing with the best teams in the Eastern Conference. You are also clearly petulant, immature little brats who insist on playing your way even when it means losing and losing horribly. I don't understand. Do you like losing? Do you dislike winning? Do you enjoy the overwhelming feeling of underachievement? Were you unhappy at the beginning of the season when you were all playing well and everyone loved you? If I were a Thrashers fan at least I could look at the roster and say, "They suck. Of course they suck. It's Ilya Kovalchuk and a bunch of other guys. They suck because they should suck." You guys should not suck. You are sucking by choice. You sucking by choice really sucks. It makes me want to kick all your teeth in and then collect all those teeth and stomp on them over and over until all I have is a pile of little tiny white slivers. Please spare me the "We're not playing terrible, it's just all going wrong right now," quotes. Do you know why it's all going wrong? BECAUSE YOU ARE PLAYING TERRIBLY! THAT'S RIGHT! TERRIBLY NOT TERRIBLE! TERRIBLE IS A FREAKIN' ADJECTIVE BUT SINCE YOU'RE (INACCURATELY) DESCRIBING THE WAY YOU'RE PLAYING THAN YOU NEED A FRIGGIN' ADVERB! I will keep watching you guys because by some cruel twist of fate I married someone from Buffalo and not Detroit so that's what I do but I am not happy. Not at all. You're a bunch of losers and I hate everyone not on Jochen Hecht's line tonight. (You guys can keep your teeth. For now.)

(Also on the STFU list tonight is John Vogl. Can you please quit complaining about having to write the blog ON THE BLOG? You're complaining to the audience that the blog is intended for. That's uncouth and also more than a little annoying. You hate the blog. We get it. I hate eating lunch with my kids every day. I feel like there's plenty of staff floating around who could eat with them while I get twenty minutes to myself. But I don't sit around at the table complaining to the kids, "Sure would be nice if I didn't have to eat with you little brats EVERY SINGLE DAY!" If you hate it so much that you can't quit griping about it, take it up with your boss. And don't tell me it's too much work to write a game story, a notebook and a blog. Someone else on your staff manages to do all three even when on the road alone. You're getting paid to watch and write about a friggin' hockey game. Boo-effin-hoo.)

I just... I don't even know what the problem is anymore. I know we've joked about the system but for whatever reason these yahoos are just not buying into it. They talk about it incessantly but they're not executing. I think they can so the only real conclusion I can draw is that they don't want to. If the system is the whole team playing good two-way hockey with an emphasis on defense, I think that's a good thing. It won Detroit a Stanley Cup last season and I think it's really the only way to win a championship. But the reason it worked for Detroit is because they had skilled guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg who bought into it and worked hard at it. So if the Sabres aren't going to do that then what do you change? The system? The players? The coach? This is how bad this team is screwing with my head. I'm actually contemplating whether they need a new coach when I love Lindy Ruff WAY more than most of them. Do you change the system to fit the players and hope it can be successful? Or do you change some of the players?

I even hate Hank right now. I'm in a bad way, people. Very bad.

Not Much To Say

- Boston again? Really? Aren't we done with them yet? I missed one of the games against them and I still feel like we've played them twice as much as last season. We're done with them after this game, right? Please?

- I'm so glad to hear Lindy Ruff just straight-up call out Derek Roy. There's an interview with him on Sabres TV right now where someone asks about Thomas Vanek being moved from his line and Lindy said, "Derek has three even strength points. His game needs to be better." Hallelujah and amen!

- It's time to put Tim Connolly down. When the team is throwing in fancy words to make an injury sound extra-special, it's time. (For some reason it cracks me up that the PR guy text-messages statements to the press.)

- I know everyone is clamoring to see Nathan Gerbe and I know Tim Kennedy is the center but the Portland guy I'm the most interested in seeing is Mark Mancari. For some reason I got it in my head that he was one of those guys who wasn't going to ever stick at the NHL level so I'm a little intrigued by his production so far. He's a pretty big guy too which we need. (For the record, at first I accidentally typed "he's a big pretty guy.")

-Interesting list of some of the local charities various Sabres players are involved with at They're all worthy causes, of course, but I have a little bit of a soft spot for Patrick Kaleta's involvement with Cradle Beach Camp. A lot of my kids go to Cradle Beach and it's a really wonderful place with lots of different programs for kids who might not otherwise be able to go to camp whether it be for behavioral reasons or because of various disabilities or because of financial need. I know kids who look forward to their week there all year. They also have all kinds of really cool stuff all year round to help families with special needs kids. If you're ever looking for anywhere to donate time or money, I cannot say enough good things about them.

Annnnd that's all I got. More tonight.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

And You Thought Election Season Was Over

So one of my favorite blogs, First Time Caller, Long Time Listener, has been doing a Buffalo Media showdown for the last couple of weeks. They started with a bracket of 16 of Buffalo's sports media personalities - newspaper writers, radio personalities, TV talking heads - and are slowly moving toward crowning their official blog media personality. Readers cast their votes via a poll, leaving a comment in support of their candidate if they so desire and the winner lives to fight another day. So far Dennis Williams, Stu Boyer, John Vogl, Mike Schopp, Bulldog, Paul Hamilton, Jerry Sullivan, Jeremy White, Ed Kilgore, Howard Simon, Jeff Russo and Bucky Gleason have all been cast aside. Still standing are Nick Mendola and Mike Harrington in one bracket, John Murphy and Brad Riter in the other bracket.

I've been meaning to plug this since it started because it's been pretty entertaining so far and some of the comments on the polls have been fun to read. It hasn't taken long to suss out that certain bloggers/readers have their favorites and I guess my pick must be pretty obvious because Tedd, one of the proprietors of FTLT, emailed me this weekend to ask me if I would write a little campaign speech for the Buffalo News' Mike Harrington. Mike is up against Nick Mendola and it seems that Tedd and Nick have been friends for a few years and Tedd was having a hard time writing an objective post. Evidently he's not aware that bloggers are in no way required to be objective. Either that or he's just a nice guy who's trying to be fair.

Either way, it was kind of fun since while I would definitely call myself a Mike Harrington fan I hadn't ever really thought about why. If you're interested - and I don't know why you wouldn't be - you can find that post at FTLT at some point today. I can't link you there directly because it hasn't been posted as of this writing Sunday night but come on, I think you can handle some of these things yourself.

I'm sure Tedd will write an interesting, funny intro for Nick Mendola because that's what he does. But if you're smart, love blogs and want to remain my friend, you'll vote for Harrington.

(Just kidding.)

My name is Mike Harrington and I've approved this message.*

* - Not entirely true.

It's 2:57 a.m. and I Can't Think of a Title

This was a weird game. The Sabres weren't terrible - at least not for the whole game although they did pack a whole lot of terrible into those last few minutes - but they weren't great either. I can't really come up with one overriding theme here so I'm just gonna hit you with some random thoughts.

- It turns out I really don't like this Penguins team. I'm not sure when that happened but man, what a bunch of little brats. Definitely still talented though. I could watch Evgeni Malkin all night every night.

- I can't even tell you how furious I was that Sideny Crosby didn't get a penalty for shooting the puck at Ryan Miller after the whistle. I'll give him a pass on tapping the puck into the net after the play was stopped, especially since that was a pretty quick whistle, but shooting it right at the goalie? Gimme a break. Maxim Afinogenov got penalized for that a few games back and he could at least argue that he was already in the motion of shooting when the whistle blew. Crosby could not make that argument. I complained about the no-call there for the rest of the game. BS.

- Rick Jeanneret flipping out on the goal horn guy for blowing the horn on that shot that was clearly not a goal was very entertaining. Man, he was completely fired up about that. Of all the things in this game to get upset about you take that one?
Settle down there, Rick, it's really not that big of a deal.

- Is it really THAT hard to stay focused for 60 minutes? Really? Actually, not even that long. 23:37 was the most time any Sabre player spent on the ice. You can't concentrate on playing solid two-way hockey for that long or less? I realize that it's pretty easy for me to say this while sitting on my couch but I really feel that fully concentrating on the task at hand for 20 minutes a night, three nights a week is not asking too much. I would love to get through my day having to only really work for 20 minutes.

- I'm not always a fan of Lindy Ruff's line shuffling but I loved Thomas Vanek being moved from the Derek Roy line. I was not entirely sure how it was going to work but I was just very relieved to see him playing with someone else. In my mind's eye Vanek stormed into Lindy's office last night and declared, "I'm not playing with that punk ass bitch one more night!" I'm sure that's how it went down. And you know what? That line looked pretty good, I think. Jochen Hecht is obviously not the skilled center that Roy can be when he so chooses but he's a no-nonsense hard worker. Right now that's a lot more productive than Roy. It also helps that Jochen is finally starting to look a little more comfortable after coming back from his injury.

- Do not even tell me the Sabres were tired after playing back-to-back nights because I'm certainly not counting Friday night's game as having played. Standing around while guys who play for a team that barely exists skate around you is not the same thing as playing hockey.

- This bipolar thing the Sabres have going on is going to drive me crazy. When they're good they're very, very good, but when they're bad they're horrid.

Thank goodness I get Sunday off from listening to Mark complain about the Bills falling apart. I don't think I could handle that after these last two games.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Right Now

I want to key all the Sabres' cars right now.


I just want everyone to know that every time someone sent me a link of Hank's goal/goal celebration, here or via email, I sat down and watched it at least three times - even Vanek's Hair's link (it's funny cuz it's true). I had the WORST day at work - if the day had been one hour longer I probably would've walked right out of the classroom and never looked back - and as stupid as it may sound, coming home to all those clips made me so happy. Hey, sometimes it's the little things. I've managed to work myself into such a better mood that I really don't want to dwell on last night's game. Outside of the initial barrage of shots/goals and Hank's goal, I thought things were pretty sloppy. Also, I am outraged that Andrew Peters got the pigeon.

In case you've somehow escaped it, here's the best video I watched of Hank's antics. (Thanks to the Tick for putting it together for me! If you go through to You Tube you can watch a higher quality version of it.) It really is adorably dorky. I love how everyone else is always particularly excited when someone who doesn't score a lot of goals comes up with one. I can't tell for sure who's patting Hank on the head on the bench (I think Jaroslav Spacek) but it's awesome. Hey, did you realize this was the game-winning goal?

A few quick words about Jay McKee:

For all the crap Darcy Regier took about letting Jay McKee go, I really think that move, maybe more than any other in recent years, shows what a very good GM Darcy is. He recognized that Jay was being overrated and overpaid by other teams and instead of jumping into the fray in an effort to appease fans and media, he put sentiment aside and let Jay walk. Sentiment and affection are great for fans but GMs - especially ones who have to count every single penny - can't think like that. Is there really any doubt that St. Louis has not gotten what they've paid for out of Jay?

That said, I do wonder what would have had happened had Jay stayed here. I really do believe that some athletes are just made to play in certain cities for certain fans with certain coaches and teammates and I really do believe that Jay's place was in Buffalo. He was Buffalo: not beautifully skilled but tough, hard-working and mostly lovable. Reading some of the articles leading up to the game about how unhappy the St. Louis organization and fans are with Jay really made me sad. I certainly understand where they're coming from - he was pretty terrible last night - but it still bums me out. We loved him. If he had taken less money and stayed in Buffalo I think we would have gone right on loving him even if he'd missed the same number of games and even if he'd suffered the same drop-off in play because we had such a history with him. We saw him fight night in and night out, season after season, for us and for our team in a way that St. Louis never did. Even if his body started to fall apart while he was wearing a Sabres uniform, we would have understood that it was falling apart partly because of the way he played in that Sabres uniform. On an emotional level, I don't miss Chris Drury or Daniel Briere. I definitely appreciated them as hockey players but I never felt that connection with them and when all is said and done, the amount of time they spent in Buffalo will be a blip in their careers. But I desperately miss Jay because he was one of us and I really feel like he should have finished his career as one of us. And while he's probably perfectly fine, I wonder sometimes if he doesn't look back and feel the same way.

Crap. Now I'm depressed again.

Let's enter this hockey weekend with a bit of happy non-hockey news. (I know it doesn't make sense. Just go with it. I'm trying to change the mood!) Wanna see what I'm getting for Christmas/my birthday/pretty much every other holiday for the next year?

That's Marlowe, my two week old St. Bernard.

Here's her mom, Diva (on the left) and dad, Willie (on the right). She'll be a rough coat (long-haired) like her Pop.

Click to enlarge.

Due to vacation in December I won't be picking her up until after Christmas but I'm awfully excited already. Pretty cute, right?

Okay, good. Now I feel better. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Best Worst Game Ever!

HENRIK TALLINDER SCORED THE GAME-WINNING GOAL (and an assist) AND WAS THE FIRST STAR! Everything else about this stink bomb of a win is just details.

Go Hank, go Hank, go, go, go Hank!

Hank is now on pace for 5.46 goals this season! He's a scoring machine!

(If MSG showed good footage of Hank's little "I just scored a freakin' GOAL!" dance and someone happens to have that footage and some way to get it on the internet well, that person would be my very best friend. Just putting that out there.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Hate The System and Other Complaints

A number of bloggers have recently written about how much they hate The System. I am fine with The System. If The System wins hockey games - and clearly it does - I say sign The System to a long-term contract pronto. I am all about responsible defensive hockey. I like offense in the sense that it's hard to win without at least a little bit of it, but I'm perfectly happy to watch solid defense and it doesn't even have to preclude offense.

What I am tired of - and what I suspect most people are tired of - is The System being used as an excuse after every loss. "We didn't stick to the system. We need to stick to the system." This bothers me for two reasons. One, if sticking to The System works maybe you should all consider... sticking to the system. You know, EVERY GAME. Watching you play painfully disorganized hockey and then say, "Huh. Guess we should have stuck to The System," is tedious at best and homicide-inducing at worst. Two, blaming The System has turned into a very convenient way to avoid taking any personal responsibility. I guess technically when Jason Pominville says, "We didn't stick to The System," he is saying, "We didn't play very well," but just once I'd like him to just SAY, "We didn't play very well." When is the last time time someone not named Ryan Miller came right out and said, "I was garbage." It's been a while.

That brings me to Derek Roy. Many, many people love to hate Derek Roy and for totally understandable reasons. He's a whining, diving punk who has a smirk on his face 98% of the time. I, however, have never held any hate in my heart for Derek. I love him, I have always loved him, and I have never failed to defend him. Ask Kate or Pookie and Schnookie all of whom have had to listen to me pontificate about Derek Roy and how underneath all that little person swagger is a really, really good hockey player. As I've over and over and over, "Ah, I love that little bastard."

If I ran into Derek Roy on the street tomorrow I'd punch him in the nose. He is driving me INSANE. I don't know what has happened to my Roy-Z Tolerance but it's completely gone. Everything about him right now makes me feel homicidal. The tripping all over the ice in desperation to get a call is killing me. The lolly-gagging around the ice is killing me. The nonchalant, "I think I'm playing pretty good I'm just not scoring," is killing me. (An email to friends after that quote: I wanted to punch Roy-Z square in the nose when I read a quote from him this morning saying something along the lines of, "I think I've been playing well, I just haven't been scoring goals." Dude, you're blowing chunks out there. You're hurting hockey. You're making hockey cry in agony. Just fess up.) The stupid penalty in friggin' OVERTIME is killing me. The whining about the call afterwards and the hinting that the opposing player took a dive IS KILLING ME. Derek Roy is lucky I was in Pittsburgh when he was standing in the room whining about his stupid penalty because had I been in Buffalo I would have jumped in my car, driven to the arena, crashed the dressing room and put the heel of my snow boot through his front teeth. At this point, I would vote to deduct from his All-Star totals if I could. Derek Roy, for the love of all that is good and right in this here world, just say it: Tonight I sucked at hockey. My bad.

Look, I don't want guys who are playing poorly to be all dreary and suicidal. Watching Thomas Vanek give interview after interview last season in which he looked like he was going to leap from the top of HSBC Arena as soon as he was done wasn't really that much fun. I know part of being a successful athlete is staying on an even keel, not getting too high after the great games or too low after the bad games. The NHL season is a long one and players are going to have stretches where they struggle and they just have to push through. I have no doubt that the way Vanek was beating himself up last season was just sending him into a deeper spiral. But I also hate it when I feel like I care more about losses and struggles than the team does. It's annoying.

You know those Mac/PC commercials? (I love those commercials but for me they just don't accomplish what I think Apple intends. I find PC very sweet and lovable and Mac a little bit of a pompous douchebag. But I digress...) There's a spot out now where PC is carrying around a buzzer and every time someone says "Vista" he buzzes over it in an effort to get people to stop saying it. I'm about to beg the Sabres for press credentials just so I can stand in the corner of the dressing room on a stool and hit my buzzer every time someone says "System." And then on the way out I'm going to kick Derek Roy in the shin.

On a completely different note, I'm having a hard time deciding where our pregame meal should be tonight. I've narrowed the choices down to Founding Fathers, Gabriel's and Mother's. Any opinions?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Grandmothers and First Loves

Miss me?

Thanks to everyone who passed along condolences and well-wishes in comments and emails. They were all very much appreciated. My grandmother was a week or so from 91, wasn't sick and suffering and lived in her house by herself up to the very end. When my mom and I arrived at her house we found piles of papers and photos she had already started to sort through so clearly she was ready to move on to the next thing. But while her death wasn't completely unexpected, it was still a sad weekend. Leaving the only house I remember her living in on Saturday night, knowing I probably won't ever be back there, was pretty tough.

Grandma and me.

As I've mentioned a time or two in this space, my first sports love was the Pittsburgh Pirates. As I've also mentioned here a time or two, my family moved from Pittsburgh to Birmingham, AL when I was a wee infant. For those of you who are rusty on your United States geography, Pittsburgh is oh, 700 or so miles from Birmingham.

Those of you who are my age or older will be able to reach back in the recesses of your memories and recall a time when every other household didn't have a dish on its roof and there were no sports packages you could order with one click of a TV remote. Professional sports leagues and teams didn't have websites and you couldn't pull up newspapers across the country on your computer screen. No, if you were a fan of an out-of-market team, you were on a deserted island, trying to drink up enough ESPN highlights to survive for another day, not always easy when your beloved team was small market and not the most prominent sports team in the city.

Unless you were me. Every couple of weeks, I'd open the mail box and find a video full of Pirates games or an envelope stuffed to capacity with things from the Pittsburgh papers: game stories, columns, player profiles and photos oh, man the photos. I fully believe I have every photo of Andy Van Slyke the Pittsburgh press ran between 1988 and 1994. It didn't matter if it was a full color, above the fold photo on the front page of the sports section or a one inch square photo buried on a back page somewhere, Grandma cut it out and shoved it in that envelope. The games were a couple of weeks old by the time I got them but I still watched them and the stories and columns were about events long over but I still read them. No, I devoured them. Grandma was not a sports lover herself but she knew her granddaughter loved them and that was enough for her to learn how to use a VCR and break out the scissors every morning. I didn't do a very good job of letting her know how much I loved getting those packages in the mail but I guess she probably knew because she went right on sending them.

You can't tell, but I'm wearing a Pirates watch that Grandma gave me.

So while Grandma didn't have much of a connection to hockey, the Sabres or this blog, (though she was, oddly enough, born in Buffalo) she was very responsible for nurturing the love of sports that brought me to the point where I spend a ridiculous amount of time writing a blog that I make no money off of whatsoever. She was also pretty convinced I was the best writer to ever put pen to paper so if you've ever read something here and thought, "Jeez, what in heaven's name would make this woman think I have any interest in reading this?" well, you can blame it on Grandma.

My other favorite thing about my grandmother, completely unrelated to all of the above but worth mentioning, is how much she loved reading. I know that my family is full of readers because of her. Long after I was an adult, working full-time, married and supporting myself, she always slipped me $20 in a bookstore. How awesome is that?

Bonus photo, found in Grandma's stuff this weekend:

Your intrepid blogger on her first birthday.

Back to hockey tomorrow, I promise.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Guest Blogger - Mark Takes Over

So since I didn't join Heather in Pittsburgh, she relented after some incessant begging and allowed me to sub in for this weekend's games. I'm kind of surprised that she gave me her password after I leaked the last one to her brother. Now I know I am not a Buffalo News published blogger, but I thought we could at least have some dialogue about our team in our beloved Hank lover's absence. I'm going to post some random thoughts after each period. I used to have a blog named Sabre Dance and I do find this kind of fun; I just couldn't keep it up all the time. So on to Sabres vs Atlanta:

End of First Period (Sabres 2 Atlanta 1):

- Rob Ray blamed the goal against Tim Connolly and he was definitely lagging behind, but I think Pommers was actually the third man back. Poor play by both of them, considering they are out there to shut down the Kovulchuk line.

- Heather is going to be sad that she missed a nice Hank assist. Love seeing Clark around the net, as he has a real nose for rebounds. He earned his spot on the top three lines. I always thought he could make it and it's great to see him finally finding his place.

- Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Drew Stafford was benched tonight. Most of you probably know that he's my favorite player. I was a little sad, but Drew needs a kick in the pants. He's lost something since the end of 06-07 and I'm not sure what the problem is. I think he's lost a little of his passion. Should Lindy ground him and take away his guitar?

- A second before Al scored, I said out loud (maybe pretending Heather was home) that they should get him off the ice after he almost mishandled the puck twice. Shows what I know.

- Derek still seems to be missing something out there. He appears to be a little behind the play every time Van makes a good move. Weird. He almost appears injured or missing his instincts.

- It might be jumping the gun but I want Nathan Gerbe in Max's spot. Max hasn't played poorly but I think we really need to end this relationship, and Nathan is tearing it up down in Portland.

Not sure if anyone is going to check the blog with Heather gone but feel free to comment and get a quasi game day thread going. I will update again after the 2nd.

- End of the Second Period (Sabres 4 Atlanta 3)

- We've let in 3 goals but I don't think any of the goals have been terrible. Just seems like a bunch of wacky bounces, especially the last two. As Rob said, it's nice to see us answering each time Atlanta makes a push.

- Max. Oh, Max. You must have read my comments from the first, huh? Well, I stick by what I said, but #61 is absolutely awesome tonight. Heather always talks about Good Derek/Bad Derek, well tonight we are definitely seeing good Max. Atlanta can't handle him.

- Goose looks like he's playing more physical than he has since he got back. Maybe he's feeling more comfortable and confident out there. I love the Goose, Kaleta, Paille line, a true energy combination.

- Thomas Vanek is working harder than I've ever seen him. It just puts a smile on my face seeing him become an elite player after the struggles he faced last year. I still remember people comparing him to the ultimate Sabres underachiever, Miro Satan. Some people shouldn't be allowed opinions. Okay, just kidding about that, but there's no comparing the two. Vanek is a beast now and he must strike fear into opposing D men.

- Timmy shot the puck! And we scored!! Weird coincidence. SHOOT THE PUCK, TIMMY!

- While I was typing,I could hear Rob interviewing Jaro. I wasn't paying attention to what he was saying, but it probably wouldn't have made a difference anyway. Gotta love that "pigeon".

- Not game related, but has anyone read OR taken part in Bucky's game day chats on the Sabres Edge blog? I'm convinced it's not really Bucky. He's pleasant, humorous and self depreciating. Who kidnapped enemy number one of Top Shelf??

- Rob is going to make a great color analyst when Harry retires. I kind of wish he could start now.

I guess that's it for the 2nd. Hopefully we tighten it up and finish them off.

After 3rd Period and OT (Atlanta 5 Sabres 4...No way!)

- James Patrick told Rob (I'm talking about Rob a lot tonight) that the team was playing poorly and too loose the first two periods. Then the players decided to play scared and stop skating. Thanks, Jeep!

- I think Thomas' wrap around shot was a goal but there's no humanly way to prove it. Too bad Superman couldn't be a goal judge. You know, x-ray vision and all that? Anyone? Bueller? Oh come on, I'm a comic book nerd at heart.

- On the tying goal Pommers got outmuscled by Todd White. Not a good game for Jason.

- Ryan gave up a lot of rebounds and that cost us the game in the end. BUT, Derek took a stupid penalty that put us in awful spot in the extra period. You just can't put your stick there, little fella. Plus that whole line was running around in their own end there.

- I hate when we play down to the competition, which was definitely the case in the 3rd period and OT. Very disappointing. Atlanta should have been tired after playing last night, but we didn't show much heart and grit in the end. Boo!

- What's our record against backup goalies? Has to be the worst in the league the last few years.

- I think I just overheard Derek Roy insinuate that the Atlanta player took a dive. Interesting. Now, I know DRoy's propensity for the flopping has gotten better, but with his reputation that's a little humorous.

Oh well, at least we got a point and stayed ahead of Montreal who also lost, in a shootout to Columbus.

This was cool - maybe I'll do it again tomorrow before handing the blog back to the little lady. I'm a little worried about playing in a back to back game vs. trap happy Boston. The sporting gods won't subject us to two losses for our sports teams against Boston area teams will they? Oh yeah, it's Buffalo - of course they will! But I'll be hopeful anyway.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Quick Odds and Ends

A few random thoughts. Just a few.

- Listen, I'm all for Sabre pride but I don't know how that pile of puke Derek Roy got on the All-Star ballot. I love him. I really do. He's on the short list of players I'll almost always defend. But he's been pretty awful so far this year. I can only assume he's starting to develop a reputation as a good young player with the selection largely based on the way he ended last season but still, come on. I'm officially giving his spot to J.P. Dumont who actually deserves it.

- Despite the above complaint, I'm perfectly fine with Teppo Numminen taking up a spot and will gladly vote for him a few times. It's a double standard, I know. But at least Teppo has played well unlike someone else. Okay, I really just wrote this one to give me an excuse to post this totally awesome photo of baby Teppo that I stole from Anne at Sabretooth's House. She dug up pretty cute pictures of all our All-Star nominees and I highly recommend checking them out. The scuttlebutt over there is that Teppo was pretty foxy back then but dude, come on. Teppo's foxy now. I guess the young'uns just can't appreciate it.

- So Saturday night a bunch of us blogger types are getting together to watch the game at Fat Bob's. I know possible attendees include Anne, Kevin from Bfloblog, Ryan from the Goose's Roost, twoeightnine, and the boys from First Time, Long Time and the Ultimate Sports Road Trip. The best news is, if you're reading this you're invited too! Yes, YOU! Okay, not you, Bucky... But everyone else! (Just kidding. Bucky can come too if he wants. I'm just not sure a night with potentially rowdy, drunken bloggers is his idea of fun. He might get fan cooties.) I can't testify for the company - I've never met any of these freaks sure-to-be wonderful people in real life - but I can attest for Fat Bob's mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. Both are masterful and have made Fat Bob's one of my very favorite Buffalo eateries. I have, in fact, written about the potatoes and mac and cheese before and even provided photographic evidence of their excellence.

I was planning on being there to enjoy the festivities but in the course of writing this entry I found out my grandmother died and unfortunately, I'll now be in Pittsburgh for her funeral this weekend. Please try not to sit around and mope about me not being there. I'm sure you can find it in your hearts to have a little fun without me.

- Just for the record, I'm leaving first thing in the morning and will be staying at my grandmother's. Her house is located in a wireless black hole so things will probably be quiet around here until Sunday or Monday. You'll have to come up with your own wit and wisdom about the Sabres' performance against... let's see... Atlanta and Boston. Oh, I'm missing a Boston game? Daaaarn. How ever will I go on?

Monday, November 3, 2008

So tomorrow - today when most of you will most likely be reading this - is election day. I suppose the proper thing to do would be for me to encourage you to go out and VOTE, VOTE, VOTE! Well, guess what. I'm not going to. Don't get me wrong, I think you should vote. I think Americans are very quick to take for granted the fact that we have some say in the people who lead our country. But if you are too lazy to fill out a form, put your ass in your car and drive to your local polling place once every four years at the very least without someone begging you to do it, well, I'm not going to waste my breath. I prefer my voters educated and if you're like the hypothetical voter above you probably have no real reason to vote the way you vote - you're voting for a party or a face or an ad campaign and I'm not interested in encouraging that. If you've taken the time to educate yourself and really think about your vote you probably don't need me to tell you to vote because you can't wait to do it.

Not that it matters. I'm pretty sure Ryan Miller getting back-to-back shutouts is one of the signs of the apocalypse. We might not even live long enough for the next guy to get sworn in.

- For all the talk about Martin Brodeur being out - did you hear that Martin Brodeur wasn't playing? - if I were a Devils fans I'd be pretty upset that Paul Martin's absence didn't get more talk especially since there were times New Jersey really struggled on defense. He's their top guy and you can't underestimate his importance to NJ. As a staunch defender of defensive d-men, I just wanted to point that out.

- I know I was not the only person who saw Tim Connolly skating toward the goal with no helmet on and immediately assumed we were about to see his head blow up when someone came too close. Good grief. Timmy, your helmet should be on that bald head so tight that it only comes off with help from a crowbar. I noticed late in the game that his chin strap seemed to be a little tighter than usual. In my imagination Lindy took him back in the dressing room and hit him repeatedly until he had to fix his helmet just to protect himself.

- It was nice to hear Doc mention Nathan Gerbe and how well he's playing in Portland right now but he said he was 5'8" which is clearly not the case. The boy's not even in the NHL yet and they're already making him taller.

- Like most people, I was pleasantly surprised to see Craig Rivet on the ice tonight. It's amazing how much tighter the whole team plays when he's in the line-up. They played a nice game against the Caps after Lindy tore into them but the team defense was once again, very good tonight. I'm not completely blown away by Rivet's defensive abilities so I really think it is partly a mental thing on the part of the team. They need that kick from elsewhere. It becomes more and more clear as the season goes on that the players recognized something they needed in Rivet when they were voting on the captaincy. They may be stubborn, petulant kids sometimes but at least they know they're stubborn, petulant kids.

- I'm not a huge fan of backing off so much in the second and third periods especially with a one goal lead - that's not going to work against certain teams at the top of their game - but maybe I'm just not used to our team defense being so good. The difference between this game and the game I saw last week against Tampa Bay really is remarkable. I never thought we'd be that team that scores a couple of goals and then protects the lead but I don't know, if it works it works.

- You guys, our penalty killing is amazing. I realized tonight that I've slowly gotten to the point where I'm not even that worried when we get penalized. That is an amazing feeling to have especially when there are so many penalties being called.

- Verus's biggest problem for me continues to be a ridiculous lack of replays. Sometimes we get them but it seems like every time there's a hit or penalty or goal that I want to see again we don't get a replay. That's a pretty basic part of a broadcast.

- I've been pretty critical of the play-by-play on Versus before but I thought it was pretty okay tonight. I particularly enjoyed Daryl Reaugh. The guy clearly broadcasts in the south most of the time. Between "he's all hat and no cattle," "they're shooting cotton balls 60 feet," and "lickety split" I felt like I was in Birmingham again. Love it.

- Did I mention that our penalty killing is really, really good? Because it is. And I love it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sabres vs. Caps: Stream of Consciousness


So I know I promised some further thoughts about Thursday night's game but I'm just not sure what else there is to say. Charlie Brown just about covered it. It was hands down the worst game I've seen in person and one of the worst games I've seen the Sabres play since I started watching. At one point one of the girls in my group said, "They don't even want the puck," and that certainly appeared to be the case. The Sabres in no way resembled a professional hockey team. I'm confident that my class of first, second and third graders and I could have handily beat them the way they played Thursday night.

I'm not jumping off a ledge yet but the last two games are eerily similar to the worst of last season: talented players trying to coast through games rather than working hard and then making excuses about not sticking to the system and being too cute at home. For the last time, you morons: NONE OF YOUR FANS CARE ABOUT HOW PRETTY YOUR GOALS ARE! WE WOULD JUST LIKE YOU TO APPEAR TO GIVE A RAT'S ASS ABOUT WINNING A GAME! WE REALLY DON'T CARE IF YOU BOUNCE THE PUCK IN OFF YOUR STUPID, STUBBORN HEADS AS LONG AS IT GOES IN THE NET! (AND NOT YOUR OWN NET, DUMMIES!)


Lindy Ruff has gone line change crazy. I don't know. On one hand, I do like Lindy leaping into action but I'm not sure about doing that much fiddling. Seems like it just gives these putzes another excuse to play poorly. "We're playing with different people wah wah wah." I have no idea how I would arrange the lines but I do know that I would put Tim Connolly with Maxim Afinogenov. I think they've always played well together and Timmy is one of the few people who really seems to be able to read and keep up with Max. I hate to defend Max too strongly but I really, really think part of his trouble the last season and a half has been that he's not playing with people who really complement him.

Annnnd while I was making the above complaint, Thomas Vanek puts the Sabres up 1-0. Absolutely gorgeous pass off the boards from Andrej Sekera and Vanek puts those world class hands to good use, completely deking out Mike Green who got a pretty good pimp job in the pregame. I don't see the Caps enough to know how skilled Green is in the defensive zone but this is why I'm always suspicious of offensive defensemen.

Oh, GOOD LORD! I've gotten used to Harry Neale but I cannot stand when he mixes up Paul Gaustad and Jason Pominville. They look nothing alike. They're nowhere close to the same size. They don't even come close to playing the same kind of game. It's insane. At any rate, the Sabres put on some good pressure and Jason Pominville ends up in the net. Nice try, Pommers but you gotta have the puck with you if it's going to count.

Donald Brashear totally nails Henrik Tallinder in the face. Not cool, dude.

Danny Paille makes a pass to Gaustad which gets tipped into the crowd and some jerk yanks the puck out of a kid's hand and doesn't even have the good sense to look sheepish about it. Not cool, dude.

Tim Connolly really is infuriating. I've been complaining loudly to people around me that the Sabres shouldn't even bother putting him in the line-up because the team was doing fine without him (emphasis on was) but good grief, he really is talented. He just carried the puck down the ice, got tripped but kept possession of the puck and flipped a pass behind him while lying on the ice. That's... pretty good.

And then on a 5-on-3, Timmy decides he's going to stick handle through all the Caps. It doesn't work. Harry helpfully reminds him that you don't need to stick handle through people when you have a two man advantage. Usually I wouldn't encourage anyone to listen to Harry but that does make sense. The Sabres recover and do a great job of moving the puck around and actually getting some shots through before Derek Roy does his best Jochen Hecht and banks it off the goalie's back to make the score 2-0, Sabres.

I'm looking down, trying to send a text message when Jason Pominville busts out of his slump and makes the score 3-0. Mark bought me a little Tracfone just in case I ever find myself lying alone in a frozen parking lot with an appendage twisted in the wrong direction again and while I still never, ever use it for phone calls, I did recently discover that texting is pretty fun. I'm terrible at it though. It look me the last 6 or 8 minutes of the first period to send two texts, neither of which was very long.


I can't tell you what's going on in the broadcast but I can tell how how The Godfather ends since that's what we're suddenly watching. Sweet, straight-arrow Michael is no more. Whoops! Spoiler alert!


Wow, it's nice going into the second period with a 3 goal lead, isn't it? It would be nice if we actually play hard this period too.

Harry just said Rob Ray's name in a way that I can't duplicate in print but he sounded like a possessed robot and it immediately cracked both of us up here. Since I can't duplicate it it seems pretty stupid to even waste my time telling you about it but hey, it's my blog. Harry than goes on to say something completely indecipherable about team efforts and Mark says, "Sometimes listening to Harry do a game is like talking to my grandfather when he had Alzheimer's."

The Sabres very sexily kill off a 5-on-3. Yay, penalty killing! Ryan got an assist from one of his posts but came up with some really nice saves of his own as well. Derek Roy and Andrej Sekera also looked particularly feisty. We look like a real live hockey team!

During a TV timeout we flip to see who's on CBC and discuss which we'd choose: the Rangers, the Maple Leafs or death.

The Caps take a dumb penalty and Harry reminds them that the difference between anger and danger is only one letter. I get a good laugh out of that because we have a poster that says that hanging in our cafeteria at school. The kids, like the Caps, do not seem to get the message.

The Sabres don't seem to be working up quite as much offensive pressure this period - though they have been spending some time short-handed - but they don't look terrible either. I'll take that. And just as I type that, Harry says the Sabres are being out shot 12-1 this period so I know I'm not making that up. Still, we haven't given up any goals so I'm not going to freak out.

With roughly 3 seconds left in the period Vanek scores to make it 4-0. Another really nice goal. He initially bounces the puck off the Cap in front of him but picks it right back up and puts it in the net.


I run off to get some Coke and pretzels. ("These PRETZELS are MAKING me THIRSTY!")


The Coke and pretzel run takes longer than expected due to inefficient cashing at Walgreens and I miss the first four minutes. Sorry. I return just in time to see Sergei Federov take a hooking penalty. Which our power play does nothing with.

Sekera tries to give up Ryan's shutout by turning the puck over to Michael Nylander right in front of the net but the goal post does its work again and the Caps are still scoreless for now. I am a little leery of how much time the Caps seem to be spending in our end of the ice however.

I love these new Please Stop Smoking commercials. They are way better than the guy last season whose leg was so decomposed he could smell it. My favorite is the one that just aired with the guy getting out of bed in the morning. The part that really kills me is him sitting on the back of the toilet, pulling the toilet paper off the roll while looking at it with a perplexed expression. Although I do also really like him ironing his shirt while he's wearing it.

Harry tells us that Vanek now currently leads the NHL in goals and points after his showing tonight. He didn't score his 11th goal until December last season. Game 34. I like this season better.

Danny Paille and Patrick Kaleta combine for a very nice goal to put the Sabres up 5-0. Paille made a sweet move to get around the Cap player in front of him, passed it off to Kaleta and then went straight for the net. Kaleta pulled in the pass and gave it right back. Mark and I were discussing earlier how we think Kaleta has more skill than a lot of people give him credit for. He's never going to be (good) Derek Roy but he's not Andrew Peters either. He has a long way to go but I think he's already improved as a hockey player since he first came up last season and might have a little more room to grow.

I noticed Thursday night that the Sabres are now using Arcade Fire's Wake Up as the goal celebration song. I do like the song a lot and it has the sing-a-long quality you want in a goal song with all the oooooh-ohs but it's pretty slow and dirge like for a celebratory song, isn't it? Something peppier please, Sabres.

(That's probably the last time you'll hear me comment on a song made in the last ten years that wasn't on country radio or a U2 song. I only know this one because word on the street during U2's last tour was that it played right before U2 came out so I wanted to know what it sounded like so I knew when to get excited. To this day, it reminds me of U2. But I do like the song. Also, I just checked tonight's player playlist - the typical blah choices - and staff, Loose Yourself? Really? That's one of my spelling pet peeves.)

It's not the Caps night. I don't know if they just miss Alexander Ovechkin (who wouldn't?) or if it's just one of those nights where nothing works. Vanek comes within inches of a hat trick but can't dig the puck out from under Theodore's right leg pad.

Thirteen Sabres have a point tonight. That's pretty good.



Roy-Z and Pommers scored, the Sabres remembered how to play defense, Lindy looks happier, Mike Robitaille goes on and on about Roy-Z's supple hands, Tim Connolly appears to still be in one piece and the Rangers gave up 18 goals to the Leafs in the final minutes of the game for a loss. It does mean the Leafs winning but all in all, a pretty good night.

Thomas Vanek is the bomb diggity, yo (Photo by Bill Wippert)