Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ryan Miller Sucks! (Not)

Buffalo, are we seriously going to have a "We should have kept Marty Biron over Ryan Miller" debate? Seriously? Because I seem to remember Marty having plenty of time to establish himself as the number one guy in Buffalo and not being able to do it. I seem to remember Marty getting eaten alive some nights in the run and gun system that the Sabres played the last few years. I seem to remember Marty making a habit of getting really hot and reeling off a lot of wins - kind of like right now - but then giving up a softy that lets the other team back in or suddenly going cold and reeling off a lot of losses. Is he playing very well right now? Yes, he is. Is he one of the best players in his series? Yes, he is. Is he a good man who deserves every good thing that comes his way? As far as I know, yes, he absolutely is. But there's a reason he played in the first playoff series of his career this season. Ryan Miller helped get the Sabres to the Eastern Conference Finals in two of his first three years as a starter and I think came pretty close to doing it single-handedly in last season's playoffs. Does it suck that Ryan's doing intermission interviews in street clothes during the playoffs while Marty is still playing? Absolutely it does. Does it mean that Marty Biron is a better goalie than Ryan Miller and will be a better goalie than Ryan Miller for the next five to six years? No, it does not. Even great goalies have bad seasons. Even great goalies miss the playoffs. One great postseason does not a great goalie make. I love Marty but for the sake of my sanity I really hope the Flyers either collapse against Montreal or get destroyed by Pittsburgh so this conversation can go to the grave where it belongs.

Other things:

- On a similar note, yes, I see that Daniel Briere is having a good postseason. Believe it or not, this doesn't shock me. He's a good hockey player. I didn't expect him to cease to be a good hockey player once he left Buffalo. It is possible for him to be a good hockey player in one city and still not be the answer to all of a team's problems in another city. Consider this your gentle reminder, Buffalo, that he was actually on the team that choked in the playoffs last season. "Briere is having a good postseason in Philly" does not automatically equal "Briere would have gotten the Sabres to the same point" especially since he had a fairly pedestrian regular season.

- I've had a mad crush on Guy Carbonneau this postseason. His little bowl cut is a bit extreme but he always looks very dashing, I love his accent, I like the way he huddles in the tunnel during the introductions and anthems, and I fully appreciate how he can get across total disgust with a call with a half-smirk and slight roll of his eyes. I thought his comment on the sucker punch on Kimo Timonen was hilarious. ("I think he deserved it. They should have been happy to score and just gone back to the bench.") But Guy. Seriously. How could you not put Carey Price back on the horse tonight? I'm totally second-guessing him on that one.

(Please note: I didn't realize until a few days ago that Guy was on the '99 Dallas team. I'm cheering for Dallas in the West but as long as I don't think about Brett Hull I'm personally okay with that. (Mark is more conflicted. He found himself celebrating a Stars goal in Game 2 and then immediately said, "I just cheered a Dallas goal. I think I can actually feel my soul leaving my body.") Ultimately, the blame for No Goal belongs with the league. But I don't know, discovering Guy was on that team bummed me out a little.)

- My least favorite commercial of the postseason so far is the Acuvue ad with the flag football players. "I can catch, I swear! I just can't see through these friggin' glasses!" Whatever, dude. I think you just stink.

- My favorite commercials of the off-season are the Bud Light (I think) sports show spots. I don't like the "Are sports shows too commercialized?" ad quite as much (although I do love the guy holding the neon sign at the end) but the other two I've seen crack me up every time. I hate the way the talking heads laugh hysterically at everything everyone says - this is especially a problem on the various NFL panels - so the "Is there too much forced laughter?" ad really gets me. There's one guy - I think it's the neon sign guy - who ha ha ha ha ha ha's and then ends with just a couple of ho ho's and for some reason that absolutely kills us at our house. We wait for it every time and then totally crack up and have even started laughing that way ourselves. The "Do commentators disagree for entertainment purposes?" one is good too, especially the end. "It looks like we're going to have to agree to disagree." "I couldn't possibly agree to that." Although I also like, "Well, I disagree with your mild disagreement."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Think of a Wonderful Thought

Someone has been complaining that it's been depressing around here the last few days so here are some things that I'm happy about.

- The Penguins are up 3-0 on the Rangers. That tickles me. Marion Hossa put the Pens on the board tonight before the crowd at MSG even had a chance to get warmed up. I heard a lot of people say, "Remember the Sabres were up 2-0 on the Rangers last year and they tied the series back up." To which I said, "This Pens team is not last year's Sabres team." I think we were as talented as them (at least) but seriously, we played like crap and were lucky to get out of that series. The Penguins are mostly playing well and when they're not, they don't panic. (The Canadiens might be the Sabres of last season but we'll save that for another post since that has definitely not made me happy.)

- Sean Avery has been invisible in this series. (Except for one he was getting beat up on by the Pens at the end of Game 2.) I like him better that way.

- Jason Pominville and Nathan Gerbe are playing together at least some of the time on the U.S. team. Let's get that chemistry going now, boys.

- Jason Pominville was nominated for the Lady Byng. I know some people think the Lady Byng is lame but I think they're lame. Playing a tough, physical sport doesn't mean you can't be a good sport. Good sportsmanship does not automatically equal wussy. It just means you're not a jackass. The nominees sometimes seem kind of random - there's definitely a bit of "Oh, this guy has a lot of points but not a lot of penalty minutes" which is a little dumb since I don't think penalty minutes are necessarily an indicator of how respectful you are of the game and the other people on the ice. But whatever the criteria, I think most people would agree that a nomination for any of the major awards means that you're earning the respect of people around the NHL. I wrote earlier this season about how I tended to overlook Pominville's contributions so I think it's pretty cool to see his name up there with some of the best talents in the league.

- I ran into Paul Posluszny at Wegmans. (Almost literally.) My ankle was really bothering me so I was focused on getting to a cart someone had abandoned in front of the store so I had something to lean on and when I spun it around toward the door, there he was in front of me. If I'd been a couple of seconds slower I would've hit his cart with mine. I didn't say anything but I think he could tell I recognized him because he grinned and nodded. I'm glad I didn't attempt a conversation because I doubt it would've gone anything like it did in my head ("You have a plate and screws in your ankle? I have plates and screws in my arm! Wanna feel them?") but I do kind of wish I'd said, "Hey, Poz!" I think he would've said hi back. Anyway, it was really cool. I've waited on a few recognizable people in various jobs (Jim Lorentz - very pleasant, Doug Flutie - total jerk) but professional athletes don't tend to live in my end of town so it was the first time I've ever seen anyone just wandering around during my daily life. I've been railing on Paul to get a haircut for a while - I didn't like the buzz he had when he first came to town but in his most recent Time-Warner commercial it's a little too in his face for my taste - but from the back it's very pretty. It has big, swoopy curls and waves in it. (You cannot get this kind of update from the Buffalo News, people.)

- As Anne pointed out in a comment on the previous post, the Swedish team is missing Henrik Tallinder. Join the club, Sweden! They even mentioned him in the same sentence as Nicklas Lidstrom which totally makes me happy.

- The Stars just went up 3-0 on the Sharks. Everyone and his grandmother picked the Sharks to beat the Stars this round but I said this: "DALLAS IN SIX. And I wouldn't be shocked if it's Dallas in five." That's right, I'm a freaking genius. (I know it's not over but come on... It's over.)

To the person who complained about how much I was depressing him, is this better? Are you happy now? :P

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I think I've hit a wall in these playoffs. I've hit a wall in life in general the last few days so it's hard to separate but I don't know, it turns out that the playoffs are really lacking without the Sabres. I could probably get invested in one team or another - in all the current series there's one team I really want to lose and one team I really want to win which is nice - but I'm not really finding it all that much fun to get worked up about a team that isn't mine. If the team I'm cheering for loses, I still feel really upset and then I feel upset about being upset about a team that I've been watching for three weeks. If the team I'm cheering for wins, I'm jubilant until I remember that a bunch of players I don't really know get to celebrate in a city I don't live in while surrounded by fans I don't know. It's a huge waste of energy. I haven't quite figured out how to just watch a game without being that invested in who wins and loses.

Jerry Sullivan kind of wrote about this last week . A couple of people emailed me to recommend the column even though I've been avoiding the newspaper and Amy spoke highly of it over at Shots Off the Crossbar. And you know what? It was definitely a goodie. I'm way behind but if for some reason you haven't read it yet, you really should. Sully talks about all the things he misses about playoff hockey in Buffalo and it definitely added to my somewhat melancholy mood. I never disliked Buffalo. I was never unhappy here, I was never desperate to return to Birmingham. But when I finally gave in and fell in love with the Sabres, I fell in love with Buffalo too. Head over heels, no questions asked love. So when hockey's not here the city seems not quite right to me. I've been totally behind Pittsburgh but it bums me out to see their crowd watching the games outside their arena and then think about the Parties in the Plaza last year and how our crowds totally blow them out of the water. I've been pulling for Montreal but watching them celebrate after their Game 7 victory with their singing and their chanting kind of bummed me out. (And I feel pretty secure in the fact that we would at least wait until we won a championship before we started burning the city down.) So I don't know, I'm fluctuating wildly between being totally into the playoffs and being totally annoyed by them.

Still... The Penguins went up 2-0 on the Rangers earlier today and it seems like the Stars are about to go up 2-0 on the Sharks. And I just listened to a pretty entertaining rant from Keith Jones about Brian Campbell which is always good for a laugh. It was basically a collection of "highlights" with commentary like "Morrow's in front of the net and here comes Campbell, late to the party," and "A ton of effort from Ott, not much from Campbell" and it ended with Jonesy screeching, "Yeah, he has an assist tonight but if he doesn't start playing better he should be on the bench where he belongs!" It has been pretty amusing watching people slowly realize, "Wait a second... This guy wants $6 million per?"

So it's not all bad. I guess.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Have a Few Questions

Anyone know how old Carey Price is? I keep thinking maybe they'll mention it on one of the broadcasts but if they have, I've missed it.

And are Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn related in some way? I mean, that's a super popular name I think so it's not a given. I'm just curious.

And did someone forget to tell the Rangers that Chris Drury teams do not give up leads much less three goal leads?

Here's the weekly reminder for playoff pool participants that line-up changes need to be made by 1 p.m. Eastern on Monday. As usual, if you forget, your line-up from last week will be used but if you have any players who have been in for the first three weeks, they'll stop accruing points for you.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I did pretty okay in my first round predictions. I got the Rangers, the Canadiens, and Pittsburgh in the East but didn't pick Philly. Minnesota and Calgary failed me in the West (nice try, Flames) but I got Detroit and I was one of the only people in the world to pick Dallas over Anaheim. If you want to read more about what I thought of each round, head on over to ModFan.

Yeah, because I have all this spare time now, I went and co-founded a group blog along with Kate of The Willful Caboose, Pookie and Schnookie of Interchangeable Parts, and Patty of Penalty Killing. I'm not entirely sure where all this is going to lead - fame and fortune hopefully - but I do think it's going to be interesting and entertaining. The five of us all have very different styles and personalties - Pookie and Schnookie enjoy NJ soul-killing hockey and Patty cheers for Cup thieves for crying out loud - but somehow we coexist. Sometimes it'll be a little silly (Kate and I panic about cheering for the Flyers), sometimes it'll be very silly (did you know Rob Niedermayer's first name is Robin?), and sometimes it'll be straight hockey talk (Schnookie and I discuss why we love our GMs). Check the place out next time you need to kill a few minutes before lunch.


Just so these are in the book before the games start tonight, here are my thoughts on the second round.

MONTREAL vs. PHILLY
I'm so happy that my support of Philly is going to be a one round fling. I felt a little conflicted because I know Sabres fans are supposed to hate the Flyers but I just don't have that background. I hate the Flyers in theory but I don't have much real history with them. Fortunately, I really like the Canadiens and have no problem supporting them here. I also think they're going to win. If they don't, it's going to be because Carey Price self-destructs. Mark and I were fascinated by Price's post-series interview. His teammates were celebrating, the crowd was going crazy and Price had a blank, terrified look on his face. He was the epitome of deer in the headlights. MONTREAL IN SIX.

NEW YORK vs. PITTSBURGH
It seems like the Rangers gave the Penguins some trouble during the regular season but I think the Penguins are still going to come out on top. Marc-Andre Fleury is probably my biggest concern but he was really good in the first round albeit against a pretty pitiful Sens team. (snicker) PITTSBURGH IN SIX.

DETROIT vs. COLORADO
Eh. Whatever. DETROIT IN FIVE.

SAN JOSE vs. DALLAS
I am bumfoozled by how many people are picking San Jose in this series. I guess on paper maybe they look better but based on first round performance I think it's awfully hard to get behind them. The Stars dismantled a good Anaheim team. They came in with a clear game plan and for the most part, stuck to it. I think they were the best team in the first round. The Sharks needed seven games to beat a team that really didn't play very well. They struggled to gain momentum, they struggled to keep momentum, and at times they didn't even look that interested. If Evgeni Nabokov gets hot he could carry them but otherwise I think they're done. DALLAS IN SIX. And I wouldn't be shocked if it's Dallas in five.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Whatever

"To have the referee decide the series like that, with two teams battling like that, is tough to swallow. I definitely didn't think it was a penalty."

That's Tom Poti who was called for tripping in overtime of last night's Washington-Philly game. To him I say, dude, whatever. You tripped a guy. I don't care how long it's been since the last penalty was called, you tripped a guy. The rule still exists and you should still know better than to do it in overtime of Game 7 of the playoffs. The refs didn't have anything to do with the fact that your team failed to kill the penalty, didn't score more goals during regulation, or didn't wrap up the series before a seventh game was necessary. All of those things were options. A couple of years ago the Sabres were in the penalty box in overtime of a playoff game against the Senators and you know what they did? They scored a goal. There's no rule that says you can't still score even though you have fewer players on the ice. If you're angry, fine, I can understand that especially regarding Philly's second goal which was total b.s. I would've been apoplectic if that call had gone against the Sabres. But don't pretend like you and your team had nothing to do with the outcome of the game or the series. That's ridiculous.

And all season long it seems like I've been listening to Caps fans complain about how obnoxious and classless Sabres fans are (some day I'm going to write a post about words I never want to hear again in sports and "classless" will be there) and while I'm sure there are obnoxious Sabres fans spread across the country the thing I kept hearing brought up over and over was something about Sabres fans wiping their feet on the Ovechkin photos that were given out at a game which... doesn't really seem that bad to me. After the display of garbage throwing last night I can at least rest in the knowledge that it turns out there are at least a few classless Caps fans in the world too. Sabres fans had to watch the Senators celebrate the Eastern Conference championship on our ice last year but I don't recall anyone throwing beer bottles at opposing players.



When someone who plays in Philly can justifiably question your level of class, you might be in trouble.

As for all the former Sabres advancing, a big fat whatever to that too. First of all, there's the fact that you never know what's going to happen. The Senators had almost exactly the same team this year as they had last year and they went from playing in the Stanley Cup Finals to winning exactly the same number of playoff games as the Sabres did - zero. Chris Drury was fine in the Rangers series but I think their wins had more to do with Scott Gomez and loathe as I am to admit it, Sean Avery. And please. The Sharks advanced in spite of Brian Campbell. They might have won quicker without him. Danny Briere was legitimately great though, I'll give you that. But that's all I'm giving you.

Second round thoughts later.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Not Enough Time in the Day

Work is totally cramping my style, you guys. Somewhere over the course of the last four months I forgot that my job is really, really hard! I'm so tired.

I'll have more to say tomorrow, I think, but for now let me just point out something I noticed today. Last night I wrote here that I really like Stu Barnes and that the Sabres should think about bringing him back. And then this morning Bucky Gleason wrote that he really likes Stu Barnes and thinks the Sabres should think about bringing him back. Coincidence? I suppose it could be. But really I think Bucky is a secret fan of Top Shelf! (Hi, Bucky!)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lazy Sunday (Playoff Hockey Rocks Again)

Some odds and ends on a lazy Sunday.

The series I've probably enjoyed the most so far is San Jose-Calgary. I expect it to go seven games and I have no idea who's ultimately going to triumph because neither teams seems to be able to really carry any momentum for very long. I'm not sure I'd say that either team has played well for an entire game (and as a Sabres fan I think I have enough experience to accurately judge that). I want Calgary to win but for some reason I'm feeling San Jose. Unless the goalies carry them however, I don't see either team advancing any further if they continue to play the way they are right now. (Now I'm not sure about SJ winning the series. They were a hot ugly mess for most of the night tonight and Calgary mostly looked good.)

I missed almost every game in the Colorado-Minnesota series and I finally decided I was cheering for Nashville to upset Detroit even if it meant destroying my pick 'em pool but it looks like they're about to lose. Better luck with that playoff beard next year, JP. I have to admit, it's a little funny that they lost their captain to a mild concussion sustained during a goal celebration. That sounds like something only Tim Connolly could pull off. As an aside, I was super impressed with Nashville's crowds during this series. It was really nice to see them turn out and embrace the team despite all the off-season drama there. I was also enjoying hearing Vince Gill do the anthems because he has one of my favorite voices in the world.

I am largely uninspired by the Eastern Conference side. Some of the games in the Montreal-Boston series have been entertaining but I'm annoyed that the Bruins won't just go away. I hate you, Boston! Go away! I saw very little of the Rangers-Devils series and most of what I did see was dominated by talk about Sean Avery which is so not what I want in my playoff hockey. I did delight in the Penguins sweeping the Senators but that was not exactly unexpected and not really much fun to watch as far as the hockey goes. And despite the surprising spurts of affection for Danny Briere, I really want the Flyers and the Caps to go away as soon as possible. Perfection would be the Flyers winning the next game and then getting swept in the next round.

Theoretically I understand people's enthusiasm for the Caps (I guess) and I understand the NHL being excited about Alexander Ovechkin being in the postseason but Versus/NBC's endless pumping up of the team and the city is killing me. Pierre McGuire was having a heart attack because the crowd was really excited about a Caps goal. "Every time the Caps do something positive, this crowd responds!" Great! Well done, people of DC! I know when I first started watching hockey I had a really hard time keeping track of which team I was supposed to be cheering for! Every time the team had to switch ends I had no idea what was going on! Settle down, NBC and let me just notice the crowd on my own. It's not like I can't see or hear them.

Speaking of Pierre, when I was complaining about him the other day I forgot to mention the thing he does that bothers me the most: his interpretation of the body language on the bench. I don't need to see the bench to know that the team that's now done by two goals is bummed. And if I do see the bench I know that blank stares and bowed heads signify sadness and defeat. That's not something that is magically revealed to someone within a few feet of the bench which is what Pierre seems to believe.

In the Montreal-Boston game the other night there was a goal - I think by Boston - that went through what seemed like 18 bodies screening the goalie. Pierre yelled, "HE COULDN'T HAVE SEEN THAT EVEN WITH X-RAY VISION!" We're comic book geeks in our house so instead of going along with the hyperbole we had the following conversation:

"I don't think Pierre understands what x-ray vision is."
"Yeah, I see no reason that Superman wouldn't have been able to see that shot if he wanted to."
"Maybe Boston's uniforms are lined with lead?"
"That would explain it. That's the only thing that would make sense. But come on, they're not lined with lead."
"No, probably not. Too heavy for hockey."

Can we steal Stuuuuuuu Barnes back in the off-season? He's a veteran, right? I really enjoyed watching the Stars take the Ducks out in the first round. It was very entertaining to watch the rough and tumble Ducks bury themselves in this series with all the dumb penalties they took in the first couple of games. I have a soft spot for Marty Turco so I'm happy to see him with some success. I felt kind of bad for him because he played really well in the Dallas losses to Vancouver in the first round last season and still seemed to be stuck with the choker label. Hopefully he'll shake that a bit now.

For the record, I totally over thought my line-up changes for this week. Not knowing what teams were going to advance and when the next rounds were going to start really messed with my head. I'll probably be a disaster. And no, I don't care that everyone else has to deal with that as well.

Reminder

I got nothing right now but I did want to remind everyone in the pool that any line-up changes are due by 1 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. If you forget, your roster from this week will be used again next week.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sean Avery is a Douchebag - Take Two

Marty Brodeur probably should have taken the high road and shaken Sean Avery's hand after the final game of the Rangers-Devils series but I'm not going to get worked up about it like I'm sure some people will. It's about time that Avery learns that respect is not something you automatically get just for winning more games than the other guy. And you know what? I didn't see Avery offering his hand to Marty either. That looked like a pretty mutual cold shoulder to me.

No matter how you feel though, this quote is ridiculous: "Everyone talks about how unclassy I am, Fatso there just forgot to shake my hand, I guess." You cannot complain about other people being classless while calling them fatso. My emotionally disturbed middle schoolers have moved past calling people fatso. You're not the sympathetic hero in this story and you're certainly not the good guy, you dumb douchebag.

In twenty years, Fatso is going to be sitting at home with his wife and kids, surrounded by a few Vezinas, at least three Stanley Cup rings and a Hall of Fame plaque while his number hangs in the rafters of the building of the franchise that he helped make great. You'll be remembered as a guy who was hated by his teammates and got busted paying for sex. If you're remembered at all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Reality Bites

You guys... I don't think the Sabres are going to be in the playoffs this year. My subconcious was evidently waiting for their series to start and it's really sinking in now. I've been kind of bummed while watching hockey the last couple of nights. It doesn't help that almost every game in the last 48 hours has gone the wrong way. When the only win I have to feel good about is the Flyers, it's not a pretty scene. The Hockey Gods hate me.

What am I supposed to blog about for the next four months? I'm having a blogger breakdown.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

This, That and The Other

Wow, so it turns out going to work all day is really, really hard. It's been two days now but I feel like I've worked two weeks in that 16 hours. I figured it would take me some time to get back in the swing of things but man, I'm beat. I collapsed before the late games even started last night (which turned out to be okay since I woke up this morning and discovered that the gross team won every game).

Random thoughts:

- I need to punch Pierre McGuire in the head. He's dreadful. He talks way too much for a guy standing between the benches (I miss you, Rob!). He's practically a second color man which is the last thing Versus/NBC needs since they barely do any play-by-play as it is. He talks like the players are Timbits he's coaching and his sentences get increasingly shrill and screechy until he's screaming about nothing. "Arnott isn't hustling after the puck, he can't do that, HE CAN'T DO THAT, WHY IS HE DOOOOOOOIIIIING THAAAAAT?!" He's also a creepy close talker as can be seen in this video. Dude, back up off of that guy. You're making me uncomfortable and I'm just a bystander. Also, the exchange from the 1:45 mark to 2:00 is... awkward.



- I think McGuire and Mike Milbury make for a dreadful intermission - I want my Ray Ferraro! - but I don't really have a problem with Milbury calling the Capitals the "Crapitals." First of all, these guys are getting paid to stay stupid stuff that winds people up. Mission accomplished. Second of all, it's kind of true. If you don't want people implying that you're crap, maybe you should play better. If they hadn't played well in the third period of the first game, this series could easily be 3-0 instead of 2-1. I certainly don't see why Milbury needed to apologize to Ted Leonsis. If these guys had to apologize for every stupid insulting thing they've ever said, we could be here forever.

- Despite my big talk about wishing postseason ill on all former Sabres except JP Dumont, I'm discovering a lot of residual affection for Danny Briere. Don't get me wrong, I don't want the Flyers to win it all or anything. They're the Flyers. But I would be perfectly fine with them beating the Caps before getting destroyed in the next round and I'm not going to lie, the Caps refuser in me is enjoying that Danny has been hands-down more noticeable and dynamic than Alexander Ovechkin in this series (so far). I was really not anticipating this but it's undeniable. When the Flyers advance largely because of Danny, I'll just block out Bucky Gleason. I can't let him control the way I feel anyway :P (But this will never, ever carry over to Chris Drury or Brian Campbell.)

- Speaking of Brian Campbell... Campbell Says Something Stupid Part 1,018. I'll let Kevin Sylvester handle this one.

I was surprised to read this quote from former Sabres captain Brian Campbell in the Toronto Globe and Mail on the difference between the Sabres and Sharks.

"The accountability inside the dressing room. It's probably the first team I've been on where guys will speak up and say something and you take it to heart. It's a big change that way, probably the biggest thing." -- Brian Campbell

Huh?

I can't imagine there wasn't accountability and guys speaking up with the two teams he played on in Buffalo that reached the Eastern Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons.

And as for this past season, wasn't he one of the leaders who's job it was to hold others accountable?

I don't mean to go hard at Brian, but I'm surprised these comments came from a classy guy such as him. I think his former teammates would be surprised too.


A few weeks ago I might have been surprised. Now? I am not surprised in the slightest.

(This is from Kevin's blog on Sabres.com but I'm posting it here because you can't read it without an Insider account and I didn't want to give people a link they might not be able to access. I hate how everything on Sabres.com is Sabres Insider only. It's not that hard to plug in my email address but I haven't noticed this on any other team's website. I don't want emails and text messages and I don't want your stupid prizes. I just want to read the website.)

- I kept meaning to respond to this comment from Vanek's Hair - in fact, I thought I did but I can't find it so I think I just wrote it in my head - so I'm going to do it here. He said, "May I confess I would probably like him (Sean Avery) on the Sabres?"

Well, Van, you may confess it but I'm going to have to give that a big fat negatory. I have no problem with pests. One of the first Sabres I really liked was Matt Barnaby. I would take Darcy Tucker. I would take Corey Perry and Steve Ott (and especially Steve Ott's kickin' playoff facial hair). On a very weak day, I might even take Chris Neil. (Very weak.) Avery has too much of a history of causing problems in his locker room for me to think it would be a good idea to ever bring him to Buffalo. His poor behavior on the ice is bad enough but it seems to follow him around off the ice too and I'm not into that.

That said, IF the Rangers can handle his personality they should absolutely make re-signing him this summer a priority. He changed that team the second he showed up there and from what I've seen of the Devils series (which is admittedly not a lot), he's been one of their most effective players. Better them than us.

- I picked Detroit to win it all in two pools so I'm pretty screwed if they lose. But I'm finding the Nashville team that I thought I hated kind of endearing. I appreciate them battling even though everyone thinks they're going to lose. And let's face it, the world is a better place with a fully blossoming JP Dumont playoff beard. For that beautiful sight, I might be willing to take a playoff pool hit. Go Preds go!

- I love, love, love Kelly Hrudey. He's not spectacularly handsome but there's something very pleasant about the looks of him. And even if I don't agree with him, he's just very soothing. He has opinions and he expresses them but he never yells, he never talks over the other people with him, and he seems to realize at all times that he's talking about hockey. Yes, it's awesome. No, it's not life and death. Now that I think about it, I think that's why I really liked - and miss - Ray Ferraro too. I like my sports guys chill, yo.

- Forget the Caps, people. The feel good story of the year is the Ottawa Senators. Charging off to a 15-2 start, completely blowing up around New Year's, plummeting for the remainder of the season, squeaking into the playoffs and then getting swept in the first round by a spunky little Pens team? That's so beautiful I could cry.

Monday, April 14, 2008

EMMMMMME-RYY! EMMMMMMME-RYY!

After a week or so of playoff games there is one thing that I have to admit, I find very, very disturbing. Every time this thing happens I cringe and it threatens to remove me entirely from the game. Here it is: NHL crowds do not seem to understand the proper time to jeer the opposing goalie.

You cannot jeer a goalie when your team is putting on a lot of pressure but he's making all the saves.

You cannot jeer a goalie when your teams scores but is still losing.

You cannot jeer a goalie when your team scores but has merely tied up the game.

You cannot jeer a goalie when he's lying on the ice because one of your players ran him over, knocking over his helmet.

I might have been exaggerating a little bit in the opening paragraph but this really does bother me. Marty Brodeur made a string of excellent saves and even though the Rangers didn't manage to get a puck past him, they started chanting his name. Ummmm, guys? He just shut you down. When the Ducks scored their first goal in Game 2, they started chanting "Tur-co! Tur-co!" Hey, Ducks fans? You were still losing. And also, that was the FIRST GOAL YOU'D SCORED ON TURCO IN THE SERIES. Tonight the Senators poured the pressure on Fleury and even though he stonewalled them, they started chanting his name. When they actually scored later in the game? Nothing!

You jeer if the goalie gives up a softie.

You jeer if the goalie is getting destroyed.

You jeer if the goalie seems to be losing his temper or his composure.

It's not that hard, people. Let's straighten this out before the next round, okay?

(Hey, guess what? I'm going back to work tomorrow! That's right! The long national nightmare is over!)

(Oh, also, Mark and I are thinking about buying a house but we're in need of a realtor. If any of you are realtors or know a realtor you like enough to recommend, drop me a note at the email address to the right. We're particularly interested in the city so someone who's familiar with Buffalo would be nice.)

(One more thing. That Senator that came out on the ice before the Ottawa-Pittsburgh game tonight and gave his inspiring speech was the most awesomely hilarious thing I've seen this postseason. Thanks, Ottawa!)

Now That Was a Day of Hockey

Friends, I'm not going to lie. While I absolutely wish the Sabres were in the playoffs, I'm kind of enjoying the postseason without them. It's so nice to watch a game and pick a team to root for but not care enough about that team winning that I'm a devastated emotional mess when they don't. And what a great day for hockey! Today was full of good, bad, and ugly.

First up, the bad and the ugly, the Devils vs. the Rangers. Tonight's game was the first one from this series that I've been able to watch but I told you no one with a soul could cheer for the Rangers. Sean Avery's display today was just ridiculous. Here's video for anyone who missed it but basically Avery stood face-to-face with Marty Brodeur, turning his back completely on the play, and waved his hands in Marty's face like a third grader would. Seriously, the only thing missing was him sticking his tongue out and singing "na na na na boo boo, stick your head in doo doo." I understand that Avery has a job to do and part of that is getting under people's skin but this was so far beyond anything I've ever seen. It was immature, obnoxious, and the very epitome of unsportsmanlike conduct. He was completely ignoring the play, he was in no position to tip in a shot or tie up a defender. He was just being a first class, grade A jackass. I was pretty annoyed with the Versus broadcast for pumping him up all night and then ignoring the level of douchebaggery of that play but thank goodness CBC got it right (also in the linked video). Ron MacLean called it dishonorable and cited a rule that he would've used to level a ten minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike behavior and Kelly Hrudey agreed and said that it had no place in the game. Seriously, that display goes against everything I love about playoff hockey. Guys like Brendan Shanahan and Chris Drury should be chewing his ass out even as I type this for that. I realize "honor" is a tough concept for Avery but get a little, why don't you?

(Oh, I had this whole paragraph here about how awesome it was that replays showed Drury skate over and give Avery a little shove which had us all speculating that he was telling Avery to cut the crap and pay attention to the play and how even though I'm not as distraught over his departure as some people I did think it was really cool of him to do that and how it seemed very in character and indicative of how much he always seemed to respect the game and the people on the ice with him but then NHL Network isolated the play and zoomed in on Drury and it turns out that what he was actually saying was, "Stick down" which isn't nearly as endearing.)

Fortunately, the Devils won and the Hockey Gods saw fit to pour even more manna from heaven in the late game between Calgary and San Jose. Usually I kind of hate when an organization tries to get the crowd to all wear one color but the Calgary crowd really looked amazing. Not only were they all wearing red, almost everyone appeared to be wearing jerseys. Those people are hardcore! When the camera panned up some and you could see three or four rows of solid jerseys it was a very cool effect. Which is why it seemed so cruel that the Sharks scored a goal a minute for the first three minutes and chased Kipper out of net. Kipper, who had a kick ass game in their loss a couple of nights ago!

And then everything started to turn. I'll admit, I don't always buy "That hit turned the game around!" but geez, that hit on Patrick Marleau really did change the momentum of the game. The Flames were clearly picking up steam and the Sharks were clearly panicking which is something I guess they're familiar with. With all apologies to the Sharks fans of the world, watching Calgary claw their way back into the game in front of their backup goaltender with the crowd getting more and more crazy as time went on was pretty awesome, an example of sports at its very finest. Watching a team and its fans feed off of each other like that is always a little breath-taking. It seems ridiculous that 18,000 people could care that much about who puts more pucks in a net and it seems ridiculous that professional athletes who get paid a lot of money to do what they do could be that inspired by strangers rooting them on but as ridiculous as it may be, I think it's beautiful and I don't care how stupid some people probably think that sounds.

And I'm not going to lie. Brian Campbell being in the thick of things made it even better. He was playing his particular brand of "I'll just stand back here and wave at the shooter" defense on the game-winning goal and he did a totally needless spin-o-rama and turned over the puck right in front of his net which oh by way, had NO GOALIE IN IT. Uh, Brian... There's less than a minute left in the game and your team kind of needs a goal. Maybe you should pass the puck up the ice or chip it off the glass or something. If Alex Tanguay hadn't tanked the shot, he'd have looked even dumber. I'm sure we'll get video of that spin-o-rama up on Sabres Edge, right? Right? I mean, we miss Campbell and want to wallow in all his highlights, right? Again, with apologies to Sharks fans and bloggers, it's been kind of entertaining watching them go from, "Campbell is awesome!" to "Wait... I thought this guy was a #1 defenseman." I feel triumphant!

I am exhausted by hockey right now and I love it!

Flame on! (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nathan Gerbe is Good at Hockey

Now that every playoff series is under way, I have a better feel for where I stand on all the different teams. But first! Mark and I watched long stretches of the NCCAA Championship game which featured Sabres prospects Andrew Orpik and Nathan Gerbe. I've been hearing Gerbe's name for a while but, you guys! He's really, really good! He's a teeny tiny 5'5" but while he looked small standing next to other players, I never really thought about him being small when he was actually playing. He seems kind of fiery and he skates really well and he actually scores! A lot! In the last two games of the tournament - big games - he had five goals and three assists. He was the best player on the ice! He was voted Most Outstanding Player in the Frozen Four!

I admit these guys are usually not on my radar until they're in Rochester - and even then I don't really know anything about them until they've shown their face in Buffalo at least once - but yeah, this one might be good. I mean... I've heard people say he was good and I knew he was up for the Hobey Baker. But seeing him play was kind of a revelation.

How many inches do you think he'll grow between here and Buffalo though? I mean, they can't list him at 5'5." It would totally give away that Derek Roy is not really 5'9" :P

As a side note, I was so excited to discover that Ray Ferraro was calling the game. He was my favorite person involved in NBC's coverage last year and I've really been missing him. Who decided Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury would make for a good intermission show?

One more side note. Notre Dame got totally jobbed on their waived off goal. Apparently the NCAA has about the same grasp as the NHL on the kicking motion rule. (None.)

I hope we're seeing a lot of this in the next few years.

(Note to playoff pool participants. Any line-up changes must be made before 1 p.m. on Monday. If you forget, your first week's line-up will just play for another week. A couple of people have asked if it's possible to look at everyone's scores on one page. It is! At the top under "Stats/Standings," click on "Group Standings." And when you do, please note that Vanek's Hair is NOT in first place despite his dancing and gesturing.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Playoff Primer: Jarome Iginla

One of the fun things about the playoffs is getting to see players we don't see in the East on a more regular basis. And one of the beauties of the internet is all the information at your fingertips. Even if you go into a series knowing very little about a player, you can find out a lot about him in a short time. I spent a chunk of yesterday reading about Jarome Iginla so I thought I'd share some of that with you. Then we can all say we learned something new today. (Unless you're already an Iginla expert. In that case, you'll have to go somewhere else for your knowledge today.)

- His full name is Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tij Junior Elvis Iginla. Arthur-Leigh is his dad's middle name. Adekunle is his dad's first name and Elvis is what his dad changed his name to when he moved to North America. Tij is after his dad's dad, Tijani.

- His dad is Nigerian, his mother North American (born in the United States, grew up in Alberta). Iginla means "big tree" in Yoruba.

- His parents divorced when he was not quite two and he was raised by his mom and her parents. His mom worked multiple jobs during Jarome's childhood.

All together now... Awwwwwwwww!

- Growing up, Jarome was also a very good baseball player and played on traveling teams (pitcher, catcher, and a little shorstop). He really admired Bo Jackon (a total plus in my book) and for a long time hoped to follow in his footsteps and become a two sport pro. He played baseball until he was seventeen before finally deciding to focus solely on hockey.

- When his mom went back to school as an adult, Jarome paid her tuition. (I'm not gonna lie, as the proud daughter of a hard-working single mother, that chokes me up a little. This is probably my favorite thing I read about Iggy.)

- He and his wife Kara run (or used to run) a hockey camp for kids 6-12-years-old. They try to teach the kids skills but the focus is on enjoying playing hockey. "They love the speed, being able to crash around. Sports for kids sometimes get a little too serious, and my wife and I wanted our school not to be. We want to teach skills, but we believe the more fun the kids are having, the harder they'll work and the better they'll get without even trying."

- The best story I read about Iggy: The night before Game 7 of a first-round playoff series against Vancouver, he and some teammates went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Vancouver where a wedding party was going on. As the players were leaving, a little boy yelled from his booster seat, "Bye, Iggy!" Iginla walked over to the little boy, put him on his knee, and talked hockey with him. He then signed autographs and posed for pictures with everyone in the party before leaving and didn't seem to be in any rush to get back to his hotel.

- In a season where the headlines and Hart debates were dominated by Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, Iginla quietly had a 50 goal, 98 point season. That's pretty good.

- My favorite thing about his goal in Game One of the San Jose series was not that he blew by Brian Campbell - although I did enjoy that - but that even while plowing into the net he was thinking clearly enough to put his arm down on top of the net and attempt to hold it in its moorings for any follow-up shot. That's an assist.

- For my money, Iggy has the single best smile in the NHL. And it existed before Ovechkin was in the NHL so there!

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Credits:
"Jarome Iginla" as told to Brian Cazeneuve, Sports Illustrated
"The Great Iginla" by Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated
"They Should Not Win" by Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated
Thanks to Anne at Sabretooth's House for finding the adorable picture of little Iggy. I totally stole it from her.

Did You Know?

Did you guys know that Joe Thornton and Brian Campbell played together when they were kids?! Man, I wish someone would tell me these things!

Also, I think tonight is Alexander Ovechkin's first playoff game! Ever!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Let's Have a Presser!

Thoughts on the press conference and interview Larry Quinn, Darcy Regier, and Lindy Ruff did today:

- I do appreciate management admitting they made some mistakes and mishandled some situations. Now can we move on and give them a chance to act differently in the future? Mistakes were made, mistakes were admitted, no amount of complaining is going to change the things that already happened. Moving along, moving along.

- I liked Darcy Regier's comments that teams have to be careful with long-term contracts. He's absolutely right that you can't give everyone six and seven years especially when you're handing them out when players are so young. I think Thomas Vanek has been consistent enough that he'll probably be a valuable player for six more years but if he doesn't pan out he wouldn't be the first player to get off to a promising start and then peter out. When you've got a bunch of guys tied up for years and some of them don't work out the way you were hoping, you're stuck. Long-term contracts should be saved for special players. I think there will probably always be disagreements about who those guys are - I'm glad they traded Brian Campbell instead of giving him one of those deals, others are insistent that he should have been earmarked for one - but I really don't see how you can disagree with a more cautious approach at least on this issue. I may be in the minority but I'd rather have a GM who occasionally lets the wrong guy go but leaves some flexibility to recover from the mistake than a GM who throws huge money and terms at everyone and ties the organization up for years because those guys were busts and can't be moved.

- Larry Quinn went a little hard on the reminders that Tom Golisano saved the Sabres. Yes, he bought the team when it was close to ending up elsewhere. Yes, he spent a lot of money on losing seasons before the lockout. We get it. Overall though I do think Quinn was a touch less assy than he usually is.

- I do think management was pretty agreeable to some of the criticisms of the current team especially a lack of leadership and overuse of Ryan Miller. I think those are things pretty much everyone can agree on so I was glad to hear them just admit it rather than trying to wiggle out of it or spin it.

- Lindy Ruff's criticism of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman hurt my heart but he's right. They were very inconsistent this year. There were a lot of stretches where either both of them were playing poorly or one of them was playing poorly enough that it was bringing down the other. In a season where a lot of the players were looking at different roles and big changes, the Sabres really needed Tallinder and Lydman, who were in the same role as last year, to be steady especially at the beginning of the season. Instead they were as shaky as everyone else. There was a point in February where Hank was, by some standards (pretty good ones, I think), the best defensive d-man in the league. By the end of the year he'd tumbled to 20th. I don't think it's coincidence that when Tallinder and Lydman were playing their best hockey, the team was succeeding and when they were struggling, the team was losing. (I would also put Ryan Miller in with Five and Dime. He was as shaky as they were - even before the stretch run when he was obviously running on fumes - and slightly better defense or slightly better goaltending during the ten game losing streak means the Sabres are probably still playing.) (Also, I still love you, Hank. Get in terrific shape this summer, okay?)

- I don't really understand the criticism of the Sabres offering Campbell a three year deal. If they didn't want to give him a lot of money long-term but they were interested in him coming back, what does it hurt to see if he'll take more money for shorter years? What if it had come out later that Campbell would've taken a shorter contract but the Sabres didn't offer it? The front office would've been lambasted. And Darcy is right about San Jose. I was talking to a Sharks fan about that not long ago. The Sharks have not made it a habit to hand out long-term contracts even to their stars. I suppose they could start this season but it is a little much to accuse the Sabres of insulting Campbell with a three year deal for a lot of money when they're hardly the only franchise that's being careful. (Please note that I'm not saying the reporter who asked about Campbell's contract offer was implying that - although maybe he was, I don't know. That was more a response to complaints I've heard from others.)

- Maybe you could argue that the Sabres haven't done a good job of setting the market for their own players (although Derek Roy at four million a year is a good start) but how in the world can you suggest that they're partly to blame for escalating salaries across the league? Because they have one outrageous contract on the books? As long as the Sabres are under the current management and the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and Kevin Lowe are in the league, I think that's a pretty dumb suggestion. (That had to be Bucky.)

- I can't always tell everyone's voices apart but I think I really like John Vogl at press conferences. He always asks questions I want to know the answers to but he manages to do it without sounding accusatory or biased. He's always very even-keeled. that might just be John's personality and I know sometimes reporters have to be more aggressive to get a real answer out of someone like Larry Quinn but I appreciate that his initial approach is more professional than um... other's.

- I'll accept youth as an excuse this year. The team is young, they went through a lot of change, and they had their first year of regular season struggle. Next year I don't know if I'll buy that excuse from these guys though. This was your year to be stubborn and stupid, boys. Let's fix all that next season.

- On Schopp and the Bulldog, Darcy talked some about the scouting department which I thought was pretty interesting if you didn't hear it. Since we've been given the impression that the scouting department has been reduced to a nine-year-old watching grainy black-and-white video on one of those televisions people have on the counters in their kitchens, it was nice to get more detail. I'm shocked that things might have been exaggerated a little bit.

- Also shocking? Darcy Regier evidently isn't interested in telling us what the Sabres are planning on offering Ryan Miller.

Press conference
Schopp and the Bulldog Part 1
Schopp and the Bulldog Part 2

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

SabreCast: The Good and the Bad

New SabreCast episodes! I can't figure out how to get the cute little player into a post on Blogger and I'm too tired to keep fighting it for now. I'm supposed to be going to bed earlier this week in preparation for (hopefully) returning to work next week but playoff hockey is going to screw that up something awful. I love marathon overtime games so I stay up hoping for them. And then they happen and I'm up until 2:00, cursing myself for not going to be bed before the second games started.

I'll probably write more later but for now, I'll sum up my thoughts on tonight's games:

Marty Brodeur looked awful which is very, very bad for New Jersey.

Ottawa looked amazingly awful. If Anton Volchenkov doesn't come back they might lose in three games. I got a kick out of Sidney Crosby trading hacks and swings with Wade Redden and then making some kind of zero gesture with his fingers when yapping with Dany Heatley. (You have zero points? Your team's score is zero? I'm a hero and you're a zero?)

I'm bummed I didn't get the overtime game and bummed that Minnesota couldn't pull it out.

The San Jose-Calgary game confirmed that I'm both anti-Sharks and anti-Brian Campbell. I felt a little bad during the closeups of him on the bench after he got completely owned by Jarome Iginla but I snapped out of it when I remembered that he wanted six million dollars (plus!) a year for that defense (and the sparkling turnover right behind his net) and hasn't quit complaining that Buffalo wouldn't give it to him. At the end of the game I was actually saying aloud, "Don't let Campbell win this game, don't let Campbell win this game." I know Kiprusoff had a rough season but he looked really good tonight.

Anyway, here are the podcasts. If you want the nice little players, you can listen to them at The Willful Caboose. Otherwise just click on the episode titles.

EPISODE 3: IT'S ALL BAD
In this episode Kate and Heather look at the bad side of Thomas Vanek, Darcy Regier, the Brian Campbell saga, and missing the playoffs. They also discuss what happens when Ryan Miller goes bad and give him some advice for the off-season.

EPISODE 4: IT'S ALL GOOD
In this episode Kate and Heather look at the good side of Thomas Vanek, Darcy Regier, the Brian Campbell saga, and missing the playoffs. They also delight in Ryan Miller’s final interview of the season. It’s not all bad Sabres fans!

(This is totally a learning process but I think Kate and I started to find more of a rhythm in these two episodes. It is only a matter of time before we take over the airwaves of Buffalo.)

This and That

- The draft lottery might very well be the dumbest thing I've ever watched on TV. Where were the balls? Where was the ball spinner mcdoohickey? Where was Gary Bettman cranking the handle with that ridiculous smile? And what's with the whole "One team can win the lottery but not win the first pick" thing? No! I get what they're saying but if you don't win the first pick you did not win the lottery. Winning the right to move from fourteen to ten is not winning the lottery. And worst of all, nothing changed! The teams ended up in exactly the same order they would've been in if they'd been lined up by record. Why don't we just do it that way every year, NHL? Because once upon a time Ottawa really wanted Alexandre Daigle? I'm officially not a fan of the NHL draft lottery.

- Mark emailed me a couple days ago to tell me about a Larry Felser column that he thought I'd enjoy. When I went to pull it up on my laptop it came up as blocked. That's right. In my desperation to avoid certain Buffalo News sports columnists, I actually blocked the URL. Porn? That'll come through just fine. Bucky Gleason? BLOCKED! (Yes, I am pathetic.) (Oh, and for the record, Sabres Edge technically has a different URL than TBN so I've been able to access that. I do sometimes wish there was a way to block out the comments because there's where I usually get into trouble. Although I've been better lately. Really.)

- Another day, another article full of annoying quotes from Brian Campbell. I won't go into a lot of detail now because I ranted and raved about Kate and I discussed one of the quotes in an upcoming episode of SabreCast. But I will say that Brian Campbell is officially dead to me which is really bumming me out. I know I spent most of the season here disparaging his play and contract demands but it wasn't anything personal. And while I think he's probably just talking and talking without really thinking about what he's saying or how it might come across to other people, he's really getting on my nerves and it's really genuinely upsetting me. Kate also reminded me that I said not that long ago, "If Brian Campbell isn't a True Sabre, no one is." Which is sad in many different ways.

- If you haven't watched the interviews up on Sabres.com from locker clean out day, I highly recommend them. The boys all look depressed and down in the mouth - as well they should - and Ryan Miller even says, "We're embarrassed." It totally stinks that they're not in the playoffs but I think maybe it really will be a good thing in the long-run for them to miss out after playing so badly for a lot of the season. I've been saying that for a while but I have to admit, I wasn't entirely sure I believed it. It was more of a comfort thing. But all of them said some variation of, "We've always made the playoffs even in Rochester. I don't like the feeling of not being in the playoffs and I don't ever want it to happen again." They looked and sounded disappointed.

But! They all also sounded really determined to make next season a better one and they were a little defiant to even the slightest implication that the team is lacking in talent and they were even a little defensive of management. Pommers praised Brian Campbell's abilities and said there weren't many d-men in the league like him but said he felt the team made the right choice in trading him. Paul Gaustad said he liked the direction of the team and felt like the organization had the right idea. Ryan said, "I like talking to Larry Quinn," which you know made some of those reporters gasp and jump back in horror. I realize that most players are not going to stand at their locker on the last day of a disappointing season and lambaste their teammates or management but I also don't think they're going to go out of their way to say such positive things if they don't mean them and feel them on some level. I'm really glad to see that the Sabres, as a group, sounded disappointed but determined and even a little chippy. That's what I was hoping to see out of them this season but maybe they needed a year to flounder first. Guess we'll find out next season.

- Teppo Numminen's interview was a breath of fresh air. He looks great - the haircut is perfect, Teppo - and he was smiling and laughing throughout. And he wants to come back to the Sabres which totally tickled me because one, I so want him to come back and two, everyone seemed pretty determined that he be too upset to come back.
Are you done here, Teppo?
No, I really love Buffalo. Coming back here would be my first choice.
Are you bitter about the suspension?
Nah. Business is business. The team was supportive of my case and situation. No hard feelings on my part.
Yay, Teppo!

- Last night I had to think all the way through the playoffs for another playoff pool I'm in - an old-fashioned fill out the brackets pool - so for the record, here are my official picks. I have Minnesota and Detroit in the WCF and Montreal and Pittsburgh in the ECF with Detroit beating Montreal in the SCF. And then the Red Wings will celebrate their Stanley Cup by wooing Ryan Miller to Detroit. (Just kidding. Ryan Miller is not going to be a Red Wing.) (For the record, you should not be placing money on my picks. In case you were tempted.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Eastern Conference Picks

(Quick note to those of you in the playoff pool. Line-ups for the first week are due by noon on Wednesday.)

This could be a long one because I'm going to do the whole Eastern Conference at once just so it all gets done before the playoffs start. (Do I really need to say, "This could be a long one?" Is it at all shocking when I talk for a really long time?)

1. MONTREAL CANADIENS
I dig the Canadiens. There's no one on their team who I hate and there are even a few people who I really like (Saku Koivu and Mike Komisarek being the big two). Classic jerseys. A real hockey tradition. And I love their crowds. It can be annoying when you're on the other side but I love how quick Montreal crowds are to express themselves and I'm not going to lie, I love the "Ole Ole" song. I find myself singing along even when they're playing against the Sabres. The Canadiens are also really, really fun to watch. I love their fast back-and-forth style and I'm in awe of their powerplay. Going into the playoffs, the Habs are my favorite on the Eastern Conference side. We'll see if it sticks.

2. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
I was born in Pittsburgh and raised by Pittsburghers. Every childhood vacation involved Pittsburgh and I still have family there. The Mario Lemieux-led Penguins were the first hockey team I was really aware of. Heck, my first jersey was a Penguins jersey (Ron Francis #10). When all is said and done, I probably should be a Penguins fan right now. Even though fate stepped in and steered me toward the team and city that has no pro sports championships instead of plenty of them (thanks, fate!), I do still have a soft spot for Pittsburgh and I do mostly like the Penguins. Now that I've managed to dig through the media hype I think Sidney Crosby really is the cat's pajamas. And I'm totally in love with Evgeni Malkin. I'm amazed at how he just took over while Crosby was out and I love his silent, slightly embarrassed smile. Part of me hopes he never learns to speak English. (Part of me believes he speaks perfect English and just chooses not to) Really, do we need to hear "We're just going to take it one game at a time" from yet another player? I think Crosby has that covered. I am decidedly pro-Penguins.

3. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Remember how Kevin Sylvester kept saying, "All hockey fans would be happy to see the Caps in the playoffs" and other similar things? Kevin forgot to poll me. I fully acknowledge that Alexander Ovechkin is an amazingly gifted player and barring a career-ending injury or a total collapse will be one of the best players of my lifetime. But I'm just not sure how I feel about him. There are times when I get a kick out of him and there are times when I feel like he's veering awfully close to showboating. And again, while I fully acknowledge that the NHL could use a good kick of personality, that's never been my thing. I hate running backs who start dancing before they're in the end zone and defensive players who celebrate a tackle like they just won the lottery. I hate baseball players who stand at home plate and watch the ball soar over the fence. I also hit Ovechkin Overload weeks ago. And now he's dragged his team into the playoffs? The hype is about to go off the charts insane. I don't know if I can handle it.

The good news for the Caps is that I don't find the team itself particularly offensive and I don't outright hate anyone on the team. And the good news for Ovechkin (because you know he's weeping at the thought that I don't like him) is that once upon a time I refused to like Sidney Crosby because of the endless hype and adoration and what finally changed my mind was watching Sid in the playoffs last year. So I'm not completely closing the door on the Caps but right now it doesn't look good. This one could definitely go either way.

4. NEW JERSEY DEVILS
This is another team where blogging rears its head and influences my opinion. I've spent many an hour lounging around Interchangeable Parts and emailing Pookie and Schnookie, the ladies who run the joint, so I know a lot about the players on the Devils and have even come to like a few of them. If I didn't talk to Pookie and Schnookie so much I would probably never have given the Devils a second thought and might outright hate them after all the stupid shootout losses this season. But I like them okay and I love Marty Brodeur so I'll cheer for the Devils in the right situation. They're not the most exciting team to watch but I fear the Eastern Conference is going to end up being a battle of the lesser evil.

5. NEW YORK RANGERS
If this season ends with Chris Drury hoisting a Stanley Cup - and Kate and I have had endless discussions about how that might be the only way this season can end - I'm building a bunker under our apartment building. Then I'm digging underground tunnels that connect the bunker to the parking lot at work. And then I'm constructing a bubble to live in during those times I have to interact with the outside world. I'm cutting myself off from media of all kind - newspapers, magazines, sports radio, message boards, and 99.7% of the blogs I read. I will do all that and somehow, some way I'll still end up hearing about Chris Drury and how his Little League triumph prepared him for this day when he would lead the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup and I'll still end up hearing about how the Buffalo Sabres have doomed themselves to a history of defeat and despair and Bucky Gleason will call it the Curse of Captain Clutch and in thirty years I'll be the haggard od woman with no teeth and a swarm of cats who stands at the corner outside the arena all day yelling, "CAPTAIN CLUTCH NEVER WON US NOTHING AND WASN'T VERY CLUTCH IN THE FACE-OFF CIRCLE AGAINST JASON SPEZZA!" and "THE SABRES WANTED TO MATCH BUT CAPTAIN CLUTCH WANTED TO BE A DIRTY RANGER!" and people will point and laugh and throw things. I would hope that this is a future we all want to avoid.

(Also, Jaromir Jagr? Sean Avery? Scott Gomez? It's like someone decided to dump the very douchiest of douchebags on one team. No one with a soul could possibly cheer for the Rangers.)

6. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
In the battle of Former Sabres Lost in the Last Calendar Year, Daniel Briere is the one I'd be the most okay with winning it all if you put a gun to Mark's head and made me pick one. (I asked Mark what he would say if someone put a guy to my head and told him to choose Drury, Briere, or Brian Campbell and he said, "I'd tell them to shoot you," and then attempted to justify it with, "You wouldn't want to live in a world where any of those guys won a Cup!" I can't decide if that's really sweet or really disturbing.) I think Bucky and Co. would still go crazy but maybe not quite as crazy and I like Danny enough that it wouldn't make me throw up.

That said, it's the Flyers. I wasn't in Buffalo for most of the Buffalo-Philly history but even I hate the Flyers. And even if we just go by this year, how can you cheer for the the Flyers? The gooning it up? The stupid suspensions? The horrific mishandling of concussions? How many years has this franchise taken off Simon Gagne's career already? No, I'm afraid the Flyers are unacceptable.

7. OTTAWA SENATORS
I don't hate Ottawa the way some Buffalo fans do but I don't love them enough that I don't think this whole season has been pretty hilarious. With apologies to the Senators fans who I do know, like, and respect, this season has been a delight to watch. From the day the puck dropped against the Islanders I think Sabres fans knew we were going to be in for an up and down season. The Senators went something like 15-2 to start the season. Everyone was ready to hand them the Conference title if not the Stanley Cup. Even the most pessimistic and cautious fan had to be feeling pretty good about that kind of record. And then the team just fell apart. Gloriously and spectacularly. And now they get Pittsburgh in the first round? Without Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher? Oh, Ottawa. You're toast. You're toast and yes, I think it's pretty entertaining. There is some small part of me that wouldn't be opposed to the Sens winning (with Mike Fisher) some year but if they pull it off this year it'll be way too much of a feel-good story. ("The struggling Sens pull off a first round upset in the name of their fallen captain!") This year I'm pulling for the collapse to be complete. The Ottawa Senators are a living example of why maybe it was better to just miss the playoffs instead of squeaking in.

8. BOSTON BRUINS
I can't think of any players on the Bruins who really disgust me (I kind of like Zdeno Chara) but I've had my fill of them for one year. The only thing the division heavy schedule really accomplished for me was making me hate them. And not in a "I love to hate them" kind of way. More like in a "I hate them and would rather pull my toenails out with tweezers than watch them for another second" kind of way. I do not want to see this team, playing this kind of hockey win anything. Ugh.

Official picks:
MONTREAL vs. BOSTON - Montreal in 4
PITTSBURGH vs. OTTAWA - Pittsburgh in 5
WASHINGTON vs. PHILADELPHIA - Washington in 6
NEW JERSEY vs. NEW YORK - New York in 6

Go West, Young Man Pt. 2

(I just posted two entries back-to-back so make sure you catch both of them before you move on.)

Part two of the Western Conference playoff primer! (Part one can be found here.)

5. DALLAS STARS
Like many people in Buffalo I have a natural reaction to spit three times at the mere mention of the Dallas Stars. Which is why I was surprised to find myself really rooting them in the playoffs last year. I stayed up until all hours of the night watching the endless overtimes with Vancouver and even though I had originally tuned into to see if Roberto Luongo would win his first playoff series, my heart ended up behind Marty Turco. It also helps that a few of the bloggers I've gotten to know the best over the season are Dallas bloggers (see Untypical Girls and Penalty Killing) and I feel like I know the players on their team pretty well, especially Philippe Boucher and Sergei Zubov. Also, I still really like Stuuuuuu Barnes. So I like the Stars. I will, under the right circumstances, cheer for the Stars. Right now I'd even call them my favorite team on the WC side.

6. COLORADO AVALANCHE
I know a ton of people who hate the Colorado Avalanche. I have no strong feelings either way on the Avs. I only know a handful of players on the team and I have no strong feelings either way on them either. Going into the playoffs, they're a blank slate for me. We'll have to see what happens.

7. CALGARY FLAMES
One of the Western guys I most wish we saw more often in Buffalo is Jarome Iginla. He's talented, he's tough, and he has one of the most amazing smiles in pro sports. I have no doubt that he spearheaded both the stick-tapping and the handshakes during what may have been Trevor Linden's final game a couple nights ago and both were great moments. I just like him. I also love their logo. I know some of the other guys on the team but I don't have a firm opinion on any of them except for Rhett Warrener who I also like. (Note to Buffalo: If the Flames end up winning up the Cup, no complaining that we gave up Warrener for nothing. One, you people are killing me. Two, we gave him up for Chris Drury.) So at this point, I'm totally willing to cheer for the Flames.



8. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Of all the Sabres who have moved on in the past couple of years, J.P. Dumont is one of two who I would not mind at all winning a Stanley Cup (Jay McKee is the other). Why? I don't know. I think the mass hysteria would be smaller than if Chris Drury or Daniel Briere win and it would be easier to block out because anyone who's complaining about the team walking away from Dumont is talking with serious hindsight. I remember a lot of "It's too bad we couldn't keep him but that's a lot of money" but very little "The Sabres should be shot for not keeping him!" Plus I just like ol' Jean-Pierre. Unfortunately, I hate his teammates. Holy moses, what a collection of jackasses the Predators are. We don't play them that much so I kind of forget about them and start thinking of them as a spunky little southern team (I have a bit of a soft spot for those non-traditional market teams) and then five minutes into a game with them I remember. I remember that I HATE THEM. So I'm sorry, J.P. I'm so glad that you sound happy in Nashville and I hope that as long as the Preds are in the playoffs you're racking up points but I cannot in good conscience cheer for a Nashville Cup victory.

So that's how I feel about the Western Conference. Here are my official picks. Keep in mind that considering how often I see these teams play, I may as well be drawing names out of a hat. I considered not doing this at all but I figured it would be fun for you guys to be able to point and laugh later when I get every single series wrong.

DETROIT vs. NASHVILLE - Detroit in 6
SAN JOSE vs. CALGARY - Calgary in 6
MINNESOTA vs. COLORADO - Minnesota in 5
ANAHEIM vs. DALLAS - Dallas in 7

With the First Pick in the 2008 Draft...

Tonight is the draft lottery! I've never really followed the NHL draft but since we have a rooting interest in it this year I thought I'd do some reading and figure out how it works. I found a lot of people complaining about how complicated the whole system is but I don't know, it seems pretty easy to me. Let me walk you through it step-by-step.

- The lottery includes every team that missed the playoffs. (Let's go Buff-a-lo!)

- The exceptions are teams who are in the playoffs but have the first round draft pick of teams who are out. So for example, even though Anaheim is in the playoffs, they're in the lottery because they have Edmonton's first round pick.

- Fourteen balls (numbered 1-14) are placed in a ball spinner mcdoohickey (technical term, don't let it faze you) and four are drawn, creating a series of numbers. A probability chart divides the 1,001 possible combinations among the fourteen teams involved. The four-digit series that results from the balls drawn are then compared to the probability chart to determine which team has been assigned that combination.

- Oh, except for one series. One of the 1,001 series is eliminated so the odds are all even. If that series is drawn, it gets tossed and the drawing is re-done.

- The teams out of the playoffs are ranked from the least amount of points to the most. No team can move up more than four spots or down more than one. (For example, Buffalo is 13th out of 14 so they can't move any higher than 9th. Way to stink just enough to miss the playoffs but not enough to land in the top five, fellas. Tampa Bay, with the worst record, is first so they can't pick any lower than second.)

- Whoops, hold on. There are a few more exceptions.
- If the team selected has more than two players with 90 points or more they can drop up to three slots instead of only one. They have at least two really good players so there must be teams more in need.
- If the team selected has no players with 90 points or more they can move up seven spots instead of four. They might be worse than their record shows.
- If the team selected has more than two players with 90 points but both of those players are left wings they can move up five spots. They clearly need help on the right side and maybe on defense.
- If the team selected has a mascot deemed cute by a tribunal of fans they can move all the way up to the top of the draft. It pays to be cute even in the NHL.
- If the team selected has a mascot who has legs even though the animal it's based on does not have legs (see Fin, SJ Sharkie) they can be kicked out of the draft completely. Sea creatures with legs are creepy and should not be encouraged.

- The order in the first round has no bearing on the order in the following rounds.

Now... Was that so hard?

Like many other things in life, this system can be blamed on the Ottawa Senators. There were rumors that they purposely tanked in order to get Alexandre Daigle in the 1993 draft. Now some would argue that ending up with Alexandre Daigle (hello, nurse!) was punishment enough but no, the NHL decided to install the lottery so that no team could ever lose themselves into the first overall pick. Thanks, Ottawa!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

And Now For the Exciting Conclusion...

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.)

FIRST PERIOD
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!

INTERMISSION
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.

SECOND PERIOD

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.

INTERMISSION

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).

THIRD PERIOD

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.

Go West, Young Man

While I would much rather be rooting for the Sabres in the playoffs, it's possible that it might be kind of fun to watch the playoffs with no real emotional investment. I can hop on a bandwagon and not be devastated if that bandwagon derails some time in the next couple of months. I'll just hop on another one. So because I know you're all dying to know, let's take a look at who Heather B. will be cheering for on the Western side of things.

Before we get started, I will say that this is all sure to change once I actually start watching games especially in the Western Conference where I really know very little about the teams. Every post-season I find myself cheering for someone I never really predicted (never at the expense of the Sabres of course). Last year it was Marty Turco and the Dallas Stars. And sometimes, if a match-up is really bad, I find myself getting sucked into a team and then looking back and wondering what I was thinking. Last year I was fully behind the Ducks in the Finals even though I don't really hate the Sens and I can boil it down to a few very basic reasons: The brutal loss to the Sens was too fresh as was my outrage at Daniel Alfredsson's boarding of Henrik Tallinder and I really warmed to the stories of J.S. Giguere's sick baby, Teemu Selanne flying all his childhood friends in from Finland to watch the Finals and Scott and Rob Niedermayer winning a Cup together. Now I hate the Ducks. I really disliked Selanne and Niedermayer's half retirements and I think Chris Pronger is a blight on the NHL (how I overlooked that, I don't know). I can't believe I was rooting for them. But I was. Behold the power of the Playoff Goggles. Anyway... all that to say, this is where I stand now but don't hold me to it.

1. DETROIT RED WINGS
I know some people hate the Red Wings because they've won so many Cups and I know a few people who still hate them for how much press they got during that run. And I know some people around here hate them because of Dominik Hasek. I wasn't really following hockey very closely during their last run or during most of Hasek's Buffalo career so I have no real beef with the Red Wings. In fact, I'd be fine with them winning for one reason.

Nicklas Lidstrom.

Seriously, loving defense the way I do, how could I not love Nick Lidstrom? He's amazing. He boggles my mind. He's so good on both the defensive and offensive sides and he's been that good for a long time now. I wish we played him more often because I would love to watch him in person where I could just focus on him and what he's doing on the ice. On top of being amazingly talented, he never resorts to dirty play and he seems like a heck of a nice guy. So yeah, I could get behind seeing him with another Stanley Cup if it comes to that.

2. SAN JOSE SHARKS
This is a heart-breaker because I really do like the Sharks. I like Evgeni Nabokov and I love Joe Thornton. I'd like to see them do well. But they went and added Brian Campbell and guys, I don't think I can handle Brian Campbell winning a Stanley Cup. I can't handle a summer of Bucky Gleason crowing (because that's what he'd be doing) about how the great and wonderful Campbell was mistreated by Buffalo and went on to bigger and better things with an organization that really cares about its team and players. And just when I was thinking maybe I could handle it because once upon a time I did really like Brian Campbell and I thought maybe my heart would soften a little once I actually saw him hoisting that Cup with his big ear-to-ear grin, I read an article that included this quote from him: “I wanted to stay in Buffalo, we all did,” Campbell said after the trade that made a very good San Jose team even better. “Buffalo didn’t want to pay us.”

That quote made me totally cranky. First of all, way to speak for everyone who has ever left Buffalo. Second of all, way to look stupid doing it since in a couple of cases Buffalo did want to pay them and the players just chose to go elsewhere. And third of all, is it that hard to just go away gracefully? Really? I feel like that's not really asking that much.

So while it is with much sadness that I cast aside the Sharks and Brian Campbell, cast them aside I will. (I hope you do great, Joe.)

3. MINNESOTA WILD
Let's see... Here's what I know about the Wild. Marion Gaborik and Mikko Koivu play for them and their jerseys are very Christmas-y. (I like them although it is a little excessive when paired with the green pants.) I have nothing against them in theory and I think Minnesota would adore having a Cup champion so that's cool. But I always hear about them playing defensive hockey and that worries me. If I sit down to watch them play and it's like watching Boston, I'm out. No way I can get behind that.

4. ANAHEIM DUCKS
I hate just about everyone on this team so no thanks. I disliked Selanne and Niedermayer playing half the season and I hated the way the media slobbered all over Niedermayer's triumphant return. I despise the way Chris Pronger is handled with kid gloves and constantly getting special treatment no matter how dangerous his actions are to other players. And while this is not directly related, I think one of the funniest moments of the season was J.S. Giguere actually ducking a shot that then sailed over him and into the net. What a doofus. I wish I could find video because it was hysterical. Anyway, Ducks... It was nice rooting for you guys last season but I'm sorry to say, it was just a fling.

Stay tuned for part 2!