Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why Does Scott Gomez Still Have All His Teeth?

I hate the Sabres. Right now I should be writing a big celebratory post about how we beat a really rotten Rangers team that's clearly in a tail-spin. I should be laughing at all the the maroons in Buffalo who heralded Glen Sather as a smart, daring GM while complaining that Darcy Regier is dumb and ignorant and not splashy enough in his signings. I should be delighting in Chris Drury having yet another quiet night. Instead I have to sit here and complain about how ridiculously soft the Sabres are. Way to COMPLETELY RUIN MY NIGHT, GUYS!

After watching replay after replay (after replay after replay), I really do think the slew foot was accidental. Scott Gomez completely lost his footing and happened to be in the right spot to upend Ryan Miller. That said, Gomez was clearly looking to make some kind of contact with Ryan - no way he was pulling up moving as fast as he was - and someone should've put his teeth in the back of his head on principle. I don't understand how that wasn't a penalty - I can't remember the last time someone made contact with a goalie outside of the crease and didn't get called for something - but guys, COME ON! YOUR GOALIE IS KIND OF IMPORTANT!

I do get what Lindy Ruff was saying in his postgame presser. They needed the win. The Sabres are in a spot where the two points they won tonight could be the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs especially since they're now looking at a stretch of games played without their starting goalie or their biggest offensive contributor. I understand the idea of beating the opponent on the scoreboard where it really counts.

But I also agree with what Jerry Sullivan (pretty sure it was him) said to Lindy in that same presser: There are some things more important than winning the game. Ryan Miller is the goalie. He's the one person on the ice who can win or lose a game all by himself. He's also, just for the record, a scrawny little dude. His ankle is probably only a couple of inches in diameter. You have to protect him. You HAVE to protect him.

I do think if Craig Rivet had been on the ice instead of in the penalty box, Gomez would've found his face in the glass pretty quickly but Rivet should not be the only person on the team willing to step up on Ryan's behalf. This has been an ongoing problem with this team and Rob Ray was right when he said during the game that this is something that should've been dealt with 20, 30 games ago. When you look at how much contact there is between opposing teams and Ryan, I don't think you can deny that the Sabres have developed a reputation for being a team that will let people knock their goalie around and we saw the worst possible outcome of that tonight: A guy comes in to make contact and intentionally or not, does some real damage.

The Sabres have taken a lot of lumps for not fighting enough or playing physically enough and I've been slow to jump on them for that because some people just aren't fighters and some people just aren't physical players. A player can't be something he's not. But to me this is something different. This is sticking up for a teammate. This is defending one of the most important players on your team. This is battling for a guy who battles for you. There's a lot of talk amongst certain players on this team about how close they are and how much they love each other. Where was that tonight? Where has that been all season? Ryan Miller crawled back to the crease and repeatedly tried to stand up despite being in a lot of pain and you repay that by... doing nothing? Not only is that soft, it's heartless.

(Since I kept quoting his question here and in the comments, I'll mention that Jerry Sullivan repeated his opinion in a story that's definitely worth reading if you haven't already.)

(Since a few people have asked, yes, I saw Sully's column about trading Hank. Some thoughts about it later tonight, I think.)

35 comments:

lakebnd79 said...

I have to agree. But accident or no accident, where was the retaliation? I was at the game. The crowd was chanting "Gomez". They boo'd him every time he touched the puck after the collision. They wanted his head on a platter and it was never handed to us. We don't have many games to go and the playoffs won't get any easier. We have guys that can get ugly....where were they tonight???

Caroline said...

Watching Miller struggle to get back to his crease made me sad.

Lee Andrew said...

This reminds me of when Roger Clemens beaned Mike Piazza and the Mets didn't retaliate. It's Mike freakin Piazza! You have to retaliate!

Speaking of Mike, I don't think I told you this last year but when he retired ESPN Classic did a special 5 hour tribute. The first game was the game when he got hit by Clemens and the second game was the bat throwing incident. Huh? Your way of having a TRIBUTE to Mike Piazza is showing a game where he gets beaned and taken out of the game and then showing a game where Clemens gives up 2 hits, 0 runs and strikes out 9 Mets batters, and in the World Series. Why the heck would a Mike Piazza fan watch that??

Jill said...

This entry surprises me about you.

They couldn't retaliate... they were in an awful position... cold goaltender... Rangers on the power play... ref talking to Ruff most likely a warning because Ruff refused to speak about what the exchange was... why risk it??? The Rangers were already 2 points ahead of the Sabres in the standings... it doesn't make sense.

If you read my blog at all, I am the first to whine if Miller isn't protected but in this case it was smart. Ryan wouldn't have wanted them to throw away a win for him. Every point is essential. What better way to show the Rangers they can hold them off and hand it to them by pushing them down in the standings.

It made me ill to see Miller like that. He is why this team is where they are right now and they so desperately need him... BUT they cannot throw a game over penalties. The Rangers scored a few seconds after the puck drop... it could have been devastating if it there was multiple penalties in a row... you cannot do that with a cold goaltender.

Heather B. said...

Jill, something I probably should've addressed in the post is that, like it or not, the orders to leave Gomez alone were clearly coming from Lindy, either because he wanted the win or because the refs told him there'd be hell to pay if there was any funny business or some combination of those things. In that light, it probably is pretty hard to blame the players for not retaliating.

But they had a three goal lead at a couple of different points and were playing a team that was clearly struggling to put together any kind of offensive attack. In this particular case, I really, really question the theory that an extra penalty or two would've changed the whole game. This happened because the last time Ryan got roughed up (and the time before that and the time before that and the time before that), no one did anything. Guess what? When Ryan is back in net, it's going to happen again because once again, no one did anything. It'll be even worse in the playoffs when refs are swallowing their whistles. Think Lalime would've had a problem with going in cold and short-handed because someone knocked Gomez around? Judging by his postgame comments regarding how the team lets Ryan get roughed up, I'm guessing he would've been fine with it.

Again, I understand needing the 2 points. I understand that any retaliation was probably going to result in some serious penalty time. I understand Lalime was going in cold. But like Sullivan said, sometimes other things are more important. When Ottawa took out Chris Drury a couple of years ago, the team was willing to sacrifice penalty time and fines and potentially the win because they knew how much Drury meant to their team. Miller is even more important to this team than Drury was to that team (IMO) and it's long past time for someone in blue and gold to make sure the rest of the league knows that they realize that. If you don't have enough heart and character to take care of your own like that, I'm not sure it matters how much skill you have.

Jill said...

I agree that Miller is so much more important than Drury. But that team was in a better position than this team. This team in clawing their way up the playoff latter... that team was easily walking their way up.

I really do believe that if they took some extra penalties it would have risked the game. It has happened before.

Ruff had a $10,000 (a drop in the hat for him) for that Ottawa game... regardless.

I still feel it was the wrong time. Gomez will get his. The Sabres aren't the toughest team... they never have been and they never will be. Yes they should stand up for Ryan more but they were not in the position to do so last night. I am willing to bet Ryan would have not wanted them to throw the game for them throwing punches over him.

Katebits said...

When Drury got hit in '07 the team was also MASSIVELY ahead in the standings. The playoffs were a complete non-issue, and the team had the luxury of being able to risk suspensions. That whole Ottawa episode was fun for the fans, but I would argue with any claim that it was an example of that particular team having more "heart" than the current team.

I'm not really disagreeing that the Sabres should have roughed Gomez up a bit, but it was wise not to take a penalty at the time of the hit. They could have VERY easily found themselves in a 3-2 game, just like that. Once the 3 goal lead had been reestablished, Lindy had clearly laid down the "no retaliation" edict.

This whole thing just effing blows.

Heather B. said...

Kate, I was actually very careful not to say that the 2006-2007 team had more heart because I'd agree that that would be a ridiculous statement. I just think that's more the response that's needed when a player of Ryan's value goes down on contact that, intentional or not, shouldn't have happened.

My problem really goes beyond last night, I guess. I feel like last night might not have happened if the team had been more protective of Ryan up to this point. But they let opponents mess with him and didn't retaliate at times when they easily could have and ended up in a situation where Ryan was really hurt and they maybe couldn't retaliate without risking something. Which means teams are going to continue to take liberties with Ryan when he is back.

Jay said...

At this point, the word is already out around the league that if you make contact with Miller, there won't be a physical price to pay. It infuriates me and I have been screaming about it for LONG time and was hoping to see more protection when Rivet came here. That said, busting Gomez's head open last night would have been a case of too little too late. The only message that sends is that as long as you don't injure their netminder, you will face no retribution. They have a lot of work to do to correct that. Last night the four points was so important. They have put themselves into a sticky position and now they have to find a way through it.

I believe retaliation last night would not only have resulted in a lot of time on the PK for Buffalo but also games lost to suspension. Who on this team is expendable? We are already facing the possiblity of 2-3 weeks at a critical time without Vanek and Miller. Who can we do without for the next few games? Kaleta? Mair? Goose? Rivet? It would have felt good at the time and would have made for some great Youtube videos, but I'm sure that the players (including Miller) would see it differently if they are reminiscing about it on the golf course come June.

Tuesday night they need to make a statement to the league and their fans that they are no longer going to stand idly by and let their goaltenders be run. I want to think that from this point forward, the Buffalo crease will be a painful place for opponents.

At least thats the way I see it...

Heather B. said...

That said, busting Gomez's head open last night would have been a case of too little too late.

You're right, Jay, it would've been too little too late because at that point, no matter what happens to Gomez, Miller is gone. That's why I'm frustrated, I guess.

Katebits said...

Fair enough. I've been waiting to pounce on someone using the Ottawa brawl as an example of how it "should" be done. :D I think a reaction like that would have been completely idiotic last night. The Sabres cannot afford even ONE loss to this debacle because of suspensions or penalties. The team that Lindy sent out to fight Ottawa in '07 could have been suspended top to bottom without any repercussions in the standings.

But I definitely see your point about this being a symptom of a longer term problem.

Yup, the Sabres are soft.

Anne M said...

While I agree that the Sabres are generally soft and that it's a problem, that is exactly the team they have been pretty much all season, so it's not really a surprise. I wasn't too pleased to see Tim Connolly be the person to go after Gomez, but at least someone did. I'm also positive that the refs told Ruff that if there was any sort of serious retaliation, the team would pay for it. When he was asked point blank whether the refs told him not to do anything, he said "I won't answer that." That obviously means yes. I wouldn't be surprised if the refs told him not to put Kaleta on the ice with Gomez, or at least told him to tell Kaleta to stay away.

In thinking about it more and more after the game, I have two other big problems with what happened:

1) Miller was playing the puck in the trapezoid, where he is supposed to be relatively safe. Isn't that basically the whole point of that trapezoid? Why wasn't there a penalty called just for the action within the trapezoid? Even if it wasn't intentional and Scott Gomez has a halo, Miller is supposed to be able to play the puck safely back there. Players get called for high-sticking all the time when it's obviously not intentional because they have to be responsible for their behavior. Same thing here.

2) Why did it take so freaking long for the officials to notice that Miller was hurt and blow the damn whistle? I was sitting in my living room with two friends and we all saw that Miller was injured several seconds before the refs noticed and stopped the play. Ryan Miller is not exactly Mr. Embellish My Injuries, and it was obvious he COULDN'T MOVE. You're telling me no one on the ice was yelling that he was hurt and to blow the whistle?

I think the biggest problem is that the refs instructed no retaliation, which leaves teams in a crappy position. The refs are supposed to police the game, and they failed to take action last night, but then put it on the Sabres not to defend themselves and their goalie. That sucks. They are failing to call players for hitting the goaltenders all over the place and that needs to be addressed across the board (along with my many other problems with officiating, but that's for another day).

Heather B. said...

Kate, you're right that an Ottawa like brawl would've been a mistake last night. I was being emotional with that reference perhaps. Which is all I want from the Sabres once n a while :D

I think the biggest problem is that the refs instructed no retaliation, which leaves teams in a crappy position. The refs are supposed to police the game, and they failed to take action last night, but then put it on the Sabres not to defend themselves and their goalie. That sucks.

Anne, I hadn't thought about it like that at all but you're so right. I can't add anything to that but it's really a great point.

Mark B said...

I thought when we added Rivet, that all this garbage would stop. I thought the players would follow his lead and defend their goalie. I was wrong. For the most part, Craig has lived up to his billing, except at times when I think his injury has limited him there, but the rest of the team still plays soft. It makes me sad too.

Maybe Weber should be a full timer after the trade deadline. He's a type of player who doesn't mind risking a penalty to make a statement. Maybe if they slowly add these types of guys to the mix the other players will get the message.

And Anne is right - if the refs handcuffed Lindy the way it seems they did, shame on them.

ToonTom said...

My want for retaliation ended them moment the Rags scored and I realized we couldn't have afforded more penalties.

Things more important than two points. No frackin' way. These guys are paid to play and to win. In a tight playoff race I think they and Lindy did the right thing. They got thei revenge by winning and hopefully putting another nail in NYR coffin.

Beth said...

Just my two cents: With less than 1 minute to go Gomez was out on the ice, why not pummel the crap out of him then and take the penalty with seconds left? Yes it would be a late showing but at least it would have been a response.

Jennifer said...

Miller was playing the puck in the trapezoid, where he is supposed to be relatively safe. Isn't that basically the whole point of that trapezoid? Why wasn't there a penalty called just for the action within the trapezoid?

That was my biggest complaint. Gomez deserved a penalty, intentional or not. What's the point of the trapezoid?

Beth, I like your thinking!!!

bowlofpork said...

I wasn't too pleased to see Tim Connolly be the person to go after Gomez, but at least someone did.

First of all, I was wondering who else noticed that it was Eggshells that went after Gomez.I was proud of him, but that was scary.

However, there are a few points worth clearing up here...

Miller was playing the puck in the trapezoid, where he is supposed to be relatively safe. Isn't that basically the whole point of that trapezoid?

No. Just no.

As soon as the goalie leaves the crease he gives up his rights of being protected from physical play. Essentially, he becomes a skater. The sole exception is play deliberately intended to prevent him from returning to the crease like a trip or hitting him hard enough to knock him down. If you watch closely, you'll see that skaters generally don't get penalties for bumping them behind the net or even knocking them around provided the goalie blocked off any possible way past.

That said, was the slew foot cheap and worthy of a penalty? ABSOLUTELY. Gomez had time to slow down, plenty of room to get back and tripped him up intentionally. But don't confuse the trapezoid with the crease. The trapezoid is about puck possession, the crease is about goalie protection.

The other bit worth clearing up is this: Why did it take so freaking long for the officials to notice that Miller was hurt and blow the damn whistle?

The refs knew he was injured, but are not allowed to call play immediately because goalie injuries are treated the same as player injuries.

From the NHL Rule book, rule 8.1 - Injured Players:
When a player is injured so that he cannot continue play or go to his bench, the play shall not be stopped until the injured player’s team has secured possession of the puck. If the player’s team is in possession of the puck at the time of injury, play shall be stopped immediately unless his team is in a scoring position.

The exception to this rule is a "serious injury" With no blood and no need to get the trainers/doctors on the ice you'd be hard pressed to call an ankle injury "serious". So play continued until the Sabres took possession. Basically, the refs did their job well.

Just my two cents: With less than 1 minute to go Gomez was out on the ice, why not pummel the crap out of him then and take the penalty with seconds left?

Seems like a good idea, until you think about what the refs would call in response. An obvious run at Gomez after a warning from the refs would be both a minor for charging/roughing AND a misconduct for persisting in dangerous behavior after warnings from the refs. Know what that means? SUSPENSIONS. And don't forget that if a fight breaks out afterwards, it's within the final 5 minutes of play. During the last 5 minutes, fights carry majors, misconducts and SUSPENSIONS. The rules were amended a ways back to prevent exactly that sort of incident.

While I wish somebody had just run his ass right into the ground, going after him later accomplishes nothing...

Jonathan said...

It would be different if this was the first time Miller got roughed up in the crease. It wasn't. I can understand not wanting to get payback in that game in that situation, but this is what happens when you make a habit of not protecting your goaltender.

Heather B. said...

I originally had a reference to Timmy in the post but it didn't really fit so I took it out. But yes, good for him. But also, please never, never do that again. Because what we really need is a Sabres team minus Vanek, Miller AND Connolly.

Matt, I get what you're saying about a goalie out of the crease being fair game but I can't recall ever seeing a goalie get touched outside the crease without it resulting in some kind of penalty, rule or not.

Jennifer said...

First of all, I was wondering who else noticed that it was Eggshells that went after Gomez.I was proud of him, but that was scary.

As soon as I saw that, I started screaming, "NO-NOT TIMMY, HE'S MADE OF CHINA"!

Thank's for the trapezoid lesson, Matt! I was mistaken, I thought that the goalie was allowed to play the puck in that area, without risk of being hit. Apparently, WRONG!

But, as others have stated, had he been "protected & defended" in the past, we might not be looking at this injury.

bowlofpork said...

Matt, I get what you're saying about a goalie out of the crease being fair game but I can't recall ever seeing a goalie get touched outside the crease without it resulting in some kind of penalty, rule or not.

I think we all sort of gloss over when goalies do get bumped around behind the net because it happens so quickly and nobody pauses. You're right though: this particular incident required a penalty and they dropped the ball.

Jill said...

Just my two cents: With less than 1 minute to go Gomez was out on the ice, why not pummel the crap out of him then and take the penalty with seconds left?

Because I am willing to bet that Ruff was warned not to send out the 'goons' after him... which would mean at any point in the game.

The Refs did not and I repeat did not do their job well... they should have called a penalty on Gomez because it wasn't incidental contact with Miller... AND any time a player has to CRAWL back to his position it seems to be a serious injury to me... JMO. I have never seen Miller, in all my years of watching him, whimper his way off the ice. If he is injured, he is injured.

Jay said...

As soon as the goalie leaves the crease he gives up his rights of being protected from physical play. Essentially, he becomes a skater.

69.2 Penalty - In all cases in which an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, whether or not the goalkeeper is inside or outside the goal crease, and whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a penalty (minor or major, as the Referee deems appropriate).

The goaltender is always protecred from intentional contact from opposing players. At least he is supposed to be according to the rules. It was a slew foot and intentional. I don't believe there was an intent to injure, but it was most definitely worth a penalty.

Caroline said...

As soon as the goalie leaves the crease he gives up his rights of being protected from physical play. Essentially, he becomes a skater. The sole exception is play deliberately intended to prevent him from returning to the crease like a trip or hitting him hard enough to knock him down. If you watch closely, you'll see that skaters generally don't get penalties for bumping them behind the net or even knocking them around provided the goalie blocked off any possible way past.

Goalies are never fair game, even when they leave their crease. A penalty is supposed to be given if a player does not make an effort in avoiding the goalie. Many people believe that Gomez did not attempt to avoid Miller and should have been penalized for it.

Honestly, what's done is done. Miller is hurt and whether Gomez received a penalty because of it or if the Sabres retaliated, it won't change the fact that Miller is injured.

Lee Andrew said...

Just take the guy out. It doesn't matter if you get penalties or even suspensions because...

1. Is it worse to lose a player for some time or even some games over losing your goalie over an injury? yeah, you can't bring back Miller after the fact, but as others have pointed out, doing something will stop it from happening again and losing your goalie again.

2. If you can't take some penalties or even suspensions and have players step up and win anyway then you don't deserve to be in the playoffs and aren't going anywhere in the playoffs anyway.

Lee Andrew said...

Oops, sent it before I was done...

If they take out Gomez, get penalties or suspensions, rally around each other and somehow overcome then they're much better off in the playoffs, and even future seasons. As it is now, they limp into the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed, probably do nothing in the playoffs and Miller continues to be unprotected in the future.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to talk about the Sabres reponse to Miller getting hurt and not talk about Tallinder and Lydman. They may be skilled players, but when it comes to playing soft, they are part of the problem.

Vanek's Hair said...

I don't have a huge problem with no one decking Gomez. There were two important points at stake, and in particular against a team the Sabres are chasing. That said, my frustration is more with the culture of the Sabres that seems to permit such indiscretions against their goalie. I like what Rob Ray said in the post game show, that this is something that should have been addressed long ago. But it is clear, that opposing teams know they can run, bump, shove, slash, chop and otherwise interfere with Miller (or Lalime) without much retribution. I certainly don't want to see the NHL degenerate into a bar league (fun as they are) where everyone who skates within 5 feet of the opposing goalie gets a two hander in the ankle.

I don't think Gomez intended to hurt Miller, but he certainly intended to make contact. A lot of "incidental" contact in hockey is not as "incidental" as people are led to believe. I do think Ruff got a stern warning from the officials about retaliating. The Ottawa reaction is still pretty fresh in everyone's mind, and Ruff has a reputation for doing that ("That" being sending out a bunch of goons to fight skill guys). Ruff also is no pioneer in that regard.

I will take this opportunity to suggest one of the rule changes that would occur in the Vanek's Hair Ideal NHL (VHINHL, pronounced "vinyl"). Goalies cannot be touched when they are in the crease. Goalies can be treated like any other skater if they are outside of the crease. Period. Most other rule changes, like this one, involve taking discretion away from officials.

Good news, Vanek skated to today with a full mask on.

bowlofpork said...

Jay,

When I said 'As soon as the goalie leaves the crease he gives up his rights of being protected from physical play' I should have said "physical play in the form of incidental contact".

The distinction I was trying to draw was one of brushing the goalie on your way past behind the net (no penalty) versus brushing him while he's in the crease (goaltender interference). The point I was going for boils down to the trapezoid does not mean No Contact, not that Gomez's contact wasn't intentional: I think it was and I think the refs blew the call.



Jill,

As for crawling being a serious injury, would you then say that anytime a d-man blocks a shot off his ankle that play should be immediately stopped? It happens all the time and you see these guys limp to the bench or tough it out, but nobody seems to mind that...

ElmaGolf said...

Ultimately, everyone seems to be using hindsight because of a freak accident. Really, was Gomez' contact any different than the type of contact we see happen to every team? I've seen Goalies fall over dozens of times on that exact same play, and we never really think about it at all.

Could the Sabres be meaner? Sure. But all this talk about "every team knows you can run Miller" is a load of BS. Every team tries to disrupt Goalies and "accidentally" bump them.

Fans are reacting to the freak injury (kind of like how the NHL only responds to dirty hits that result in injuries) and blowing this way out of proportion.

gorgon said...

cool blog!
Sabres need to get nasty soon.
Playoffs, if they plan on making it,or advancing are going to be a game without shootouts or teeth.

http://gorgon-the-plow.blogspot.com/

jerry sullivan said...

Heather,

I tried twice on Saturday to respond about baseball books, but was flummoxed by technology. Not even Harrington could help me. Anyway, the best baseball book ever is The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn. It's a very literate look at the 50s Dodgers, which he covered as a very young man. He goes back and visits with some of them later in life. A seminal sports work.

Others : "A False Spring," by Pat Jordan; "Hoopla," by Harry Stein (fictional account of Black Sox); "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis.

Heather B. said...

Sully! Fancy meeting you here.

I've read "Boys of Summer" and "Moneyball" but will definitely look into the other two. A number of people have recommended "A False Spring" now. Thanks!

Jill said...

Bowl of Pork...

Ryan was obviously hurt... he has never whimpered off the ice before. At least I have never seen it. I have seen him get slashed in the back of the calves... hit in the neck with the puck... the puck rang off the side of his helmet which obviously has shook him... the puck weirdly hit his knee knocked him down for a few... I think when the welds broke on the metal part and stabbed him in the nose he got that repaired came back and started again... but he has gotten up and started again.

Generally if there is a player struggling the whistle has been blown. It's like comparing apples to oranges... defensemen blocking shots and goaltenders getting knocked down and struggling to retake position.