Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Don't Let This Happen To You


Pace yourselves tomorrow, everyone.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Game Diary: Sabres @ Flyers 12/22/07

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, it’s Gambler Game Diary time! The time you’ve all been waiting for! Trust me, I can feel how bated your breath has been from here.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been hearing the siren call of the game diary, and it seems like the stars have finally aligned to make this an optimal opportunity for my first “live” attempt at this. I’m back at the Desperation Homestead for Christmas break before heading off to the Land of Jochen in January, which means I only have a few short days to enjoy my favorite activity of watching Sabres games with my family. Also, given how awesome last night’s game was, this should be a pretty great rematch tonight. I’ve never done one of these things before, and this may very well turn into an unmitigated disaster, but the conditions certainly seem right. On with the diary!

We tune into the game just in time to see Roby interviewing Spacek rinkside, and by the end it looks like Roby’s about to crack up. I can’t blame him. One of the many reasons I should never be trusted with a press pass is because I don’t think I could ever conduct an interview with Jaro in which all the questions didn’t consist of “Okay, and…. Hahahahahahaha!!!”

Also, I guess this means Neale is preoccupied with his duties to Hockey Night in Canada tonight. See, I told you the stars were aligning to make this a great game to recap! I never thought I’d be so happy to see Mike Robitaille.

First Period

19:27 Mair gets thing started in the physical department (heh), as he lays a pretty decent hit in the Flyer zone.
18:23 Super Freak Kotalik is back on the bench, despite taking a puck to the face during the warm up. Don’t worry, if Connolly is any indication, it’ll take Kotalik at least a game or two to fall mysteriously “ill” from the effect of that non-injury.
17:42 YAY! After a lot of so-called patient (I’m pretty sure a Buffalo home crowd would have been somewhat less than patient) passing on the power play Max squeaks a shot past a befuzzled Marty. Roby gives some not-so-insightful commentary about the goal, but at least he doesn’t actively annoy me with his uselessness.
15:49 Pominville and Hecht put on some pretty nice sustained pressure in the Philly zone, and even though they ultimately don’t have anything to show for it, color me impressed. They’ve been pretty consistently our best backchecking forwards, and here they’re proving to be pretty effective forecheckers, too.
13:43 Another long play of decent forchecking by the Hecht line culminates in a very dramatic and expectant tip back to the point. As always happens after these overly-long lead-ins to point shots, the shooter’s stick breaks and we all feel like idiots for expecting something exciting to happen.
12:08 Tallinder, rushing back to catch up on a defensive play, does his best Roy impression and falls rather spectacularly to the ice for no apparent reason. He knows how hurt and miserable his biggest fan is right now, though, so he thoughtfully still manages to make the play.
11:24 As the “Let’s Go Flyers” chants rain from the rafters, it occurs to me that there’s been no retaliation booing in response to the treatment Briere got in Buffalo. It doesn’t surprise me in the least to learn that Flyers fans care less about that kind of thing than Caps fans.
11:04 A well-placed pass into the low slot by Hecht (which no one was able to pick up, of course) prompts my brother to say “He’s so good at those!” Dan never says anything nice about anyone I like, so it takes a little time for me to stop bristling and accept that he was being serious. Of course, now that we’ve established that, I can’t help but think that maybe that pass was originally meant to be a shot on net. Yo-Yo is, indeed, so good at that.
10:19 As a distraction from the riveting Peters-Cote fight going on, my brother reminds the room that Andrew Peters coached my high school’s hockey team during the lockout, and I’m in utter shock that I never knew this! I guess hockey was farther off my radar pre-lockout than I originally thought. Anyway, I seem to remember that the team sucked that year, but Dan assures me they didn’t. Me: “I’m sure they sucked at fighting, anyway.” And really, they must have, because that fight was lame.
--During the commercial my family starts ragging on me for sitting at my computer instead of partaking of some of my mom’s delicious meatloaf and mac and cheese comfort food. My dad encourages, “Don’t be a bloghead.” And he’s way prouder of that pun than he should be.
--Coming back from commercial, we get a shot of the patented Staffy scowl sitting on the bench, and my sister declares, “Stafford has a wonky face.” Me: “Stafford has a wonky face? Stafford?! Meghan, I think Miller would like you to stop throwing stones in his lopsided glass house.”
8:50 Paetsch and Richards seem a little hesitant to get their fight going after they’ve set the stage for it, but before they have time to take full stock of their lives and realize just how futile this existence truly is, they jump at each other and manage to put on a more entertaining show than Peters and Cote did. Not that it’s that hard. Paetsch is already halfway to the box by the time Richards emerges (9% faster!) from the depths of the sweater that was pulled over his head, and my mom comments on how red he looks. Me: “Well he’s embarrassed! He just got his ass kicked by someone nicknamed ‘Patches!’”
6:02 After Meghan pleads, “Briere, just go away” he promptly complies and goes offside. There’s some bumping after the whistle and Meghan narrates, “Campbell’s all, ‘Briere why are you bumping into me? Is it because I’m captain and you’re not?’” And you know what? I’d even take that kind of commentary over Harry Neale.
5:35 Roby wants to prove he can be better than Neale, too, as he says, “Some guys would rather drink Draino than come in here and play the Flyers!” But the guys who come in and play as Flyers? They drink Draino anyway. For breakfast. Because they enjoy the taste.
4:32 Meghan worries aloud about Biron’s choice in leg pads, because only his feet are orange while the rest is white: “He looks like he was dipped in white paint, but only up to a certain point.” Dan: “Like Achilles.” Me: “Shoot for the heels, guys, shoot for the heels! It’s his weakness!”
3:34 As the Flyers get whistled for a penalty, there’s a zoom in on Roy. Meghan: “He looks fat.” Me: “Not everyone can be Ryan Miller.”
3:20 Biron knocks Pommers in the face with his stick hand when he gets too close after a save, and while Mom is strangely unriled by this hostility toward her Pommers’ face, RJ and Roby start theorizing about what kind of words were exchanged. RJ reminds us that Pommers is bilingual so he would be able to understand whatever Biron threw out at him, but Roby thinks Marty has the advantage since he’s “bilingual in every language he speaks.” We’re all so busy laughing about this that we barely notice when the Flyers score. Sigh.
0:34 We get a shot of Thibault on the bench, with a pretty nasty gash on his crooked nose. Poor guy, but at least he looks like a warrior!
0:00 Well, all in all I’d have to say that was a pretty solid period of entertaining hockey, save the Peters fight (as always), and the defensive breakdown that led to the Philly goal. This whole game-diarizing thing is certainly a new experience of watching hockey, but I think it might be a success so far.

First Intermission

Before I get up from my computer to quiet my family’s complaints about me not eating, my dad asks if the blue and gold display behind Rob Ray is some sort of shag rug. I offer that it’s in fact a latchhook project that Ray himself completed to spruce up the studio. Dad: “Is that what retired hockey players do? Who knew they were so crafty.”

We crack ourselves up watching the “What would you buy Lindy for Christmas?” piece. Seriously well done, Sabres people. Comedic gold. I think Goose wins for a) putting so much thought into it, and b) coming up with the idea for a mustache comb/trimmer. Ha! Peters also gets some brownie points back from making me watch that fight, by saying that his rookie card is too valuable to give away to Lindy, so he’d probably give him his second-year card instead. At least he has a sense of humor. I point out to my mom that Pommers couldn’t be bothered to think up a gift of his own, but merely copied the tie suggestion that other players (including Yo-Yo) made. Mom: “Well, he knows it doesn’t matter what he says, as long as he’s cute while he says it. So he just cuts the crap.” Dad: “Yeah, he really shoots from the pelvis.” (Hee! Well played, Dad.)

Second Period

19:30 I start off the period by sharing with Meghan the fact that, according to VS, Vanek is fluent in Midwestern as well as German, Czech, and English, since he went to college in Minnesota. Dan: “Ugh, VS is so stupid. That VS stands for vagina station.” Mom: “Don't use that word, please.” Dan: “Fine, vagina show.”
17:17 Spurred on by a Jaro close-up after the play, Meghan launches into her favorite Spacek impression, and starts blabbering about exactly what kind of car he’d buy Lindy and how exactly it would be better than the “Teyota” he drives now. Mom is impressed that Jaro would hypothetically buy Lindy the most expensive gift of all the players, but she seems to have forgotten about how desperate Patches is for ice time. He’d probably get him a small private island. Or some blow.
16:55 SUPER FREAK! Kotalik weathers the beating at the side of the net to muscle home the rebound from a Goose wraparound attempt. With Kotalik’s usually hands-off style of play it’s easy to forget how big he is, but he definitely used his size there. It makes me a little sad that the guy they show in the stands after the goal is wearing a Yo-Yo jersey. It’s probably not fair, but I feel a little less special with every one of those I see.
16:12 As if sensing this waver in faith, Yo-Yo flattens some Flyer along the boards, and my devotion is renewed.
15:39 Miller covers up smartly on a dangerous bouncing puck that careened out from behind his net. Dad: “He saw that out of the corner of his eye.” Mom: “Which one, the one that faces in or the one that faces out?” After we take some shit from Meghan for insulting her hockey boyfriend, it’s determined that one of Miller’s eyes is in fact always trained on the puck, no matter where it may be, or what solid objects may be in the way. Dan: “He’s Mad-Eye Miller!”
13:35 Meghan watches her second hockey boyfriend, Mike “Sesame Street” Ryan wipe out with the puck in the Flyer zone, and declares that he and Roy should start a synchronized diving team. And why not? The summer Olympics are in the offseason, right?
12:02 WOOT! Yo-Yo hustles off the bench to steal the puck, carry it all the way in behind the net, and lay it back out in front, where Pominville slams it by Biron on a neat one-timer. Mom: “That’s my man-boy!” (Recognizing that age issues complicate her referring to Pommers as “her man,” Mom’s taken to calling him “her man-boy.” She has not yet taken my advice to call him “her man-puppy.” But maybe someday soon.)
11:53 Coming back from a commercial, we’re left trying to figure out who got the penalties in the pre-commercial, after-the-whistle scrum. After Mom does her impression of what Pommers looked like in the middle of it all, we decide it can’t be him in the box, since standing like a wobbly teddy bear isn’t considered a penalty. Unless it’s Peters standing like a wobbly teddy bear, which is generously called “fighting.” (It turns out it’s Yo-Yo in the box. For roughing. Grawr!)
9:09 Another smart Hecht centering pass is mucked up by Paille getting pushed into the net and dislodging it. Roby thinks there should be a penalty here, and there is. He suggests it should be for “intentional knocking into the net,” which apparently translates into actual hockey terms as “hooking.” (And yet, I still would rather Neale not come back.)
7:51 Briere scores shorthanded with a delayed penalty call on the Sabres, and the goalhorn promptly boos him. Oh, that’s just the way the goalhorn sounds? Whatever, Philly.
6:46 STUPID FLYERS! They score another shorthanded goal while Pommers gets caught standing at the point, and then catches up to his man only to send his from-his-knees clearing pass right to the stick of a trailing Flyer. Miller gets caught way out of position with no real chance on the shot. A little bad luck, but more bad play on that one. Blech!
5:38 Pommers gets man-boyhandled in front of the net by no less than three Flyers after Roy completely effs up scoring on a wide open net. Poor Pommers is getting shaken back and forth, with his head flopping all over the place, before the whistle finally goes. Don’t these guys know that shaken puppy syndrome is a serious problem? There end up being two Flyer penalties on the play, and one for Roy as well. Me: “Roy? For what?” Meghan: “For crying.”
5:01 Wow, the Paradise Penalty Boxes are sure getting their full use tonight! Goose draws a penalty for roughing by sticking it out in front of the net, and Biron tries to even out the minors by getting all up in Goose’s face. Meghan and I guess that Goose just quietly whispered “Ray Emery,” and skated away.
4:32 HELLZ YEAH!!!! Spacek scores on a blasting shot from the point (Hey! It’s Jaro’s bread and butter!), and our living room erupts in two-handed high fives for everyone. Dad says, of our favorite trick for making sure you always connect on your high fives: “This doesn’t work! How can you look at two elbows at once?” Dan: “Ryan Miller could tell you.” Have I mentioned how much I love watching hockey with my family?
2:38 Briere and Upshall collide at the blueline, for some unknown reason. Mom: “How funny would it be if Briere got injured by his own teammate?” Me: “Am I the only one who thinks of upchuck every time they say Upshall? I don’t think upchuck can hurt anyone, it can just make you sick to your stomach.” Unfortunately, the Flyers do both, don’t they?
1:15 Ugh. The Sabres are going to have to close out this period on a 5-on-3 penalty kill as Gaustad gets called for getting his stick stuck in some Flyer’s legs, which in this world apparently counts as a hold, even though the guy wasn’t impeded in the least. Spacek, already in the box for hooking, gets reprimanded for something as the ref brings Goose to join him. Poor Jaro. He can’t help that everything he says comes out sounding extremely pissed off. (Or maybe he was misbehaving in the Paradise Penalty Box? Oooo, saucy!)
0:25 Double Ugh. Miller sinks facedown to the ice after he lets in a shot from the side of the net, but he didn’t even have a chance on that shot, as the cross-ice pass was a perfect set-up.
0:00 Maybe it was the diary writing, or the fact that my family was in rare form, but this period seemed to take about ten million years. In a good way. I am not at all pleased with the way the Sabres frittered away two leads in the past twenty minutes, but it’s been entertaining as hell to watch. Still, if they can’t manage to put this game away, I expect to be very cranky tonight.

Second Intermission

In talking about how the Sabres managed to give up that 3-1 lead Roby appears to be recovering from a fit of the giggles. Maybe he just got done interviewing Spacek again. (They weren’t just in the PPB together, were they? ACK! MY EYES!) In any case he seems to be having a blast calling this game with RJ, and I can’t blame him. My perspective is a little skewed and distanced what with writing the game diary, but this game has been exceptionally exciting so far. Now we just need to pull out the win. Kevin informs us that the last time the Sabres gave up two shorthanded goals was a 6-5 win over Flyers in Philly two years ago. Oh great, now I’m sure we’re going to lose.

Third Period

18:00 The Sabres successfully killed off the remainder of the penalty to start the period, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they remain trapped in their own end for the first full two minutes.
16:24 Miller snares a quick shot from the slot from Carter with a quick flash of his glove. It seems someone forgot to inform the Sabres during the intermission that they were in the midst of playing an exciting hockey game, because now they’ve forgotten all about it.
16:13 Sesame Street Ryan high-sticks Briere in the face along the boards. I wonder who on the bench dared him to do that, and how awkward Ryan felt acting on the dare. “Uh, Mr. Briere… I know I don’t know you, but Goose says I should shove my stick in your face. So, um, there! Okay, bye!”
16:09 Right after my dad declares now would be a good time for a shorthanded goal, the Flyers score. We all yell at Dad to keep his mouth shut next time. Also, Miller was seriously screened on this shot, so apparently his Mad Eye isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
15:23 Vanek gets taken down heading to the net and the non-call translates to a great Flyer chance going the other way. These refs have been such a joy for this home-and-home, haven’t they?
14:31 Paille draws an interference penalty, which prompts Meghan to give me insight into her pronunciation guide. She used to always want to say it “Pail-ee,” until she taught herself the trick of remembering “Pie. Yay!”
12:31 That power play was a gross disappointment. There was no pie, and definitely no yay.
11:35 Getting a little distracted from the game, we all discuss the hilarious prospect of seeing a grown man in a Pominville sweater. Mom tosses around the idea of bringing a sign to a game that says “Pommers, you should meet my daughter,” and then adds: “Or son?” This starts a landslide of suggestions. Dan: “Or cat.” Meghan: “Or empty flower pot.” Me: “Or fire hydrant.” Mom: “Or rawhide bone.”
11:27 No! StaffyNation takes a blow as we learn he’s been taken off the bench by an “upper body injury.” I just hope nothing serious has happened to his eyebrow!
9:30 Roy gets hammered from behind, and you know what that means! The Flyers have a chance to get their third shorthanded goal!
8:54 As Biron stonewalls Kotalik’s diving shot from the right circle, Meghan tells us all that she would leave Miller if Sid Crosby ever came to play for Buffalo. I really wish she’d waited to share this information until after the game. I can practically feel Miller’s psyche and paradigm crumbling as we speak.
7:33 Roy comes in on a semi-break and as his shot trickles through Biron and JUST wide of the net with no one there to tap it in, Meghan and I let out a primal scream that can surely be heard all the way in Philly. But our sound waves do nothing to alter the course of the puck’s journey and there is no goal. Also, there is no God.
5:34 Campbell almost wipes out while circling back to regroup in his own zone, and Meghan’s convinced he slipped on a sequin: “It was one of Roy’s. That nine on the back of his jersey? It’s just Bedazzled on.” We decide he and Pommers totally have Bedazzling slumber parties, and are currently working on Bedazzled Christmas gifts for all the guys. I think this game has broken our brains.
5:25 Just what we need! Mair gets called for interference and roughing, and will be sitting in the box for the next four minutes. Shockingly, the Flyer box is empty. That looked like some pretty mutual roughing to me!
3:14 Goose does his best to make the wishes for a shorthanded goal come true, but ultimately Paille is stymied on his centering pass attempt.
1:43 Ryan falls fabulously to the ice, once again, and Meghan and I are sure he’s getting an extra-special Bedazzled synchronized diver’s suit for Christmas.
0:54 THIS GAME IS TOO INTENSE!!!! I CAN’T TAKE IT!!! GAME DIARIZING WILL GIVE ME MULTIPLE HEART ATTACKS!!!!
0:07 HOLY SHIT!!! YOYOYOYOYOYOYOYOYOYO!!!!! IT’S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!!!! YO-YO SHOT IT AT A TINY SLIVER OF OPEN NET ON THE SHORT SIDE AND ACTUALLY SCORED!!! HE DIDN’T HIT THE POST OR THE GOALIE OR ANYTHING!!!!! I’M DYING FROM EXCITEMENT!!!!!!!!! (ETA: Apparently Vanek, noted Baby Killer of old, is going to take the credit for this goal, since he technically deflected it before it crossed the line, but after extensive review, I’ve decided that the puck was going in regardless so my over-excitement still stands.)
0:00 The Flyers gave me a scare in the last second, but Lydman is a killer shot-blocker, so oooooooooooovertime it is!

Overtime

5:00 Seriously, my hands are shaking. I don’t know if I can deal with this.
4:16 Biron has to look sharp for the second time tonight on a shot from Tallinder, and unfortunately he does. The Sabres look like they really want to win.
3:52 Lydman finds himself with a glorious chance all alone in front of the net, but at the last second he remembers he’s a defenseman and effs it up. The puck deflects off of Biron and flies harmlessly into the corner.
3:10 Kalinin takes a hooking penalty trying to defend a Flyer breakaway, and Dan and I spend almost the entire penalty arguing about how useful/less he is. It never ceases to amaze me how much people can ignore Tri, right up until the second he does something wrong. I stick by my assessment that he’s a good player, even in the face of Dan’s flawless logic: “He’s even worse than Numminen, and he’s, like, dead!”
1:40 Miller poke-checks away a probable goal by a skating-in Briere, but takes himself completely out of the play in doing so. He gives the Flyers a yawning chasm of a net to score on, but they just… miss. I don’t know which stone hands shot that, but I want to kiss them right now.
1:10 Miller was nothing short of spectacular on that entire penalty kill.
0:54 Uh-oh, I spoke too soon and Yo-Yo heard me. Flush with his last-minute success in regulation, he nervously coughs up the puck inside the Flyer line, and then busts his ass so hard to get back that he bowls right over the Flyer he’s pursuing and gets called for holding.
0:00 Phew, Yo-Yo escapes being the savior and the goat. SHOOTOUT. I DON’T THINK I CAN TAKE THIS!

Shootout

This being the first Sabres shootoutout of the season, we try to figure out who the shooters will be. We think Kotalik and Vanek are definites, but the third is unknown. Roy? Afinogenov? Mom: “Hecht.” Me: “No! Anyone but Hecht! He’ll just shoot it at Biron’s chest, or hit the post, and it’ll be so embarrassing!” Dan: “Okay. Peters, Ryan, Kevin Sylvester.”

Miller really wants to prove that his reputation for being good in the shootout still stands, and stays patient as Richards tries to fool him. It works.

Ditto for Super Freak and his reputation. He goes for something different than he normally did last year, and I can barely see his wrister as it rockets into the net.

Briere psychs himself out and completely whiffs on his shot. I imagine Miller will be playing that moment over in his head as he falls asleep tonight.

Max (for it is he sandwiched between Kotalik and Vanek) takes the Hecht approach and shoots right into Marty’s pads.

Carter completely loses control of the puck before he even has a chance to do anything with it, but Miller tries his hardest to make it look like he had something to do with stymieing his attempt as he twists and writhes on the ice. In any case the shootout’s over and the game is ours! Words really can’t express how lovable, wriggly, and adorable the Sabres all look as they pile into each other to celebrate, laughing and noogieing each other’s helmets. What a perfect end to this game!

So that was fun! Both the game, and the writing of the game diary were pretty awesome and exciting, though neither was perfect, and neither was something I’d want to repeat on a nightly basis. There ended up being far less hockey content, and far more crazy-Gambler-family content here than I anticipated, but I think that’s all right. I hope you all enjoyed it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mystery Solved

I'm in the midst of Finals Shuffle right now, which is why I haven't had time to write about what turned out to be a pretty solid game against Patrick Kane's army of Blackhawks, but I'm taking a short study break to bring you some important news. You know that question that came flying out of the mouth of every Sabres fan after a certain #19 took a puck to the face in the second period against Washington? It probably sounded something like this: "For the love of God, why doesn't Tim Connolly value his life and current state of consciousness enough to wear a visor?" Well, I think we have our answer:

Visors make Timmy sleepy.

Is that the problem, then, Timmy? Well, suck it up. Have some Red Bull. Because now that we've finally got you wearing one, we're not letting you take it off again. Right, Lindy? Right?!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Late Birthday Present?

Yeah, I think so.

Look! Look how sweet he looks there! And the little flash of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand mouth guard? That Yo-Yo, he knows just what I like. (Thanks to My Safety Is Harvard for the picture.)

And look who has ten goals all of the sudden! That twenty-mark doesn't look so far away now, does it? Just do me a favor, Yo-Yo, and never utter the sentence, "If I don't make it to twenty, I'm stupid."

So I know that for an ostensible hockey blogger, I haven't blogged about actual hockey in a long time. I blame the Sabres. If they could just decide on what kind of team they're going to be, I'd be able to better write about them. At this point, anything I write in reaction to one game will just end up being obsolete one game later, because apparently my hockey team wants to keep me on my toes. Sometimes they look, honest to God, like they could beat any team in the league if they just put their collective mind to it; other times they look like someone cut off their feet. It's so frustrating! Is it that hard to just decide to have feet?

The worst part is the problems are never the same. Sometimes it's the offense that's not clicking, recently it's been the defense that's been sloppy and disappointing. And sometimes, as was the case in L.A., everything is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Would it kill them to just choose a set of flaws and stick to them? Why must you refuse to be pinned down?! I want to put you in a box! Get in the box!!

Can the Doctor come out and play more often? Please?

On the subject of good news, the defense is fast getting healthy. Tallinder should be in tomorrow night against the Caps, and Kalinin shouldn't be far behind him. Yay! We sorely need those guys to come in and remind the Sabres how not to keep turning the puck over right in front of the net. And just for the record, while I'm a self-proclaimed Patches fan, I'm firmly on the play-Kalinin-and-sit-Paetsch side of that debate. (And for reals, that's even a debate?) Pratt has earned his spot for now, and I hate to think what a state Miller's crease would be in without him. Add in the fact that Teppo skated with the team in this morning's practice (EEEEEEE!) and we could have an interesting defense situation on our hands pretty soon. Hopefully that can lead to only good things.

In other belated birthday present news, last night I put in the order for the Hecht jersey that my boyfriend is buying me. The good news is that it's everything my hopes and dreams promised it would be; the bad news is that it might not arrive before I'm gone to Germany. Here's hoping for speedy delivery!

ETA:

The concentration! The intensity! The... Oh look! Something shiny!

Apparently some parts of my readership aren't happy unless I'm talking about Pommers 24/7. Luckily for me, he's a pretty good little hockey player, so there's usually plenty to say. He had a great night against the Islanders, getting three assists, including the set-up to the goal that made the above Yo-Yo picture possible. Good boy, Pommers! Here are some nummies for you:

You don't know it's not bacon!

Also, for anyone still thinking Paetsch should have a spot once Kalinin is healthy, take a look at this picture:

Would a good defenseman sit on Miller's head?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Visual Aids

Okay, even though I didn't get to see the game against Anaheim the other night, I'm going to assume, from the complete lack of "OMG, did you see the way Connolly's head just split open like that?" commentary, that my last attempt to communicate through diagrams was a success. This is a heartening discovery, because the Sabres and I need to have a serious talk, and like Heather B., I'm hoping the boys are visual learners.

Alright, Sabres, I know you guys aren't very good at focusing these days (Pommers? Pommers! Stop chewing on those slippers and pay attention!), so I'll try to make this as simple and easy to understand as possible. First of all, I know you're in California. I know it's warm and sunny and Buffalo is cold and snowy. I know that if I were in Cali right now I'd certainly be relaxing and enjoying myself. But I don't get paid to play hockey.


You know, I've heard skates don't work so well on sand. So get back to the rink, stop trying to film your own version of Weezer's "Beverly Hills" video, and turn off the Mamas and the Papas. Get serious.


Luckily, you guys should already be in San Jose, where I've been assured there's nothing to distract you, aside from a giant, interactive monopoly board.


So, if there are no more questions about what you shouldn't be doing, let's get started on the things you should most definitely be doing. Okay, from the hour I wasted on your game against the Kings last night, it seems to me that you need to be introduced to something. This:


is a puck. Does it seem familiar now? Once upon a time, you knew what it was, but I guess there's something about that California air. Anyway, the whole point with the puck, as maybe you'll remember, is to put it:


in the net. Uh, oh. You guys look confused. Okay, okay, I'll back up. It's probably a good idea to get the puck on your stick first, and then, once you're ready, maybe get it onto a teammate's stick, and then eventually get it into the net. Just so we're absolutely clear, having possession of the puck should look something like this:


Just a reminder, since you guys seemed pretty confused the other night. Now this part is very important, so listen carefully: In order to get the puck into the net, you have to shoot it at the net. I know, I know, this is all very confusing, and I don't have a visual for you, since it's hard to show what a shot looks like with a still image. Just ask Lindy to help you out here.

These are all just a few things you should think about before tomorrow's game. Feel free to print these things out, hang them in your locker stalls, whatever you think will help you most. Because trust me. You need it.

Apparently the MSG affiliate where my aunt and uncle live has decided to pretend these west coast games don't exist (can you blame them?), so I'm not going to be able to watch tomorrow night. I don't mean to imply that I'm some sort of difference maker, but I think we both know how miserable your record is when I'm not watching. But if you can do your best to break out of that habit and win one without me there, that would be great. You really owe us one.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Letter of Warning

Dear Timmy Connolly,

As I'm sure you know, you're playing the Anaheim Ducks tonight. In case you haven't realized what that means, I've taken the liberty of drawing you a diagram that I'd like for you to hang in your locker stall before you take the ice:


Okay, now take a good long look. Memorize it. Then focus all your energy on keeping your head out of the red circles. Buffalo loves you, Timmy, and we'd like you to continue to know what year it is.

Good luck out there tonight!
Gambler

P.S. You might want to share a copy of this diagram with Roy-Z, seeing as his head is perpetually at red-circle height.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

IPB Makes Me Want To Be A Better Blogger

Well, I guess my ears should be burning! Bloggers have been quite the hot topic with the NHL recently. Given the massive online presence of hockey fans, the league is trying to find out how they can get in on this action, and who can blame them? Anyway, for more on that, see the piece that Hockey Night in Canada did the other night on blogging. As blogs and bloggers have been getting more attention from owners and the media alike, a Great Discussion has been circulating the hockey blogosphere about what it means to be a blogger and what the real purpose of a blog is. A lot has been made of the idea that, if bloggers are going to get the same kind of team access as journalists, they should have to comport themselves as journalists, checking their fandom at the door. Which leaves the rest of us asking: What happened to it all being about fun? Enter the two, the only, Pookie and Schnookie, evil masterminds behind the coolest, hippest hangout in the internet, Interchangeable Parts, or IPB. (That ought to get me some brownie points, eh?) They produced and answered a questionnaire, and encouraged their readers to respond to it as well. Never one to pass up the opportunity to talk about myself, I'm going to play along. So here's my contribution to the Great Discussion:

1. What was your motivation for starting blogging? Has that changed at all in the time you’ve been blogging?


Desperation Hockey began as an outlet, a way to keep me from talking the ear off of my friends and family and basically everyone I know. This summer wasn't my first as a hockey fan, but it was the first I suffered through as a hockey fan, and starting a blog was the best way I knew to keep myself occupied. Plus, all the cool kids were doing it. I stumbled upon IPB completely by accident this summer while googling for a hockey T-shirt, but it and the blogs it opened up to me immediately got my analytical and writing gears grinding. So this blog was founded solely as a place to channel that energy. Of course I hoped people would read, but initially all I thought about was what I would be putting into this space, not what people would be taking out of it. I didn't create a blogroll, not because I don't love and cherish all the blogs I read (I do!), but primarily because I never anticipated becoming part of the larger hockey blogging community. (Secondarily because I'm lazy.) That status may have changed, but if so, it's because of my readers, not because of anything that I did. I'm still new at this.


2. What do you think your blog contributes to the hockey conversation?


Just my opinions, nothing more, nothing less. I'm not looking to rock anyone's world, and I never set out to write a post with some grand purpose in mind, except to write what I'm feeling. Sometimes that's a sarcastic rant about Bucky Gleason, other times it's a love letter to Jochen Hecht, but it's always from the heart (or a bile-filled liver, in Bucky's case). I make my material as silly or as serious (well, as serious as one can get when writing about a game) as I please, and I like to think I contribute an entertaining if not humorous insight into my point of view. As a Sabres fan displaced half-way across the country in Minnesota, with no hockey- or even sports-fan friends to speak of, this blog is a way for me to keep in touch with my inner fan, and hopefully those are conversations people enjoy sitting in on.


3. What do you want to get out of the blogs you read?


Overall I, like all the fans of the NHL or any other sports league, just want to be entertained. And primarily that means being amused, but as long as the point of view is interesting, I consider it a worthwhile read. The great thing about blogs is that anyone can write them, and anyone can access them, so it's an incredibly efficient way to uncover the opinions of fans from around the country and the globe, of different teams, and different mindsets. Through the power of blogs I've been exposed to many smart and interesting fans of teams I wouldn't otherwise care about, like the Devils, Kings, Ducks, Canucks, and Stars. Of course I enjoy hearing from my fellow female fans, something which I most decidedly cannot get from the mainstream media, but I'm equally fascinated by the look into the male fan's experience--from statbits to man-crushes--as given to me by BfloBlog, Battle of California, and the Goose's Roost guys. I've found I'll even keep up with some blogs of teams I despise, as long as they can make me laugh, and make me think. In short, no matter the source, as long as it's insightful and entertaining, I'll read it.


4. What determines which blogs you read and which you don’t?


Generally anything that grabs and continues to hold my interest remains on my daily blog route, but again I find myself coming back to the matter of point of view. I don't get any interaction with hockey fans in my real life, so I like my internet experience to come from as many different perspectives as possible. As much as I like to pretend to stroke my wizened beard of sage wisdom when I write here, I'm an incredibly new fan to this sport, and there's always something out there for me to learn. So if a blog adds a new facet to that learning process, whether it's a lifelong fan offering up his analysis, or a brand spanking new fan sharing her fresh outlook, I'll continue to read it. Also, the community created by the blog/blogger is important. I like to feel welcome to add to the conversation initiated by the blog post, which is probably why I don't visit those big sites mentioned in the HNiC video very regularly. They're definitely smart and informative and I check with Mirtle et al. when some big story breaks, but I just feel too intimidated to join in.


5. How important is the issue of gaining press access to you as a blogger?


I would say it's pretty much a complete non-issue. If someone offered me the opportunity I might consider it, but it's certainly not something I'm looking for or trying to achieve with my writing. In general just the idea of being around the dressing room and having to behave like a professional makes me extremely nervous, and it's frankly something I'd rather not deal with. Especially if it would put limits on the kind of things I can and cannot write. But I recognize that there are bloggers out there who wish for nothing more than to wear a press pass and blend in with all the journalist types, and to them I say go for it! Just don't expect all of the rest of us to want to follow you there.


6. To what extent do you feel accountable for the content of your blog? How concerned do you think readers should be about the authority and accountability of your blog?


I'll admit this isn't really something I've ever thought about. Of course I take responsibility for everything I write here, and though most of my readers wouldn't know me from a mailbox if they saw me in real life, their opinions of my work matter to me. I am and always have been a perfectionist when it comes to my writing, and I spend way too much time on each and every post here trying to get it just right. Sure, there are some things that I've written that maybe I would like to take back, as I have grown both as both a fan and a blogger, but ultimately I see it all as a process. Just because my opinion or perspective has changed, doesn't make the opinions or perspectives of the past any less valid. They were just as true then as the new ones are now, and it shows my growth. That being said, Desperation Hockey is not, nor has it ever pretended to be a news blog, so pretty much nothing here should be taken as fact. (Except for the stuff I said about The Curse. That shit's totally real.)


7. How concerned are you about the authority and accountability of the blogs you read? Do you find it difficult to judge the authority and accountability of the blogs you read?


While it's certainly important, I've never had a problem discerning which bloggers I can trust. Part of the reason I like to find blogs with open and welcoming environments for their readers to comment is so that I can challenge and discuss anything that I might not agree with. The reality is that (news flash) people are different, and they don't always see things the same way. I'm not looking to take anyone to task about their opinions, just find out exactly how and why they feel the way they do. And I find with most bloggers, the accountability comes naturally for them. I've never known any of the bloggers I read to just state something without some kind of explanation thereof. (It might be because they like to write so damn much.) And if they ever do, I'm sure a quick conversation or "Could you expand on..." comment would clear things up. I find most everything I need to know about how lightly or seriously a blogger wants me to take a post is revealed quite readily through tone, so accountability has never been a problem. As for things like stats, especially the ones that require much digging and calculating, I'm inclined to just blindly trust them, unless something seems seriously awry.


8. What value, if any, do you think blogging brings to the NHL?


I think blogging has tremendous value to the NHL, and luckily they're realizing it, even if they're not sure how to use it yet. Personally, as a fan living so outside of her team's market, blogging and reading blogs is how I keep up with what's happening with my team and around the league. Out here the only hockey media I have regular access to are Versus (which barely counts), and the internet. And in less than a month I'll be in Europe with access to only one of those. (Thankfully the good one. A life with Versus and no internet would be some kind of hell.) Sure, I can get the Buffalo News anywhere online, but they're not going to be telling me the whole story. Even if they managed to somehow balance the negatives with some positives, which more often than not seems impossible for them, they still wouldn't be connecting me with the experience of being a fan like blogging can. Bloggers will let me know what the atmosphere inside HSBC was like during the game, how the area fans are reacting to such-and-such a goal/call/incident/game, who's holding up a sign that looks like "MAX BOOBS." Will the Buffalo News tell me that? No. So if I'm looking for more than just the newsworthy stories, if I want the little details and nuances that made me fall in love with the game in the first place, blogs are the only place I can turn. The truth is that even over the interminable months of the off-season, and this great distance between me and the Sabres, my interest in hockey has only grown. Doubled. Because of blogging. And given that the NHL is in the business of initiating and nurturing fans' interest (or at least they should be), they damn well should take notice.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Rocked You Like A Hurricane!

Wow. Just... wow.

Sabres, you really listened to me, huh? And you didn't just listen, you listened. I'm so HAPPY!!!

Maybe more on this win later. Right now it's time to go celebrate with some of my boyfriend's homemade jambalaya and a gin and tonic or two.*

WOOOOOOOOO!!!!

*Mom, forget you read that last part.

Mister December

So Soupy's the man for December, huh?

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'll admit that immediately following the, uh, Captain Exodus this summer Campbell was the first name that popped into my head as a possible replacement, but now I'm not so sure. He started out the season on a tear, playing with the kind of confidence that makes him a formidable offensive force, but lately he's been iffy. In Monday's game against the Caps he was a downright mess, committing turnovers left and right and pretty much incapable of playing defense. Don't get me wrong, I definitely appreciate his 14 assists and 16 points, and who knows, maybe he'll really excel in the role of leader. Only time will tell, I guess.

It just makes me nervous about the future, especially in regards to his UFA contract. The market price for a offensive defenseman these days is ridiculous, and I'm worried that we'll get ourselves handcuffed to a huge contract for a guy that's not very consistent. If he's going to be considered in the upper echelon, price-wise, of UFA defensemen, frankly I'd prefer he spinarama off to another city. That being said, I love Soupy. He's frustrating as hell sometimes, but he's an incredible skater and when he's playing with a swagger he's exciting and dynamic. When everything's said and done I'd love to see him in a Sabres sweater as long as possible. He's grown up in this organization, and I like to think he likes it here; he's certainly worth something to this team. But is he worth $6 million? Is he worth giving up the chance to re-sign Pominville? Or Miller? The Sabres just have to figure out a way to get him locked down for a reasonable price. And soon. (Yeah, I know no one's ever thought of that before. This is why I don't write analysis.)

At any rate, I'm elated that Hecht is keeping his A (alongside Jaro Spacek). He's definitely earned it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

For Crying Out Loud!

Listen Sabres, I know you love me, but I'm not your babysitter. Sometimes (just sometimes) I have a life and I'm not going to be around to watch every minute of every game. I'm sorry, but last night was just one of those nights. As I'm sure you know, I had to leave after the first period, and word on the street is that's when things started falling apart for you. Apparently the last 40 minutes were a mess of lackadaisical passing plays and purposeless skating. Frankly, I'm not having a hard time picturing it, because it sounds somewhat familiar. I don't think I have to tell you how disappointed I am to hear that you were misbehaving while I was gone. I expected better from you. Keep that up and you'll go straight to your room without supper, misters! And don't you even try to put the blame on me for leaving you guys alone. I went to go see a very meaningful and important movie about Nazi Germany. Can you compete with that? Plus, if you saw the way my GPA is nosediving*, you'd understand just how vital that German extra credit was for me. Sometimes you just have to buck up and carry on. Without me. Be strong, I know you can do it.

*Not true, Mom. I promise. I'm just trying to make the Sabres feel extra bad.

Well, that keeps the losses I've seen through to the end at a whopping one on the season. On the fan hand, it's nice that the Sabres are saving their suckitude for times when I'm not around to see it, but on the blogger hand, it's sort of handcuffing me. It's hard to write about their successes when the only thing I have to compare it to is the hearsay of their failures. Also, far better (not to mention more regular) bloggers than I are already tackling the analysis. So all I'll say is that I'm willing to give them a pass for this loss. There were a whole mess of excuses at their disposal--fifth game in eight days, lots of defensive injuries, we haven't won against the Blues in ten years, not to mention they don't suck any more--and most other people are saying they don't buy those. But I don't know, maybe I'm just too soft on them. They better prove themselves to me against Carolina on Saturday, though. Luckily for them, I've cleared my schedule already.

A few of words about Carolina: I hate them. I really, really do.

Last night MSG put together a really nice piece on Jay McKee (the long-time Sabre playing his first game in Buffalo since becoming a Blue) that I caught during the first intermission right before I headed out. It was really sweet to hear him talk about how he is always and forever a Western New Yorker, but what really caught my attention was the discussion about the what-ifs regarding the ECF series against Carolina. All the memories just came flooding back full force. Of course, Jay missed what would have been his very last game in a Buffalo sweater because of some freak bacterial infection in his leg. And of course, the Sabres lost that game and the series. All summer long Buffalo agonized over what could have been: McKee would have soaked up that extra ice time. McKee would have protected that one-goal lead with his life. McKee sure wouldn't have just left that puck lying around near his foot for Brind'Amour to pounce on. And who knows? Maybe it really would have been different. But it wasn't, and that was hard to come to terms with.

Last night Jay said of that injury, that one day he was soaring with excitement about the team and the prospect of a championship, and then a few hours later he was crippled and confused and on the phone trying to work out what had happened. It was a complete and utterly debilitating turn around. And all I could think was, that's what the loss of that series was like for me. It was like a kick in the stomach (or, I guess in this case, the leg). One minute I was dreaming big dreams of Cups and parades, thinking finally, this is it. This is the year we finally win one. And the next minute I was cleaning up the rubble. Just like Buffalonians do at the end of every season. Except for me, it was just the first time. As much as hockey was always around in Buffalo, it was during that series that my true fandom was forged, and within two weeks of its birth it got its first real test. Sure, I hate the Stars and the Flyers and the Leafs, and I'll never forget what the Senators or the Slag-Faced Whores did to me this summer, but it was the Carolina Hurricanes who served this fan her first real heartbreak. And for that I'll never forgive them. So give 'em hell on Saturday, Sabres. Or else.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Love Letter

Dear Jochen Hecht,

I know we haven’t talked in a while (I’ve been busy. Do you know how much bureaucracy is involved in arranging a semester abroad in your country? Sheesh, this better be worth it.), but I want you to know that I have been thinking about you. I know I haven’t exactly been the best Yo-Yo fan that I can possibly be lately, what with rehearsals making me miss more than half the season’s games, but I’ve been keeping up with your numbers and news, and I’m delighted at all the glowing reviews you’ve been getting. Everyone from the players (belated congratulations on the October captaincy!), to Sabres management (ditto on the new contract!), to bloggers whose opinions I trust (see Top Shelf and Sabre Rattling, to name a couple) are singing your praises. Even Lindy Ruff couldn’t hide his severe mancrush on your dependable two-way play and solid penalty killing! And who can blame him? I don’t want to ruin your perception of yourself or anything, but you’re kind of awesome. (No, don’t try to argue with me, Yo-Yo, it’s true. Live with it.)

So I guess the question is, how did you get to be so awesome? I couldn’t experience it first hand, but I heard through the grapevine that even with the rest of the Sabres skating in molasses, your line with Timmy and Pommer was a continuous bright spot. And you took over the center spot with ease after the injury bug bit—so well that you’re still playing between Jason and Clarke even with Connolly healthy again. And even while revisiting your maddening(ly adorable) game of Shoot at the Goaltender or else Not at the Net and your seemingly desperate need to invent the instrument called Goal Post Marimbas, you continued to be one of the better players out there every night. That’s not easy to do.

Knowing you, you’re probably reading this while staring at your feet, drawing toe circles in the dirt and mumbling something about your linemates pulling a lot of weight for you, and you’re not exactly wrong. From what I’ve seen, both Pommer and Timmy have been consistent and solid, and MacArthur has definitely earned his spot with the big club. But listen: This letter is about you. And you? Are fantastic. I watched my first game in a long time last night, and whenever your line was out, it was always you I was focused on. Granted, I have somewhat of a vested interest in watching you, but it seemed you were always doing something interesting or productive, controlling the play in some way. One smart clearing pass here, another deft set-up there, and probably a billion subtle positioning things I didn’t notice, because that’s just your way. You really are playing well, and I’m so proud to see it.

You know, someone once told me that as a fan, you don’t really pick a favorite player, so much as that player picks you. So I want to thank you, Yo-Yo, for choosing me to be a Hecht fan. So far it’s been nothing but rewarding. And I promise that in the future when you’re going through a slump or things just aren’t gelling so well—as happens to everyone at some time or another—I may curse and I may whine, but I’ll look back on this time and I won’t let my devotion waver. I’ll remember how you stood by me, determined to shine as Captain October, even though you knew I couldn’t watch much. I’ll remember how you sat down and got that contract extension done early just so I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of the season worrying about whether you’d still be with me next year. I’ll remember how you didn’t let the added money and years keep you from playing hard every night, even when surrounded by so much Sabres anemia. You’ve treated me well.

Simply put, Yo-Yo, I’ve just realized that you are my favorite player and there’s nothing either of us can do about it. We’re just stuck with each other. And I think I’m going to enjoy it.

Vielen Gl├╝ck und Erfolg!
Gambler

P.S. I know this letter may sound silly, but I assure you, I am not jochen!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ta Da!

What did I tell you guys? My play ends and voila! The struggling Sabres pull off a win against the league powerhouse and big rival Ottawa Senators. Once again, I'm sorry I was holding them back for so long.

Tomorrow I actually get to watch a game for the first time in about a month! I'm so excited! I just hope it turns out differently than last year's day-after-Thanksgiving game against Montreal, which I attended in person. I think a loss in literally the last second of overtime might be the most anti-climactic way for a game to end. So let's just try to avoid that, okay guys?

Hopefully more to come before the weekend's over, but I'm enjoying being home, so I'm not going to promise anything.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ding Dong the Play is Dead (And the Sabres are Alive Again)

Okay, Sabres, you're done losing now. Things were rough there for a bit, I know, but now everything should be all right again, see, because the cause of that terrible slump you were going through won't be a problem anymore. I'll explain.

The Sabres' recent losing streak was so bad that everyone seemed to have their own theories about what was going wrong. After a while it became apparent that they weren't just playing bad hockey or turning in half an effort, rather they seemed legitimately cursed. But by what? Top Shelf's Heather B. considered the fact that she'd had her Derek Roy wallpaper up for too long, but ultimately decided that this one was all on the Hockey Gods, while The Willful Caboose's Katebits started to get curious about Ryan Miller's conduct around the Cup that his baby brother brought home over the summer. But I don't think it was any of those things. I believe the Sabres were cursed, just like everything else in my life, by this godforsaken play I was in.

At first I thought my boys were just being considerate. They knew it would only deepen my homicidal rage coming home from rehearsal to find that I'd missed a really good hockey game as well, so they decided they'd better play like crap and take care of that problem for me. And it worked! I was almost happy to see those early losses, because it meant I wasn't missing out on anything by being trapped in rehearsal. But then things started to change. The Sabres started wanting to win, desperately trying to win, but it just wouldn't happen for them. I stopped being relieved and grateful and started getting frustrated and angry (about five games behind the rest of Sabres fandom) when I came home to loss after loss. And that's when I knew. That's when I knew the losses weren't on purpose, and they weren't coincidence; they were all a part of Lysistrata's never-ceasing campaign to suck all of the fun out of my life.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense: I mean, it had already ruined my moods, my grades, and my social life, why not go after my hockey team as well? But if you're still not swayed, here are some convincing statbits (this is about as statbitty as DH will ever get, so don't get used to it): On nights I didn't have rehearsal or a performance, the Sabres went 5-2-0, with the two losses being the first games against the Islanders--which, let's be honest, they weren't going to win anyway. They just had too many dues to pay for last year. On nights I was stuck on stage, they went 1-8-1 (not including Friday's win against Montreal, which I'll get to in a second). Defense was pretty much a push, as opponents scored 21 and 28 goals in the 7 non-rehearsal and 10 rehearsal nights, respectively, but the effect on the offense was alarming. While I was suffering, the scorers were struggling, managing just 13 goals. They scored more than twice in a game just once, the 4-3 overtime loss to the Lightning, and were shut out three times. Otherwise they piled on 32 goals in three fewer games, including only one instance where they netted fewer than four. That's some pretty persuasive evidence of evil, if you ask me.

But it's all over now, and the Sabres are already getting back on track. I thought their 4-1 win on Friday, before the official end of the curse last night, showed great force of will, especially considering it was one of the most heinously awful nights of the play ever. It seems that already their heads are in the right place and they know what it's going to take to turn their season around. It won't be easy, but I have faith. If they could overcome a curse as powerful as this one on a night like that, they can overcome anything.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that I personally am some sort of good luck charm. There were a couple of nights in there where I was rehearsal-free, but still missed the game for one reason or another, so I can't take any of the credit. I'm just trying to tell you where you should direct your blame. I'd like to sincerely apologize to everyone--players and fans alike--for ever accepting a role in this show. If I'd known ahead of time how much pain it would cause, I never would have done it. I'll do my best to make sure it won't happen again.

But beware Sabres. Your excuse is gone. Any losses from here on out? They're all on you.

It's good to be back!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bucky Misses Me

Hey all! Sorry about all the silence lately, but I'm currently up to my eyeballs in rehearsal for the single most painful show I've ever been involved with. And that's not even considering the fact that it's making me miss out on hockey and blogging. Seriously, don't get me started on all of the things I hate about it, or I'll be here forever. Instead, let me get started (again) on all the things I hate about Bucky Gleason! Yay! (I know I've spent a lot of time complaining about this show if complaining about Bucky Gleason feels like a refreshing change of pace.)

Apparently Bucky misses me, because he wrote an absolute gem for the paper this weekend that he just knew I wouldn't be able to resist. Well, Bucky, what can I say? You got me. You know just what I hate! I'll be brief:

The article starts off okay enough, in that Bucky recognizes that a 5-5 record isn't the end of the world, and he actually manages to use the word "talent" in conjunction with something that rhymes with neither "Schmury" nor "Schmiere." But then there's this: "For all the ESPN plays of the day that fans stored in their memory banks, it was the Sabres' supreme confidence on foreign turf that often gave them a 1-0 lead before the opening faceoff." I'm... kind of handcuffed by how little sense that makes. I think I'll just let it (mis)speak for itself.

Bucky's point about how the Sabres don't scare anyone anymore, particularly on the road, is valid, but he fails to mention how last season started with an October spent scaring the opposition and ended with a post-season spent scaring their fans. Coincidence? The fear probably hurt them more in the end than it helped them last year, and I'd much rather have them playing scared now than in May.

By saying that there's "no need to rehash Chris Drury and Daniel Briere for the umpteenth time," Bucky rehashes Chris Drury and Daniel Briere for the umpteenth time. Well played, sir. He goes on to say that "the first 10 games have shown Buffalo's flaws run deeper than the departures of the former co-captains." I'd argue that they've shown Buffalo's flaws are almost completely unrelated to the departures of the former co-captains, but you know. Six of one...

I find myself agreeing with his "six pack" bullet points, comments about Kalinin and Hecht notwithstanding. Still, it's not exactly groundbreaking stuff. Vanek's not scoring? Our defense is sucking? I sure hope this guy is getting paid for this!

Bucky then "treats" us to his thoughts on some non-Sabres issues, starting with the Rangers:

"Snicker while you can at the New York Rangers, who had just 15 goals in nine games going into the weekend and suffered back-to-back 1-0 losses last week. Unlike the Sabres, their first 10 games were not indicative of trouble. Drury, Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan had just one goal apiece while newcomer Scott Gomez had two."

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up. What was the number one problem the Sabres are having, again? Oh, that's right. "1. Underachieving stars." So for the Sabres, who have been getting secondary scoring from such non-stars as Pominville, Roy, and Hecht, not to mention a healthy dose of defensive scoring, the disappearance of Vanek and Afinogenov spells disaster. But for the Rangers, who have been shut out three times already this season--once by the Bruins, might I add--the expensive scoring drought is just growing pains? A speed bump? Get outta town, Bucky! (No really.) You can't have your cake and eat it, too; either underachieving stars is a problem, or it isn't. Also, I didn't hear you saying "they're veterans who will come around," when discussing Tallinder and Lydman's recent defensive problems. What, exactly, is the difference?

He goes on for a while about things I don't really care about, but I'm "rewarded" for sticking with him until the end with his take on the Oilers' recent video tribute to the once-captain-now-returning-as-an-Av Ryan Smyth. And if you don't know where this is headed, you're drunk. Sure enough: "Just wondering if the Sabres have anything similar planned for Drury and Briere." Seriously? Seriously? Look, setting aside the fact that I think it was ridiculous that the Oilers did that in the first place, Smyth had at least played eleven seasons with them before fucking off. Drury and Briere didn't play that many seasons as Sabres put together. I get that they did great things here, and everyone loved them, and there are a lot of great memories (I mean, think of all those Cups they brought us! Wait...), but Bucky. Get over it. They just weren't that into us. There's no need to go embarrassing ourselves trying to tell them how much we "miss" them. It's (been) time to move on. Furthermore, Sabres management: just, no. If this happens I may have to fly home just so I can puke ceremoniously right in the middle of it. Because I'm going to puke either way, and I'd rather have you clean up the mess.

Whew! I know I said I'd be brief, but that felt way too good. Too much pent-up aggression, I guess. Less than three weeks until this cursed play is over! (And then I'll get back to actually writing about the Sabres, and not just Bucky Gleason, I promise.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Letter of Apology

Dear Jaroslav Spacek,

I think I may owe you an apology. All last season, I was way too hard on you, and I'm sorry. I mean sure, you didn't come close to earning that $3 million: you were the only Sabre without a single point in the playoffs, before this season the last goal you scored was in 2006, and your defensive play often left me just praying that you would injure yourself. But apparently taking point shots on the power play is your bread and butter, and it was really unfair of me to expect you to produce while you were being deprived of your bread and butter. This season has already been an entirely different story, as you've logged lots of time on the power play, turning it into 4 goals and 6 points in 4 games. Keep that up and I might have to pull an Earl Sleek and vow to name my daughter Jaroslav to make up for all my shameless taunting! (Okay, that was a joke, Jaro. I know I'm apologizing, here, but I'm not that cruel.) For now, I would like to present you with these cinnamon buns, the universal symbol of excessive but heartfelt apology:


Keep up the good work!

Love,
Gambler

PS Keep doing those interviews, too, and when you do, please use the phrase "it's my bread and butter" as much as possible. It's hi-larious!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Now THAT'S More Like It!

Sorry for the radio silence over opening weekend, folks, but I was just working on being the least professional Sabres blogger I can possibly be. That, and my parents were in town for Macalester's Family Fest Weekend, and I figured I owed them my undivided attention, especially considering they got in about 18 hours after they were scheduled to, due to the cancellation and delay problems that seem to curse travel attempt between BUF and MSP made by my family. (Let's just say that when my parents tried to make this same trip last October, there was a bit of a, uh, "snow issue.") It was, as always, a blast hanging out with them, and I got in some well-needed hockey socializing. Too bad it wasn't the best hockey. I'm not going to get in-depth with my analysis, especially since I didn't see the whole of either game, but I think the word sloppy pretty much covers it. But I wasn't alarmed, or even terribly upset by the losses. I am just so goddamn glad to have hockey back! (Also, I assure you that, as bad as the Sabres looked, listening to the Islanders' broadcast team was at least a hundred times worse. I think it was all summed up when the color guy announced "It's Islanders 6, Buffalo 4 here, and that's about all the analysis I can do!" Unfortunately, he then went on to try to do some analysis and came up with, "It's old-time hockey!" Riiiight.)

Last night, through some astounding miracle, I had the night off from rehearsal, and got to enjoy the game using my uncle's Slingbox. It's grainier and less reliable than Center Ice Online, but it's free (for me, anyway) and it gets the job done. Plus I'm guaranteed to get the Sabres announcers that way, and I don't have to worry about wanting to pull my hair out. Some things about the game:

- Obviously the major highlight was the special teams. Wow. I was at class during the first period, so I missed all the power play scoring, but still. I was utterly shocked to turn on my computer and see a power play that actually resembled a power play. We not only gained the zone, but held it, creating genuine scoring chances instead of just passing aimlessly. Whether this trend will continue, especially as we begin to face more aggressive PKs, remains to be seen, but at least the guys have proven to me they remember what a power play is. By the way, all the people bitching about Goose being on the power play (I'll admit I was a little skeptical), notice the three solid screens he set for those three first-period goals. The penalty kill was perfect, not nearly as jittery as we're used to seeing it at home, and Pommer's shorthanded goal was the result of pure tenacity from him and Roy. Just all-around encouraging, and should be a good confidence booster for the guys.

- The defense was much improved. Kalinin and Spacek both put in strong performances, I thought, and Hank and Toni were back to their reliable selves. It's not like Atlanta had a particularly potent offense going, but everything seems to be back on track here.

- Offense was never our problem, but they continued getting the job done last night. Connolly was a beast, and I'm inclined to believe the predictions that he'll have us saying "Danny who?" by the end of the season, provided he can stay off IR. Roy was also looking good, especially when he scored a goal while falling down. The only thing that worried me was the disappearance of Vanek. On the one hand, when you manage to score 6 goals without the guy you're paying $10 million showing up on the score sheet it's always heartening, but on the other hand, you're still paying $10 million for a guy to not show up on the score sheet. But it's early yet. He'll figure it out.

- I'm just not going to get used to not hearing Jim Lorentz's voice anytime soon. I'd never really watched Hockey Night in Canada before, so I haven't had much contact with Harry Neale, and I was trying to keep an open mind. But after tonight I think it's safe to say the relationship is already souring. It started when he tried to make the point that the Thrashers are the only team in the league with no North American letter wearers, like he didn't remember what team he was calling for. Luckily Rob Ray set him straight with a timely "What about the Sabres?" but Neale just continued to dig his hole deeper by contesting that Hecht, Lydman, and Tallinder are only captains of the month, and therefore apparently don't count. Grrrr. (Incidentally, one of the most entertaining parts of the game was hearing Rayzor detailing his smack-down of Neale to one "Joe," when his mic randomly cut in during the broadcast. Hilarious!)

- This was incredibly sweet:


I'm rehearsal-free tomorrow night, too, and I'm looking forward to seeing how we stand up to a the hot squad of Capitals. Hockey's back!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Gambler's Hard-Hotting Preseason Analysis

With the new season bearing steadily but slowly (this last week will take forever, mark my words) down upon us, I think it’s time I turn my attention, as most bloggers do at this time, to the important business of showcasing what lies ahead for my team. Now I know many a more serious hockey blogger than I will be going over the Sabres’ key losses and additions this off-season (well, the losses anyway), predicting who will step up, where the points will come from, and how we will fare compared to the rest of the division, conference, and league. All across Sabres fandom, people want to know, “How good will we be?” But there’s an equally-important question that I think most people won’t be addressing, though many people might be wondering: “How hot will we be?” And that’s where I come in. (Forgive me.)


Okay, forget Drury and Briere. (Please, please forget them.) In terms of hotness, those losses were minor compared to the great crimes committed by this organization over the past two years. I remember thinking, as the camera panned down the line of Sabres during the pre-game anthems of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals, “If that is not the prettiest team in all of sports, I’ll eat my hat.” (Of course, that could have had a little to do with the fact that when I was treated to the same view of the Hurricanes, all I could think was, “Dear Lord, what threw up on Rod Brind’Amour, and how can I keep it from coming after me, too?”) Since then, major puzzle pieces of the pretty like Taylor Pyatt, JP Dumont, Mike Grier, Jay McKee, and Marty Biron have walked out the door, and we’ve let replacement back-up hottie Ty Conklin and subtle supermodel Dainius Zubrus slip through our fingers as well, with their true hotness potential barely realized. And who’s been brought in to offset all of these losses? Jaroslav Spacek. Pa-thetic. Between this and the recent suspension of Teppo Numminen, it’s like the Sabres don’t want to be hot, despite their shameless assumption of billboard-sized glamour shots as a marketing strategy. But in the end, how do all of these losses shake out? Where are we left? Well, let’s take a look, on a player-by-player basis:


(Note: I’ve arbitrarily decided that an official nickname is required in order to be included in this most prestigious hard-hotting analysis. As you’ll notice, some are generally known and widely-used, others are recognizable only if you know which are the cool parts of the internet to hang out in, and the rest were all made up in my head, for my own enjoyment. Please excuse the crazy.)


#5 Toni “TMT” Lydman Toni is like a mystery, wrapped in a puzzle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in my mom’s haircut. Just when I think I know what he looks like, he goes and changes it up on me. He definitely doesn’t scream hot (I'm not 100% sure that second picture really is him), but I have to give him credit for his fashion fearlessness.


#6 Jaroslav “Jarlsberg Swiss” Spacek Considering I gave him this nickname when I decided that his head bears a striking resemblance to a cube of cheese, the answer here is definitely not hot. Although his interviews, wherein he takes on the English language with all the speed and destructive force of a tornado, almost make up the difference.


#9 Derek “Dr Jesus” Roy By all rights, Roy, definitely shorter than his listed 5’9”, should be in the “cute as a button” category, living out his days as the imaginary tenant of fans’ pockets. But no, Derek is hot. The kind of hot that makes you want to use names like “punk,” “asshole,” and “bastard" affectionately. He’s a pretty boy who certainly knows it, cocky and mouthy, but somehow in a way that only enhances his attractiveness instead of putting you off. You’d never admit to actually liking this type of hot, but that doesn’t mean you can help it whenever you find yourself drawn in by it. (Don’t worry, you can just pretend you’re staring at his awesome silver skates instead.)


#10 Henrik “Tally” Tallinder Long, lean, and the image of grace on skates, Hank brings the classy-hot to the Sabres lineup. In addition to typically Scandanavian good looks and a jaw line stolen from a top fashion magazine, he has an easy smile, and an adorable set of dimples. More importantly, his hotness seems subtle enough to fly under the radar of the more, shall we say, singularly boy-crazy set of fans. The only downside to Hank is that he’s so prone to injury that his Tally-Hos are often required to go long stretches without seeing his hotness in motion. And the withdrawal symptoms, I’m told, can be quite damaging.


#12 Ales “Super Freak” Kotalik Last spring I was procrastinatingly cruising Facebook in lieu of writing a paper, when I stumbled upon the group titled “... and on the Seventh Day, God Created Daniel Radcliffe and Ales Kotalik.” For a moment, my world stood completely still. Confronted with evidence that such a group actually exists—and worse, has members (more than one!)—my brain didn’t know where to start laughing first. Okay, declaring your love for a 17-year-old kid who will one day be 40 and still best known as a children’s book character is one thing. Simultaneously (and irrelevantly) declaring your love for an NHL player is another. But having that NHL player be Al Kotalik? Really? Her? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like Super Freak looks like a pile of puke, but when he’s playing like a pile of puke, who has time to notice? To his credit, he would look completely at home in a period film about the 19th century, which as everyone knows was the century of hot. Unfortunately for him, though, he would probably be playing the high-brow politico character that the female lead desperately doesn’t want to marry, and would be therefore way less hot than the actual love interest, and no one would notice him. Sorry, Al.


#19 Tim “Timbit” Connolly Timmy has a face as round and doughy as the donut I’ve nicknamed him for. It’s a good thing chipmunk cheeks, overlarge teeth, and slightly inbred facial features suit him, otherwise we’d have two very good reasons to want to see him in a visor. As it stands, he definitely gets top marks for looks, if not for smarts. Seriously Timmy, tighten the chinstrap, get a mouth guard, and for God’s sake keep your head up. Vegetables are never hot.


#20 Daniel “Shovel” Paille I’ve never noticed whether or not Paille is hot, so must be he’s not. (I’d make a great investigatory journalist.)


#21 Drew “Staffy Stomp!” Stafford Staffy’s alluring perma-scowl and strangely beguiling unibrow bring the term “ugly hot” to a whole new level. Seriously, he has the kind of face that could give small children nightmares, while still somehow managing a certain appeal. I think if he were a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, he would be the “fierce” and “edgy” one, the one who wins Tyra’s praise week in and week out, until it comes time to shoot the Cover Girl commercial, and his look is revealed for the train wreck that it is. Sorry, Staffy, but you’re just not easy, breezy, or beautiful. You’d best stick to hockey.


#22 Adam “Scud” Mair Mair’s hotness has nothing to do with Top Model. It has, shockingly, everything to do with hockey. In a state of perfect health, though there are many other things I love about him, Mair’s not much too write home about in the looks department. With rugged, masculine features, he’s certainly not unattractive—just ordinary looking. But get him a little bruised and banged up (as he is wont to do in his line of work), and he becomes a veritable fountain of sexiness. He proves that the purple blossom of a black eye or the scarlet trickle from a minor temporal gash can be the perfect accessory for the hockey player looking to up his hot status. I salute you, Bloody Mairsy, for making looking like shit look so good.


#26 Thomas “BK Lounge” Vanek Vanek can look like this. Unfortunately, most of the time he looks like this. It’s a shame, really. (But, hey, apparently it could be worse.) He may have led the league in +/- last year, but his hotness level sticks resolutely to zero, neither here nor there, adding very little to this conversation.


#27 Teppo “Teppoware” Numminen Okay, I’ll admit I was once part of the “Ew, Teppo” camp, but only because I was so blinded by his branding as an ancient old man that I never actually took the time to look at him. But once I did, it is safe to say I ew-ed no more. Teppo Numminen is an undeniably sexy beast. He takes the kind of adjectives usually reserved for old-fashioned movie stars, like “suave” and “debonair,” and brings them to life for a new generation. I wish him a speedy—but complete!—recovery from his recently successful open-heart surgery, so that he can get back to playing like a leader on the ice, and looking like a model off it.


#28 Paul “Goose” Gaustad Goose looks like what every girl grew up dreaming her prom date would look like. He’s classically handsome in a non-threatening, boy-next-door kind of way, but avoids the curse of being too pretty, in part by punching guys like Alex Ovechkin in the face. On top of this, he wears glasses and records PSAs about reading. Pretty, sensitive, but still tough, Goose can do no wrong.


#29 Jason “Pommerdoodle” Pominville Pommerdoodle is like the Justin Timberlake of the Sabres. (Not to be confused with the Justin Timberlake of the Kings.) From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I understand that he’s hot, but personally he just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s the fact that he shares most of his fanbase with Fall Out Boy, or that a summer spent at Interchangeable Parts has left me irrevocably associating him with a labradoodle puppy, or that my mom—my mom!—has had a picture of him hanging in our kitchen for the past year, but I’m just not going to be jumping on the Pommer wagon anytime soon. But, if that’s your style, I’ll grant it’s a legitimate wagon to be on. Unless you’re my mom.


#30 Ryan “Crunchy” Miller How Miller managed to gain a devoted following of swooning adolescent girls is one of the great mysteries of the universe. He looks, as Margee from SportSquee so brilliantly put it, like the love child of a Picasso and a Dali. But I suppose if emaciated hipster guys with womanly locks and crooked faces are your personal definition of hot (which, for my sister, happens to be true), then it doesn’t really get any hotter than Crunchy.


#35 Jocelyn “T-Bone” Thibault Coming off a long period of employing the ever-sexy and eternally lovable Marty Biron, the Sabres have a recent history with hot back-up goaltenders. T-Bone seems ready to carry on the tradition. I haven’t really seen anything of him besides his roster photo, but he shows definite promise.


#38 Nathan “Patches” Paetsch I’m really looking forward to watching Patches grow into his hotness this year. All the elements are at his disposal—a nice smile, large puppy-ish eyes, and an expression of general intensity out on the ice. He just needs to start owning it, and learn to stay away from the scarecrow hair.


#45 Dmitri “Tri” Kalinin Intensely shy and eternally too unsure of his English skills to do many interviews, Tri lacks the required confidence that is the cornerstone of any hotness, regardless of physical appearance. He does, however, have the Sabres market on sorrowful adorableness cornered. It can be explained by a simple series of mathematical correlations: As Kalinin’s on-ice inconsistencies approach infinity, the griping from Sabres fandom also approaches infinity. As the griping approaches infinity, Kalinin’s self-confidence approaches zero. As his self-confidence approaches zero, my perception of him as a poor lost puppy in need of some TLC approaches infinity, to the point that I can’t help but construe everything he says—his desperately earnest wish to do something great as part of the Russian national team, his giddily obvious enjoyment of Dumb and Dumber—as the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.


#51 Brian “Soupy” Campbell There’s no way around the fact that Regular Season Soupy looks like a drowned Raggedy Anne doll. But Post-Season Soupy, with thick russet beard on full display, is just a sleeveless flannel shirt away from achieving that sexy lumberjack look. I think it’s pretty clear, apparently to everyone except Soupy himself, that he needs to invest in some full-time facial hair cultivation. Regardless of the scruffy factor, though, Soupy will always be adorable as long as he continues to show off that 100-watt smile of his.


#55 Jochen “Yo-Yo” Hecht I’m ashamed to admit that I overlooked the hot side of Yo-Yo for far too long, even after I found the courage to declare him my favorite Sabre. His is a subtle hotness. It doesn’t necessarily jump out at you, but it doesn’t disappoint, either. He doesn’t have some of the hit-or-miss inconsistencies, or the vain, preening qualities to which some of his teammates fall victim. His simple variety of handsomeness is alternately sweet and steamy, but always on the mark.


#61 Maxim “Max” Afinogenov What Max lacks in creative nicknames, he makes up for in Faye Dunaway impressions. I'm sure he’s very comforted by the fact that long after his career in the NHL is over, he’ll be able to keep putting food on the table as a celebrity impersonator in Vegas. What I’m getting at here, in case you couldn’t tell, is that Max has a very delicate, almost feminine bone structure. And, while it certainly sets him apart from the average Joe, it doesn’t quite make him hot, instead landing him somewhere in the neutral quagmire between “striking” and “interesting-looking.” (Which everyone knows are just fancy ways of saying “not hot.”) All that goes out the window, though, the second he opens his mouth. In an acoustic embodiment of sex, Max speaks with a deep tonal quality that it seems can’t possibly be his own, the smoothness of a chocolate milkshake poured over velvet, and a Russian accent that will undress you where you stand. He doesn’t do interviews terribly often, but when he does, beware: he takes no prisoners.


#76 Andrew “Gund” Peters Peters looks as plush and cuddly as a Gund Bear, and is about as useful on the ice. Under no circumstances should he be considered hot, but certain fans, it seems, won’t let that stop them.


Conclusion: Surprisingly, if I were actually professional enough to do a real season preview, wherein I discuss these guys’ potential talent instead of (or more probably in addition to) their looks, I think this post would still be ending the same way: We may not be on top anymore, but we’ve still got it. Go Sabres!