Monday, August 27, 2007

12 to Remember: Buffalo vs. Ottawa 2/22/07

Alright, Google video is fired up and ready to go, so let’s just jump right in!

This is weird. I miss Kevin.

First Period
20:00 Marty! MartyMartyMartyMarty! Who knew the sight of a blank white facemask could ever cause me this much joy?
19:19 A Lydman shot from the point (that was set up perfectly by Staffy [!]) bounces off Emery like his equipment is made of springs. Oh yes, recapping Emery’s goaltending “style” is going to be quite fun. Until he gets punched in the face, that is.
18:51 Briere blindly drops a pass behind the net, directly onto the stick of Spezza, who then gets a free wraparound attempt. Listen, Danny, I love that move! How’s about you call it “The Flyer Special,” huh? (Poor Marty says, “No, thanks,” as he makes the save.)
18:03 A Hecht shot deflects out of play, and Jim seems a little confused about how he didn’t score when Emery left the high, short side open. Jim, Jim, Jim. What are you, new? He didn’t score because he’s Yo-Yo. He doesn’t shoot at open spaces! That’s what goalies are for. (Replay shows that the shot actually hit the post, but I’m still skeptical. There had to have been a Senators logo somewhere on that post.)
17:40 The crowd roars, and Jim informs us it’s because Western New York native Pat Kaleta has just taken the ice for his first shift in the NHL. Now, I know I should probably be totally sick of him and his story line because of how many times it was shoved down my throat, but I can’t help it: I’m a sucker for the local boys. Every fan wants players who always dreamt about playing on their team, and let’s face it: growing up in Buffalo is the only reason any kid genuinely says “I’m going to be a Sabre someday!” (I really love the Sabres’ recent habit of drafting at least one local a year—at least until this year when South Buffalo prodigy Pat Kane proved out of reach. I love that when Darcy casually asked about what it would take to get that first draft pick, the Chicago GM apparently replied with something like “I would need a left wing, proven scorer in his early twenties to let that go.” Dude, how hard is it to just say “Thomas Vanek”? Or "the Austrian"?) Hey, is there still a game going on? Sweet!
16:15 I should also probably be sick of the whole “Lindy had to tell Kaleta to tone down the hitting at training camp so no one got hurt” story, too, but I’m not. What a spitfire, I love it!
15:55 Hank reminds me that there’s actually hockey happening as he masterfully intercepts a pass from Fisher behind the net. Whew, that was sexy! I promise I’ll pay more attention from now on.
15:20 Chris Neil gets an overly-long close-up for no good reason. Because no good reason exists.
14:27 The Sens touch up on an icing, and as Mair skates to the face-off circle, it looks like he either has a black eye or is wearing eyeliner. I’m almost ashamed to admit I find both options equally hot. Turns out it was just a trick of the light, but too late. The bruised/made-up Mair fantasies are already in my brain to stay. (By the way, it feels like no one’s taken a shot on net in about ten hours.)
13:54 Rob Ray informs us after commercial that the Town of Evans has declared (or presented a “doclumation,” whatever that is) that February 22, 2007 is “Pat Kaleta Day.” I’ll be sure to celebrate that the next time February 22, 2007 rolls around.
13:00 Kaleta and Corvo get slap-happy in the corner (Kaleta actually managed to knock himself off his feet with the force of his own check, leaving Corvo standing over him going “What the hell?”) before Peters comes in and puts an end to the nonsense by dropping a check on both of them at once. So fair and pragmatic, that Peters.
12:37 MacArthur goes to the box for hooking, and Jim tries to soothe the viewers’ worries by pointing out that the Ottawa power play is almost as bad as ours. Of course, he does it very subtly and statbitty, but the message comes in loud and clear.
12:15 Alfredsson falls down while holding the puck, and Drury still only just manages to keep him from getting past him and into the zone. Dude, Drury sucks. Someone should really hit him in the head or something. (By the way, I heard that’s the new Ranger Special.)
10:37 What do you know? That power play was almost as bad as one of ours.
10:19 Hank slaloms gracefully up the ice and creates some Afinogenov-esque chaos, leaving defenders scrambling and confused. But of course he doesn’t look anything like Max.; it somehow seems like his feet aren’t even moving. He takes a shot just inside the blue line, and Volchenkov saves Emery from giving up the rebound and does it for him, right up into the mesh.
10:00 Patches looks incredulous as he heads to the box for hooking Comrie, but in the replay it really couldn’t have been more blatant. Mair gets a little shovey with Comrie and Kelly after the whistle, and they wisely skate away from him. Chillax for now, Adam. You’ll get to punch something later, I promise.
8:59 Marty makes the initial save on a Phillips shot from the point, but leaves the net wide open for Alfredsson to bang in the rebound, which he does. Just as I was getting ready to write, “Boy, this looks like a competition to see who can have the more useless special teams,” too. (Buffalo, you win!)
7:07 We spend forever and a day trying to gain the zone, but end up giving a goal to Heatley instead. Maybe it’s just the blank mask, but Marty looks more chagrined and angry than he should. Don’t worry, Marty, it was an unscreened shot from the point. Ryan wouldn't have stopped it, either.
6:37 Hecht tries to look fancy carrying the puck, and almost falls down. Cute! He manages to get a shot away, though, and Emery appears to actually have some trouble with it. Ray, if you can’t handle a shot that was aimed directly at you, there’s no hope. As we head to commercial, a close-up shows Yo-Yo sporting a neon green mouth guard, and I am awash with love. He bought that to match his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lunchbox, I just know it.
4:20 Staffy guns a shot way wide of the net, but that doesn’t keep Emery from striking his best “I’m making a save! …Right?” pose.
3:17 Roy passes out in front to Vanek, who has a perfect backhand opportunity, but opts instead to retreat behind the net and wait for the earliest occasion to give the puck away. If he thinks he’ll be able to get away with things like that next season, he clearly hasn’t been in Buffalo long enough. Poor guy.
2:17 Mike Ryan gets no less than three second-chances as he tries to bang the puck in short-side, the last of which ends up right on Drury’s stick and then soars into the net. And the whole time, Emery just sits there like some immovable brick wall incapable of covering up. What do you think your glove is for, Ray?
1:57 WHAT?! Did I just hear that correctly? Did Jim just say the Sabres have scored six power play goals in the last two games? Surely not! (That’s the Patches touch for you!) Well, they have a chance to prove they can do it here and now, as Corvo gets called for… I really have no idea, based on the replay. Is falling down a penalty?
0:25 Vanek makes up for that missed backhand incident earlier by fighting hard for the puck along the boards and working it out in front for a scoring chance. It’s pure muscle, but Emery grabs the shot and hangs on. (Oh, he’s finally realized he can do that, huh?)

Second Period
20:00 Before I get any further into this, I have to discuss these unsavory working conditions. The video quality is the typically grainy Google Video Special, which is so pixilated it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the puck and a helmet. But the sound is even more curious. Either every single player has a mic on his skates, or Google hired a team of Foley artists who really, really love the “sharpening knife” sound effect, because everything RJ and Jim say is only barely audible over the sound of the guys skating. Why must my TiFaux hate me?
19:40 Staffy works some magic to lose a defender in the corner and skates in on goal, only to have Ryan lumber right into his path and basically steal the puck away from him. What the hell happened there? I think Mike Ryan is a spy.
18:50 Jim starts talking about something Darcy said in a press conference earlier, and we get a shot of the GM up wherever he spends games, looking studious in front of a TV monitor and wearing some serious-looking glasses. And then something magical happens. He reaches somewhere off screen, produces what is unmistakably an orange dreamsicle, and takes a huge bite out of it. An orange dreamsicle! Excuse me while I laugh for entirely too long over this visual.
18:09 Yo-Yo, obviously not wanting to be outdone by Darcy’s dreamsicle antics, loses his footing when he's all alone and way away from the play, and basically has to piggy-back the ref in order to stay on his skates. I die laughing all over again.
16:50 Pommer appears to score from the point, and there’s great celebration as RJ breaks out the “Population of Pominville” call, and the guy manning the sign in the building bumps it up to the appropriate number. And then the unthinkable happens. Replay shows that it was actually Vanek who deflected the puck into the net, and no one seems upset about it. Guys, Vanek just killed a citizen of Pominville. A baby! Right before your eyes!
16:09 Vanek collects a loose puck at the blue line, splits the D, and scores the easiest-looking goal ever. Way to go, Baby Killer.
14:55 Drury’s just been laid out by Neil, and this game as everyone remembers it is really underway now. Slag-faced whore or no, I still feel sick and angry (and a little bit proud) watching as Drury tries to struggle to his feet while bleeding from the head. But I now love Staffy double for immediately grabbing a hold of Neil and trying his damndest not to get his ass kicked. He seems so passionate, and warrior-like, and (dare I say it?) captainly. Hmmm… somewhat familiar.
--Lindy, with his snarling bulldog face on, “informs” the ref that he believes there was an elbow involved. Next to him, Vanek is either vehemently agreeing, or practicing his Pronger elbow move in preparation for more baby killing later.
--The camera zooms in on Briere for some captainly reassurance, and he looks nothing short of terrified. What, you expected him to be outraged, MSG? He’s just glad it wasn’t him!
14:47 The guard dogs are off their leashes! Kaleta tangles with Heatley before the puck is dropped, and Mair ignores the face-off to go after Spezza. Peters skates around, desperately looking for someone to fight, but is disappointed when Heatley doesn’t respond to having his face grabbed from behind. Meanwhile, Mair has no less than three Sens on him. My favorite part of this sequence is still when Hank and Heatley skate by, looking like they’re embracing while trying to look tough. (I just want to say that, for all the shit Lindy got for this move and how much money it cost him, I still think Murray is a grade-A idiot for sending out a skill line after a hit like that. I mean, even people in Bangladesh were sniffing the air and saying, “Somewhere, Lindy Ruff is really, really pissed off. Somewhere, someone is going to get punched in the face because of it. Somewhere, that someone should not be a skill player.”)
--Marty decides to leave his crease and show Staffy how to get one’s ass kicked good and proper. Bless his heart.
--Peters is still trying to get someone to fight him, and Spezza dives for cover in a referee’s armpit. This game is just a comedy-fest!
--Ray Emery, you are such a sucky goalie. Look, just look at those rebounds your face is giving up to Peters’ fist! (Heh heh heh) (Oh, and NBC, I wasn’t aware that standing idly by while your goalie gets pummeled by a skater was a sign of team solidarity. How enlightening.)
--Lindy and Murray, uh, “have some words” and between them, Rob Ray visibly wants to punch something. The camera guy next to him is really glad to be wearing a helmet.
--The refs convene and decide it would be easier to just expand the penalty boxes to fit every player from both teams than sort out all these infractions.
--I was going to skip over this whole “waiting millennia for penalties to be announced” nonsense, since I’m more than certain that it was cut from the MSG Game to Remember airing, but after seeing the slow-motion replay of Mair fighting I’m so glad I didn’t. It’s quite possibly the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen on ice. With Comrie clinging uselessly to his left arm, Adam manages to hold on to a desperately-retreating Spezza and punch him three times square in the face. It’s only when Volchenkov comes in, tosses Comrie aside, and jumps on Mair’s back that he gets hauled down. Hott. (And it looks like Lydman grabs onto the discarded Comrie near the end of the clip. Dude. I wouldn’t want to mess with Thrash Metal Toni.)
--The list of penalties sounds like the roll call of ships in the Iliad. Only longer.
14:16 Hey, look! There’s still hockey going on! Maybe. After Miller stones Comrie’s point-blank shot, Lydman looks decidedly elsewhere as he “accidentally” dumps the Little Bitch with his stick. I told you, don’t mess with Thrash Metal Toni. (The refs know what I’m saying, and turn a blind eye to the shenanigans.)
12:46 One big save and a couple of key shot-blocks later, the Sens have effectively sucked their way through that 5-on-3. Of course, because the Sabres are such big mean bully punks, they still have two minutes of power play time left.
11:51 The Ottawa power play is only effective at lulling everyone into an unsuspecting coma of boredom, which allows Heatley to score when no one’s looking. Jim says what I’m thinking: still totally worth it.
9:52 Rob Ray tries to tell us that the Sabres are a special team because they fight. Um, I have no idea how to respond to that. (Okay, okay. So his real point is that non-fighter types [he cites Lydman, Yo-Yo, and Soupy] have been fighting recently, but still. He makes it sound like we invented fighting. The clips that are being shown, however, make it look like we invented sucking at fighting.)
5:22 Fisher and Roy get matching minors; Fisher for something involving pushing, and Roy for something involving being a mouthy hot-head. On the bench, Lindy seems unaware of Derek’s penalty, and is looking around, all, “Now, where’d my tiny little ball of fury get to?”
1:37 Just when I think someone (probably me) will die if I write one more word about this period, MacArthur scores his first NHL goal. He’s expectedly adorable, jumping into the boards and all that jazz. What’s unexpectedly adorable is how Vanek seems just as excited, giving the General a huge hug and a noogie through his helmet. And he spares some love for Kaleta, too, who got an assist on the play. Please, please don’t change him, $10 million, because I love this Thomas.

Third Period
19:18 Gerber soaks up a Briere shot, and Jim deems him “shaky.” Jim, if not giving up 40-foot rebounds makes one shaky, what does that make Emery? Tremorous? Chihuahua-esque? The goaltender equivalent of those wind-up chattering teeth?
17:33 Roy’s in the box again! After he paws Heatley to the ice (which Jim generously calls “finishing his check”), Spezza goes after him. Just when I think we may be seeing some of this Ottawa “uniting as a team” business that this game is supposed to be chock full of, Spezza just skates up and assily pokes Derek in the back of the legs. Roy almost kills himself trying to check him, and then Spezza knocks him down with a swipe of his arm. Hey Jason, go pick on someone your own size! Like, say, Adam Mair. (Heh heh heh) (Actually, fact-checking tells me Spezza’s the larger of that pairing, too. Damn, he’s an even bigger pussy than I thought.)
16:38 Kalinin sticks with the rebound Gerber (honest to God, I just typed “Emery” without thinking and had to change it) gives him and slams it home on the second try. His goal celebration looks like that of a paraplegic. Come on, Dmitri, show a little excitement!
13:38 Wow, this Ottawa power play is incredibly good at looking like complete shit and then, at the last second, pulling it together and getting a goal. A Redden shot deflects off of, we’re told, Numminen, and Miller just missed making the save.
11:42 There’s something black on the ice. I’m sure it’s either a helmet or a glove, but for all Google video tells me, it’s three or four pixels. And yes, this game has gotten as boring as you think it has if I’m talking about random things lying around on the ice.
11:35 Maybe I spoke too soon. Soupy looks mildly entertaining as he rockets in out of nowhere to drop a huge hit against the boards, only to completely miss the guy, and end up dumping himself on the ice.
11:00 Mair (Lock up your Spezzas, he’s back!) levels a huge check on Fisher a shade too late, because he’s already scored. I know I should probably be pissed about how easily the Sabres just gave up that two-goal lead, but honestly, with four call-ups and a short bench? I’m just happy we’re still in this game.
8:22 Man, I don’t know if it’s the game, or if I’m just burnt out, but I have nothing to say. Um… the mysterious black object has been cleared from the ice without me finding out what it was. How enthralling!
7:04 Jim informs those just tuning in that back in the second period captain Chris Drury was “cut open,” and he breaks off before he can finish his thought: “He was cut open and inside… inside we found… no, no it’s too foul, I can’t say it. We found... the heart of a… of a Ranger!” (Hey, does anyone know where I can find the fucking phone?)
4:44 The Sens go scoreless on a pretty kick-ass power play. I’m sensing a pattern, here.
3:18 Kelly goes to the box for being near Soupy while he tripped himself doing a spin-o-rama. He seems less upset than I would think, but maybe it’s because he knows we’re just going to use this next two minutes to pussy-foot around.
1:18 The power play says “I’ll see that pussy-footing, and raise you a game of dump and chase! In the wrong direction.”
0:00 Hank hit the goal post in the last minute of play, but the hockey gods have decreed this one is going to overtime.


Has some Sen stolen Toni’s Thrash Metal powers? Because Vanek gets tripped up spectacularly at the blue line, and everyone pretends it didn’t happen.
Briere does a wide circle behind the net before coming out in front and firing the puck in the direction of the net. The Sens defense is still in “protect the goalie at all costs” mode, though, so it doesn’t get through. Shortly after, Danny’s taken down violently in the corner, and again there’s no call. Hey, he’s the only captain we’ve got left (for now), so if he’s not bleeding he better get the hell up.
Right after yet another Sabre (Ryan) goes flying, Briere is called for a teeny tiny hook. I’m not usually one to complain about the referees,--especially not retroactively--but this is kind of bullshit. Danny agrees, and sprays the inside of the penalty box glass with his water bottle. Oh, you rebel!
Miller has to make two big saves on Heatley, but other than that, it’s all face-off wins and clears for Buffalo as we head to the shoot out. Woo…


--Before we get on with the action, MSG shows clips from Buffalo’s last game, a shootout loss against the Bruins. I remember this one--it went to sixteen frames with no one getting a goal until one finally dribbled in past Miller. I showed up to a party late and absolutely steamed because of that shootout. I wasn’t much fun. It was so unjust. I saw every minute of that game, but completely missed this one because of rehearsal. Ugh.
1st Shot: Briere dekes and, with plenty of room to poke the puck in, banks it off the side of the net. Hello, Flyer Special Numero Dos.
2nd Shot: Vermette tries to shoot through a five hole that doesn’t exist. Physics happens. It doesn’t work.
3rd Shot: Gerber gets a piece of Vanek’s shot, and deflects it up into the mesh. Well, that saves the fans from the “Do I throw my hat, or don’t I?” trouble, at least.
4th Shot: Miller is the picture of patience as he blocker-saves McAmmond’s attempt.
5th Shot: Pommer almost false-starts, such is his eagerness. And then he either shoots it wide or hits the goal post. Or Gerber saves it. Google video's pixels aren’t going to tell me.
6th Shot: Comrie fakes about faking, but Miller gets his blocker on it again.
7th Shot: Staffy forehand-backhands his way into Buffalo’s heart as he lofts the puck over Gerber. (“You Forehand-Backhanded Your Way Into My Heart,” the new hit single from Red Seal Peach, coming soon!)
8th Shot: Miller makes a snappy glove save on Fisher, and then does his best impression of a helicopter to celebrate. The victorious Sabres form one big, wriggly mass at center ice, and there are head-butts and noogies for everyone. Aw!

Okay, this was a bitch of a diary to write. There was the pissy TiFaux thing, the Google video thing, the breaking of my laptop's power cord thing, and then the Word erasing everything after the first period and putting it somewhere where I'll never get it back thing. I'm surprised I made it through alive. (And yet, impossibly, I still enjoyed myself. I'm weird like that.) This is also the last game diary posted from the state of New York, because Wednesday I go back to school! Yay, back to school! Hockey's coming!

Next week (which was so long ago that I can't actually remember when it was), the Buffachester Saberks play the Maple Leafs in Toronto and kick they asses. Who knows how many eons it's going to take me to write this one, so in the meantime, amuse yourselves with these other two brilliant takes on the game. Thanks, Kate and Heather!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Reason I Love Hockey #23


I love the fan-participation element signs add to live hockey. Got something to say? Slap it on a piece of poster board and maybe someone will read it. Maybe it will even be on TV!

Signs come in all different types--from the colorful, kid-made "Let's Go Sabres" where the letters are all small and scunched up at the end because they ran out of room, to the professionally screen-printed sign directed at "OveCHICKEN" I saw at that game against the Caps. And they have all kinds of purposes: Some, like the now-defunct "My favorite Briere at the local Drury is Miller," just want to make you laugh. Others, like the ever-present "Dream and Believe," want to inspire you. (And yes, there are definite mis-steps, too. "Marry me Briere" sign-toters, I'm looking at you. Polygamists.) Then there are my favorites: The signs that line the back wall of the upper bowl--the Campbell's soup can, "Awinagainov," "Pominville Population X," "Goose's Roost," "Mair's Office"--which are permanent fixtures at games. There's just something so affectionate about players having a little section of the arena dedicated to them.

Even though most of them never see the light of day, I love trying to come up with good ideas for signs. I made two this season, though, and when Marty Biron revealed in the Buffalo News a while back that he likes to sit on the bench and read the signs people hold up, I was really miffed that my seats are behind the bench where he can't see me. (Although it's probably for the best that Yo-Yo doesn't know about my "Hecht! We're not Jochen!" sign, because he would just think I don't know how to pronounce his name. [Even though I do! Better than anyone, it seems! No,, it is not "yo-KIN HESHT" as you would like everyone to believe.])

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Reason I Love Hockey #22


Okay, honestly, how awesome is Sabretooth? You would think a team named “the Sabres” would have a really lame mascot (and I’ve seen proof that we once had a mascot called “Sammy the Sabre,” who was apparently a cartoon sword somehow on ice skates and holding a hockey stick—LAME), but somewhere along the line some front office genius piped up, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had, like, a tiger? A sabretoothed one?” And hockey was never the same again. I first met Sabretooth when I was five or six. My dad took me to a game, and I can remember nothing except that I spent almost the entire time whining about wanting to see Sabretooth, and then when I finally did get to meet him I flat-out refused to get close enough to take a picture with him. To this day, whenever Sabretooth is involved I’m transformed into that little girl again: equally thrilled by and hyper-aware of his presence, but way too embarrassed/shy/excited to actually interact with him. Instead I watch from a distance as he pals around with little kids, bangs on the glass, leads cheers, and generally just runs the show. He has the kind of untouchable star power the players only wish they had. The Sabres are just hockey players, but Sabretooth? He’s a celebrity, and everyone knows it. I mean, you don’t see Ryan Miller repelling from the ceiling to the tune of Eye of the Tiger before every game, do you? Okay, okay. I know it’s just a guy (or girl) in a furry costume, but the truth is that that furry costume has become an institution, the way only a kick-ass mascot could.

Reason I Love Hockey #21

In honor of my last Reason I Love Hockey, I’m going to do a little mini-series of my favorite things about watching live hockey, including some specific aspects of HSBC. I’m totally unorganized with this whole list (could you tell?) so I have no idea how long this mini-series will be, but I’ll just keep writing about things until I run out. That philosophy hasn’t failed me yet.

HSBC Salted Peanuts

Hey, did you think that was an empty threat all the way back in June?! Honestly, I feel silly admitting this as a reason I love hockey, but not silly enough to not admit it at all. The truth is, half my anticipation when entering HSBC to see a game was caused by the salted peanuts I knew were right inside the door. Once I had that little paper bag in hand, there was no way the night could be a waste. I think peanuts are the perfect food for the hockey spectator. They’re small and portable—not cumbersome like hotdogs or nachos or the like—but they also require a certain amount of involvement. Peanuts break the mindless path from bag to mouth well traveled by handfuls of popcorn, adding the extra steps of unshelling. With my attention decidedly on the game, I find my fingers like having something to do, and once I settle into a kind of peanut-shelling rhythm my viewing experience is complete. Interestingly, hockey and peanuts relate symbiotically in this regard, because I’ve found that without something as enthralling as hockey to distract my brain I’m way too frustrated by peanut shells to bother with them. But at the arena, the shells are definitely the best part. My dad would always buy his own bag of regular, unsalted peanuts, which as far as I’m concerned is blasphemy. I mean, that’s free salt he’s passing up! What’s the point of even having a shell if you’re not going to suck all the salt off it first? (I’m beginning to see why I was never on the Jumbotron during games—my peanut-consumption method isn’t really the sort of thing Miss Manners would condone.) And then, of course, the shells are a marker, a tangible indicator, a tiny mound of accomplishment. Whenever I left my seat after the game, I would look back at the thin layer of broken shells coating the floor (I felt bad about it until my mom told me that local convicts clean the arena after games) and let out a nostalgic sigh. Yes, I was here.

Reason I Love Hockey #20

The Arena Experience

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a huge fan of other sports. Compared to hockey, televised football, baseball, and basketball frankly just bore me. And yet, sit me down in front of a live game and you won’t hear me complain. I’ve been known to get into a Bisons game at Dunn Tire Park, cheer on the UB Bulls basketball team next to my season-ticket-holder parents, and I’m sure I’d even enjoy a Bills game from Ralph Wilson Stadium, although some of my parents’ horror stories suggest otherwise. Even if I don’t particularly enjoy the game itself, I can’t resist the sports atmosphere. So for me, a live hockey game--complete with atmosphere--is nothing short of sublime. There’s the food, the Jumbotron, the organ and about a million other things to love, but my favorite by far is the collective fan experience. Hockey is exciting on TV and even on the radio, but during a good game, the air inside the home building is almost palpably electric. People bond through their mass anticipation: they cheer and groan in unison as opportunities are created and missed; complete strangers strike up conversations about this player or that one, exchange compliments about sweaters and signs. And every once in a while there’s a moment of complete elation that’s entirely unlike any other experience in the world. I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube this long, hockey-less summer, and one of the videos I keep revisiting is this one, but I usually don’t even watch it. I just love listening to the crowd’s prayerful quiet after the face-off, then their desperation as they yell “SHOOT!” at Tim Connolly, their frustration as his shot is turned away, their pure joy as Drury scores. That, more so than the goal itself, sends chills down my spine. It’s like suddenly being thrown into the experience. (Incidentally, the guy who shot this sits about ten rows in front of the seats my dad shares with his office, so the viewing angle is pretty familiar to me.) I wish more things in life—finding the movie I want at Blockbuster, getting off of work an hour early, finally completing a year-long knitting project—could be celebrated the way they are in a hockey arena: throwing hands up in the air, screaming, grabbing complete strangers by the shoulders, shaking them, high-fiving anything that moves, and being joined by almost 19,000 other people, all doing the same thing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

12 to Remember: Buffalo vs. Washington 12/26/06

Hello everyone! I am back from vacation, and I find myself dangerously close to falling two weeks behind in my 12 to Remember series. Better get going on that!

Ut oh, looks like the Professional Sweater Handler has been slacking off. There’s no Caps sweater behind Kevin this week, only the Sabres third jersey where one should be hanging. I can’t say I mind though. Damn, I’m going to miss that throwback.

Now, the Caps don’t really lend themselves to being hated. They’re the kind of innocuously bad team that mostly everyone just feels sorry for. (You know, like the Bills.) But, of course, Buffalo fans had more than a few reasons to look forward to hating them during this game, and Kevin gives us a recap: Three weeks previous, Alex Ovechkin had tried to remove Danny Briere’s head much like one opens a bottle, checking him headfirst into the boards. As a result, he was ejected from the game, but not suspended and fined like $100 or some other laughable amount. To top it all off, even without Ovie, they pounded us 7-4, which was thoroughly embarrassing. So Sabres fans came into this game looking for a late Christmas present of revenge. And we weren’t disappointed.

Kevin also tells us this is the first game in a long time where everyone was healthy. Aw. On the one hand, no Ice Devouring Sex Tornado, but on the other hand, finally Hank!

First Period
20:00 RJ announces that Olie the Goalie won’t be in net tonight for the Caps. Well, not yet, anyway. Tee-hee. Meanwhile, at the other end is “Ryan the Goalie.” Uh, nice try, RJ.
19:59 Briere wins the draw against… Oh my God, that’s right! Zubrus was a Cap! Now I’m even more psyched about this game! Commence Zubie-watch!
19:14 Despite the fact that Ovie handles the puck for all of two seconds before being called offsides, the fans (including me!) don’t waste any time in starting in with the boos. It’s gonna be a long night of that.
18:31 Soupy touches up an icing, and I have to ask, is there any point in a game where his hair is not completely soaked? All I have to say is, considering this his is first shift, that better be water, or else he needs a serious trip to the Center for Excessive Sweating.
18:09 I love Derek Roy. I really do. He picks up a turnover, barrels into the zone, and sets Soupy up for a goal with a perfect drop pass. This kid’s not a playmaker? Soupy, for his part, somehow blasts a perfect shot right into the net, despite the five people standing in front of it. And in the ensuing crowd shot, I see myself! Well, I see the sign my sister and I are holding, at least. If I remember correctly, there’s more where that came from.
17:01 RJ, who is this “Tallinder” of whom you speak? I thought he was dead. Hank welcomes himself back by falling down behind the net. Just don't break anything!
16:27 Oh, this goal is just as ridiculous as I remember it. Drury, at the blue line, tries to get a pass to the crashing Gaustad, but the puck bounces and goes in the net instead. Now, before everyone gets all “Drury doesn’t even have to try to score, that’s how amazing he is,” let’s remember to whom this goal really belongs: Miller, who just got a primary assist.
14:55 Roy takes the first shot of the night that doesn’t go in the net. Come on! We’re gonna pay $4 mil a year for this? Just kidding, Derek. That was a really nice move to get around the D, there.
14:13 The building starts appropriately chanting “Johnson! Johnson!” I think it’s just Emery’s maddening presence that makes us forget how to do it properly. To be fair, who doesn’t want to spend every waking second heckling Ray Emery?
12:45 Listen, Drury, stick to empty netters and crazy bounces, okay? When you go and score goals that you actually earn, I start feeling the need to find the fucking phone. I’ll point out, though, that Kotalik did all the work in the corner and Drury only had to one-time a pass through the slot. I mean, anyone could have scored from there, right?
12:30 Well, I guess so, because Kotalik now scores from pretty much the same exact place. Johnson promptly breaks his stick on the crossbar before taking his .333 save percentage and skedaddling to the bench. The best part of this goal? The much, much closer-range shot MSG shows of my sister and me and our sign (it says, by the way, “Hecht! We’re not Jochen, we love the Sabres”). I mean, I can almost recognize myself!
11:09 Max draws a delayed hooking penalty while charging to the net. Off his rebound, Roy makes a beautiful between-the-legs pass to Vanek, who then drops it to Spacek. Who then, of course, gives it away while attempting to shoot. But the point is, Roy and Vanek can make sweet, sweet hockey music together, and they better have six years or so of it left in them.
10:10 Max scores from just to the left of Olie, and this game officially enters the “Is this really happening?” zone. I mean, not only is it 5-0 already, but the Sabres just spent an entire minute on the power play without going into their own end once. Unreal, I tell you.
9:37 Peters and Brashear interrupt RJ and Jim’s discussion of how hot Jason Pominville is (they say it’s because he has five points in the past two games, but all anyone sees are the curls) because they want to look manly or something. Even RJ sounds bored about the prospect of calling this fight, and I can’t say I’m too keen on recapping it. It’s not a bad fight—Peters wins with a few good right hooks, and toolishly salutes the crowd afterward—but it’s pretty unnecessary. Afterward, Rayzor takes credit for telling Andrew how to fight Brashear, and gives us way too much detail about how he likes to fight in close, and so if you keep him out blah blah blah.
9:03 A Vanek shot deflects into the net off of either Roy or the defender guarding him. Jim declares, “This is unbelievable, everything they’re shooting is going in the net!” Uh, don’t forget that first Drury goal, Jim. Even things they’re not shooting are going in the net. I was really hoping for a shot of the Washington bench right now, because I just know everyone’s looking around going, “Is there someone else can we put in goal? …Not it!”
8:04 Semin tries to shovel a wraparound into the open side of Miller’s net, but Drury is there to block the puck with his skate. Since that’s a better save than either of the two Johnson made, I have to say: Take that Washington! You can’t find one decent goalie? Well, we’ve got two, so ha! (Um, you can totally take Drury if you want.)
7:08 Right as the camera pans away down the ice you can see Briere heading in for the infamous Spearing on Ovechkin. Oh lord. While I was at the game I totally missed it, but once I saw the clip on YouTube the next day I’ll admit I was really disgusted. It’s pretty obvious that Ovie wasn’t hurt, judging by the delay between impact and reaction, but still, what a low thing to do. Especially when you’re up 6-0 already. Danny, why couldn’t you save that kind of behavior for your Flyer days?
5:40 RJ and Jim discuss how Peters earned an assist earlier in the game (yeah, you know who else did, and is more interesting? Ryan Miller!), and how his first NHL goal was against the Caps. RJ declares, “He really makes hay against the Capitals.” He’s using the little-known definition of “makes hay” that means “scores one more point than his goaltender,” I guess. Seriously, I don't know how no one has mentioned that Miller assist, yet. I mean, Ryan actually completed a pass!
2:33 With Semin in the box for upsetting Kotalik (please, oh please tell me he made a comment about that delightfully eurotrashy facial hair), the Sabres perform something that actually looks like a power play. There is a lot of passing and some shots are taken, many of which are actually on net! How exciting! Of course, they don’t score, but they probably are too full of pity to score at this point.
1:50 Yo-Yo knows it just wouldn’t be a game if he didn’t get lots of time with a perfectly wide open shot only to fire it directly at the goalie’s chest protector. He does that because he knows how much it thrills me. Honestly, it does.
1:30 Oh, Ryan. You can almost hear my family’s traditional “You’re killing me, Smalls!” coming from section 106 as Miller goes behind the net to show off his sweet stickhandling skillz and ends up assisting on a Washington goal. I guess he wanted to prove just how sucky he can be with the puck so that people will realize how amazing his assist was. Meanwhile Lydman is sitting practically in his back pocket, waiting for his big clumsy goaltender to get out of his way so he can do his job. To be fair, Miller almost got back to make the save, and he was probably just confused and thought the clock said 1:30 remaining in the third, which is his usual deadline for coughing up shutouts. Can you really blame him for thinking this game was over already?

Second Period
18:45 Ovechkin gets a delayed penalty for goalie interference, as he checks Miller right inside his own crease for no particular reason. Somebody’s Oviebits are still a little sore, aren’t they? Miller, for his part, decides to show off some of his sweet skating skillz, too, and almost falls over while skating backwards to the bench. I’m shocked he didn’t somehow manage to assist an empty netter in the process.
16:45 For all you Buffalo fans who screamed “THE POWER PLAY! WHERE’S THE FUCKING POWER PLAY?!” all throughout the playoffs, I have your answer: the Sabres crammed all of their good power plays into one game against the Capitals in December. Because everyone knows that's when they really count. Really, they look good, moving and shooting more than once, and getting at least two huge chances. But they don’t score because Washington apparently spent the intermission finding a goaltender who actually remembers what he’s doing, and dressing him in a Kolzig sweater.
16:36 Ovie streaks out of the box and in on a breakaway while Soupy tries frantically to track him down, skating to his usual rhythm of “Fuck, fuck, oh fuck, I’m a defenseman, fuck.” Miller saves him, though, and comes up with one of his patented so-huge-it-looks-simple stops.
15:57 A collision between Tallinder and Zubrus at center ice is too hot to show on screen, but RJ comments that Zubrus is “really feeling his oats, here.” Um. I have nothing to say to that except, is Zubie feeling Hank's oats? No wonder the camera panned away so quickly!
14:08 Max does a nifty move to poke a long Spacek pass just in behind three Washington defenders, and even though he overskates himself out of room and doesn’t get a shot away, it’s still pretty sweet. I guess that’s Max in a nutshell: initial excitement usually comes to naught, but it’s still fun to watch.
13:37 Is Rob Ray really going to show us footage of Peters’ first NHL goal? Well, I suppose if he must… It’s even more underwhelming and forgettable than I imagined it would be. The only thing RJ has to offer on the matter is a lame roll/role pun, and I think it’s pretty safe to assume that unless he’s shrinking Marty Biron’s sweater, or trying to brush Derek Roy’s teeth, no one really gives a shit what Peters does.
12:19 On the penalty kill (somehow Hecht snuck into the box without me noticing), Miller swats away a Zubrus shot with the side of his glove, and any dreams I had of a celebratory Zubie close-up fly into the corner with it.
9:30 Remember how I said the Sabres wasted all their good power plays in this game? Well, apparently they wasted some of their bad ones, too, as they prove there are things in the world of hockey even more underwhelming and forgettable than Peters’ first NHL goal. Still, 1 for 4 with 12 shots is a pretty good day for them, all told.
5:41 For time constraints we’ve jumped ahead in the second, just in time to hear Rob Ray harping on about Andrew Peters again, and how he had to lose weight over the summer in order to crack the line-up and how he performs his thankless job day in and day out and zzzzzzzzzz. Um, and I think you might be confusing “thankless” with “pointless” there, Rayzor.
5:24 Zooming over the Buffalo blue line, Ovie beats Hank and roofs a neat shot from the circle over Miller’s glove. I have to admit I love how he punkily cups his hand to his ear to welcome the boos that naturally follow. Other than a brief glimpse of the number nine during the celebration, there’s not much else of note about this goal.
4:26 Green makes the mistake of thinking he can knock Goose down in front of the net, and gets flattened for his trouble. Goose, I love you. After some mutual mouthing off takes place, Washington sends out Brashear to challenge, and he’s quickly shadowed by Peters. Oh please, no. I’ve had about all I can take of him for tonight.
0:08 What’s this? RJ and Jim discuss Washington’s best line, and we get lingering shots of both Ovie and Semin, but Zubrus is like the invisible man, and he gets himself tossed from the face-off circle just to force them to mention him. I’m so glad there’s no danger of him having to live in the shadow of young superstars as a Devil (uh, sorry Mr and Mrs Parise, Boxworthy, et al.), because he deserves better than this.

Third Period
20:00 The Caps start off the period on the power play, and Toni Lydman is the Dainius Zubrus of this Sabres penalty kill, as Hecht, Tallinder, and Drury all get loving close-ups while he remains an unexplored mystery.
19:11 The fans are in top form as they seamlessly convert their cheers for a good clear of the zone into boos when Ovechkin collects the puck in his own end. It’s beautifully musical.
17:03 Max skates energetically into the zone, but Roy and Vanek are too tied up in front to make anything of his centering pass. Instead, Vanek allows himself to be hooked. Is it a sign of how awful the Sabres power play really is that I want to call that a lazily drawn penalty? C’mon, Thomas! You can’t be putting your team up a man at a time like this! Meanwhile, the guy who chose the “Here Comes the Power Play!” music here is either way too excited for the man advantage, or spends way too much time in gay bars. (Actually, my coincidental use of the phrase “man advantage” there makes me want to declare those two things more significantly related than I anticipated.)
16:41 Clark scores shorthanded a mere 21 seconds in, and proves that Vanek really was lazy to draw that penalty. This goal also proves that if you’re looking for a good man advantage, you’re better off with the gay bar than the Sabres. (Have I just found next season’s slogan?)
14:41 Hecht gets hooked—lazy!—and the usual, operatic power play music has returned to us. I really love this selection, because I find that the frenzied drums mixed with the unintelligible vocals perfectly convey the message: “Oh no! In the name of all that is holy, look away and hide your children! They power play is coming! Destruction! Doom! Death!”
12:41 Okay, so that wasn’t exactly as advertised. Destruction! Doom! Death! weren’t on the menu, so it was more Missed Passes! Turnovers! Shoot the Puck Already! Which is almost as bad. Actually, Buffalo did manage to get a couple of good chances there, they just looked like they were playing at even strength for the full two minutes. That’s a sight better than they sometimes look, though, so I’m not going to complain too much.
12:09 Roy collides with someone at center ice, and miraculously doesn’t hit the ice. And I actually don’t mean that as an insult, this time. This Cap is obviously substantially bigger than little Roysie, but he just takes the open ice hit, and stays on his feet. I’m so proud! Of course, he makes up for it seconds later by going flying in front of the net, spinning through the air and taking Hank out in the process. I see that it was Zubie who hit him there, though, so I’ll give him a pass on that one. No one likes to have their oats felt.
7:23 Cuts by MSG and lackluster play by both teams allow my attention to wander until Briere makes a snappy pass to Pommer in front of the net. But Jason’s signature drool-in-the-crease distraction move isn’t enough to fool whoever’s wearing that Kolzig sweater, and he doesn't score. Pommer looks open-mouthed and shocked: No one can resist the slobber! (And by the way, where the hell have you been all game, huh?)
5:08 Mair does a fancy move to lose someone in the neutral zone, and I love the surprised but genuine cheering coming from the crowd. I think I love this guy more and more with every game I watch/re-watch. Please be a Sabre forever and ever, Adam.
3:57 Drury and Hecht get a shorthanded two-on-one (Lydman uneventfully interfered with someone earlier), but nothing comes of it, because Drury winds up and shoots it right at the Capitals logo on Olie’s sweater. I’m going to chalk that up to the proximity of Jochen “You're supposed to aim where?” Hecht, so thanks Yo-Yo for saving me from having to remember another slag-faced whoretrick.
2:23 This Carrubba Collision confuses me. In RJ’s words: “Donald Brashear, 44 more pounds than Brian Campbell, and they both go down!” Now, are we supposed to congratulate Soupy because Brashear is too brain dead to stay on his feet? Besides, this check isn’t even really a check, because Soupy half-dodged it and Brashear half-ran into the boards, and they just kind of got tangled up and fell. I’m not sure the term “Collision” should even factor in at this point.
1:24 Oh my God, this is getting effing ridiculous! The Toyota Big Save of the Game is apparently a tie between the Ovechkin breakaway stop and the edge-of-the-glove-save on Zubrus, and we get close-ups of Ovie and Miller, but not a single glance of Zubie! Are you kidding me?! We had to look at Donald effing Brashear after that Carrubba “Collision,” and for all we know, Zubrus may not have a face?! I give up. The world is clearly against my Zubie-watch here. (Also, do you suppose Hallmark sells “Thanks for being a giant curmudgeon” cards? Because if so, Ovie needs to send one to Marty Brodeur right away. I’d forgotten how stupid that tinted visor looks.)

Okay, so it got a little boring after the first, but I still love what a crazy opener this game was. Pretty much the equivalent of a knock-out punch in the first round. I remember there was a while there where I didn’t think the goals would ever stop, and then when they inevitably did, there was still the Ovie-booing to keep me occupied. Fun, fun, fun.

Next week (which, um, happened a week ago), the game this whole “Sabres to Remember” business was probably built around. Sabres, Senators, February 22nd. This is best remembered as the game Versus and NBC told you was a coming-together, bonding experience for the Sens about a million times during the SCF. Well, I hate to break it to you, but they were completely bullshitting you. Stay tuned for the real story. Hilariously, in the graphic for this game MSG managed to photoshop together a picture of Mair looking directly at Emery’s maskless face and making a classic “I’m going to throw up now, and it will probably be in your eyes” face. I cannot wait for this.

Sadly, there’s a snag: My Tifaux once again decided my vacation was its vacation and took last week off. There’s no way I’m going to miss recapping this game, though, and it’s available on Google videos, so I hope no one minds getting a recap of the full game without any of MSG’s meddling. Of course, that means no Kevin Sylvester and his magical background of sweaters, but thankfully, he gives me something to tide me over by recapping the game in his own words right now: “This game had everything. Hits, fights, goals, and a shootout!” To which I say Hey! Yes! Woo-hoo! And Ugh, again? But, oh well. Bring it on!

Saturday, August 11, 2007


It's vacation time over here again, so I'm probably going to be away from the internets all week while I partake of fun summer activities such as swimming, boating, and getting really, really sunburned. It's somewhat of a tradition in my family. Unlike last time, I'm bringing my laptop along for the ride, so hopefully I'll have worked on enough things over the course of the week that I'll be able to make several quick updates once I get back to make up for the long radio silence. The next game diary will be one of those updates, I promise.

So, in honor of my family renting a cottage in the Thousand Islands, I'll leave you with this non-hockey-related story of my friends and me at a restaurant in the Twin Cities:

Friend A: "Thousand Islands dressing" is such a bad name. They should call it "American dressing."
Me: Well, the Thousand Islands are in America--most of them, anyway--so I guess it's the same thing.
Friend B: They are? The Thousand Islands actually exist?
Friend C: Yeah, they're like, up in Alaska, aren't they?
Friend B: Oh, yeah! All those little tiny islands, that's right.
Me: Uh, no. They're in upstate New York, in the St Lawrence river.
Friend B: No way! There's no way a thousand islands would fit in a river!
Me: Well, actually there are way more than a thousand of them, and yeah they do all fit in a river.
Friends A, B, and C: We don't believe you!

Proof, here I come. Hope everyone has a lovely week!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Reason I Love Hockey #19

Family Bonding

You wouldn't know it to look at me, but I come from huge jock stock. In high school, my mom played softball and field hockey, and was head basketball cheerleader. My dad, captain and self-proclaimed best player of the football team, also played lacrosse and wrestled. My mom went on to major in physical education in college, and now teaches gym and coaches basketball at my old grade school. My dad is a physician and runs his own practice, which partially specializes in treating sports injuries. (A number of Sabres and Bills have been treated there, including Paul Gaustad after his ligament injury.) To this day, they are both incredibly active, and plan entire vacations around skiing, canoing, and hiking. Now, you would think they'd have produced at least one super-star athlete, right? No such luck. We three kids--we're not exactly immovable blobs, but we're not particularly athletic either. My sister used to collect PE credits for dance and bowling (at least until she was cut from the team), and as for me.... Well, let's just say that the celebration of Andrew Peters' goal against the Flyers last season brought back memories of my first and only goal as a member of my high school's soccer squad. My brother gets a little bit closer: Possessor of a naturally athletic build he did next to nothing to cultivate, he will captain both his football and lacrosse teams next year, though I'm pretty sure that selection was based more on character than talent. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, I prefer it that way.) The point is, after they moved from northern New York state to Buffalo in 1979, my sporty parents became fast fans of the Bills and Sabres, but their kids were somewhat less than interested. Sure, sports talk was almost impossible to avoid in my house, so I inevitably picked up a few things (Lesson #1: I must unconditionally hate anyone who wears, displays, or otherwise flaunts the Miami Dolphins logo--no questions asked--or else I am not their daughter), but it wasn't a type of relationship I actively pursued with my parents and siblings.

But then hockey happened. Of course, hockey had always been happening, but in 2006 it happened in a Big Way. The Sabres were suddenly everywhere, including my backyard, family room, dinner table, and general consciousness. And no one was immune. Even my sister, who had chosen this unfortunate time to plan a road trip to LA with her best friend, did so with a Sabres flag flying from the window, and glass paint loudly expressing her love for one crooked-faced number thirty. Before she left she demanded I keep her posted on the scores and news via text message as she drove through a (literal) hockey desert. (This may seem like no big deal, but anyone who knows my sister knows it's a very. Big. Deal.) Suddenly on game days I was gluing myself to the couch between my parents, instead of wandering upstairs to listen distantly to their hooting and hollering for a few hours. And my brother was right there with me, trying to play it cool, but never passing up an opportunity to jump up and scream like a kid whenever a goal was scored. Yes, we were bandwagon jumpers of the tallest order, but we were also the best bandwagon jumpers we could possibly be. Whatever it looked like from the outside, we all genuinely loved the game. But even more, I loved loving it with my family by my side. I finally knew what all the fuss was about.

As the magic of that season faded, and the residual anger at the Hurricanes started to wear off (you know, to less than I-am-blind-to-all-else levels), I half expected us to retreat into our apathetic shells. But it didn't happen. Maybe I can chalk it up to the Sabres' bang up season, but the passion is still there, on all sides. Even through heartbreak. My sister and I consoled each other after the most recent post-season let down, and subsequent departure of, you know, those guys, saying it just wasn't meant to be, and we'd be strong and make it though. We said it until, eventually, we believed it. My brother and I, on the other hand, worked through our pain by having several empassioned arguments about whether or not Darcy Regier is an idiot. Meanwhile, my parents looked on, amused, saying things like, "You think this is bad? Imagine what the 90s were like." Yup, we're all one big, happy, sports-fan family, now. Ready to suffer and celebrate together. I love it.

Monday, August 6, 2007

12 to Remember: Buffalo vs. Toronto 11/22/06

Kevin, you’ve got to be kidding me. We’re more than halfway through the 12 to Remembers, and we’re still only in November? We aren’t even in 2007 yet? Did no one think to explain to the Sabres that the playoffs start in April, so maybe they should save some of their fabulous games for then? I kid. Sort of. Actually, this is fantastic! It means there’s less of a chance I’ll have to relive those unspectacular post-season wins MSG threatened to air. Please, please, please give us more regular season.

Anyway, I was about to say I don’t remember this game at all, but then I realized that I do! This, my friends, is the first game of the season I actually got to see on TV! Yay! It re-aired on MSG on Thanksgiving Day, and since I had flown into Buffalo late the night before, I glued myself to the TV and watched the repeat. My family was all, “Uh, isn’t Thanksgiving a football holiday?” but I countered them very rationally by screaming “I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO WATCH HOCKEY ALL SEASON! LAY OFF ME!” (“TELL ME WHEN! TELL ME WHEN I CAN’T WATCH HOCKEY!”) Anywho, I remember enjoying this game immensely the first time around, although that could have just been the hockey withdrawal speaking. At the very least, I know this game doesn’t end in a shootout, so it could be worse.

First Period
20:00 Drew Stafford! Oh, I love this game already! This must have been the start of the period where Sabres were dropping like flies. Unfortunately, one of those flies isn’t named Drury, as Staffy’s been forced to play on his wing.
19:28 Staffy looks like he’s going to get the first chance of the night, when he’s fed the puck in front of the net, but he decides not to be a showboat and allows a Leaf defenseman to strip him of the puck. Always so humble and courteous, that Staffy.
18:55 Pommer heads to box after trying to chop off some guy’s ankles. And… what’s this? Paille is playing on Briere’s other wing? Yo-Yo is injured? Say it isn’t so!
17:52 Spacek hooks Kaberle at the blue line and goes to babysit Pommer. Good, maybe Jaro can get him to stop chewing the penalty box furniture. It’s not very sanitary. Or manly.
17:41 Well that didn’t take long at all. Tucker, parked all alone to the side of the net, rifles a shot over Miller’s left pad. Honestly, how can we have so much practice at killing penalties and still manage to suck at it? Pommer skates out of the box with his head down and his tail between his legs. I think Uncle Jaro is a firm believer in rolled up newspaper.
16:33 Miller does some uncharacteristic scrambling in the crease, and comes up with a couple of nice saves. Goose says, “Come on, Ryan. We all know the best professional goaltender you can be can do better than that!” Well, he doesn’t so much say it as scream it with his actions as he takes a hooking call and puts the Sabres down two men, again.
16:16 Wellwood slams home a deflection off the back boards. It’s now 2-0 and the Leafs are still on the power play. That's okay, let them get as many goals as they want, it’ll only make their fall that much sweeter. I can only hope, though, that Miller will never see this goal again. Crazy bounces off the back boards that end up going into the net can only bring up painful memories.
15:34 Drury makes a nice steal, but then tries to muscle his way through basically the entire Toronto line-up, just to get the puck checked away. Apparently the Leafs were not intimidated by his shouts of “Out of my way! Don’t you know who I am? Do I need to show you my Little League World Series ring?!”
15:26 Whoa. RJ just announced that Hecht, Roy, Lydman, and Hank are all injured, so it’s no wonder the penalty kill sucks so hard. Aw man, and I was so looking forward to picking on Roy by referring constantly to his new contract! Well, if he thinks he’ll be allowed to be injured once he’s earning a $4 million cap hit, he’s got another think coming. (Yeah, it’s not like you saw Tim Connolly miss any games after he signed his big deal!)
14:30 Briere collapses onto the face-off dot. I… have no idea what happened there. It looks like he thinks he can win the draw with his ass. Well, with Roy out I guess someone has to pick up the hilarious falling slack.
12:43 The Sabres finally get their first power play, as Suglobov takes Novotny down. Meanwhile, tensions have been running high. Briere grabbed Steen by the face earlier, and Mair now starts to mix it up with Gill in the corner. RJ surmises that the Sabres are surly because so far they’ve taken all the penalties and haven’t scored any of the goals. Yawn. Wake me up when the hockey starts. (I’m confident it won’t be for at least another two minutes.)
10:43 I wasn’t wrong. Apart from some pointless passing along the outside, and one or two soft or misaimed shots, the Sabres manage to effectively clear the puck into their own zone, all by themselves on more than one occasion. What, they can kill Toronto’s penalties, but not their own? On the “upside,” they managed to draw another penalty!
9:33 What do you know, it was an upside! Kotalik rips a shot from the point, which deflects off the post right to Max, who buries it. And we managed to draw another penalty in the process! My God, has there been any even strength hockey in this game?
8:47 Kotalik decides that he’s not quite ready to get another point in this game, and doesn’t shoot from his wide-open vantage point. Instead he tries pass the puck, apparently, to a Leaf’s helmet. Kotalik: “Man, that helmet was wide open! It had a great shooting angle, too!”
7:23 Right after penalty time runs out, Vanek makes a behind the net feed to Novotny in front, and RJ gets way more excited by the ensuing goal than I think is necessary. Of course, he doesn’t know the outcome of the game like I do. And also, it’s RJ. Unwarranted excitement is his specialty, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
5:03 Finally, we get something resembling hockey from the Sabres, as Briere’s line buzzes the Toronto zone, getting a couple of good chances. Lines, by the way, seem like a fluid construct in this game, as now Danny’s skating with Paille and Stafford. Between this and the Vanek-Gaustad-Novotny combo we saw earlier, it appears Lindy’s just shouting out the first names that pop into his head and sending them over the boards.
4:37 Patches is called for “illegally compensating for not playing defense well enough.” Or something. Zooming through the commercials, I catch a glimpse of a familiar face. A familiar, slagged face. Chris Drury, whoring it up in his new Rangers digs, is apparently now part of some sort of promotion for MSG. ARRRRRGH! Only the fact that people are trying to sleep upstairs is preventing me from re-enacting the “Where’s the fucking phone?!” scene from Wet Hot American Summer right now. Just when I think I’m finally okay with letting Drury go, I see him in a Rangers sweater, and lamps exist solely to be thrown. But I’m slightly comforted by the fact that he and fellow soul-seller Scott Gomez look positively dwarfish(er) standing next to some dude named Randolph holding up some sort of basketball jersey. (My knowledge of sports that aren’t hockey is so impressive, isn’t it?)
2:37 Hey! That was a pretty decent penalty-kill, Sabres! Particularly decent was one Rochester call-up, Mike Ryan. (Wait. Mike Ryan? This isn’t that game, is it? Oh, sweet deliciousness!)
0:02 After yet another Buffalo penalty (Mairsy dotes in the box), Ryan continues with the awesome steals and the shorthanded pressure and what-not, and sets Novotny up beautifully at the top of the circle. His shot beats Raycroft, only to get knocked away at the very last second. Typical Sabres. We kill our own power plays, but we get great scoring chances on Toronto’s.

Second Period
--Out of commercials, the disembodied voice of Kevin Sylvester informs us that there we will be jumping to later in the second-period action, “due to time constraints.”
19:38 What? Time constraints required MSG to cut all of 22 seconds? What kind of time constraints are these, exactly? Unless you’re swimming the 100-meter breaststroke, 22 seconds is never a necessary time to save.
18:03 No way! There was a point during the season when the Sabres scored not one, but two power play goals in one game?!? (Don’t ask me how we got on the power play, as apparently that time was deemed better spent on an extra-long eHarmony commercial. Or, as it is sometimes more affectionately known, “time constraints.”) Boy, but this goal is a beauty. Vanek executes a fantastic “no look-em behind the back-em” (thanks, RJ) right outside the crease, and Briere one-times the puck past a totally lost Raycroft. By the way, it looks like Briere is now the new Roy, playing between Max and Vanek. Hey Derek, think you can be the new Danny next season?
16:55 Soupy, after whiffing spectacularly on a puck outside the crease, somehow gets another chance at it, and scores five-hole. Whoa. For a second there the Leafs looked just like the Flyers. Aw, and RJ and Jim sweeten the deal by announcing that this goal marks Soupy’s 100th NHL point! On the bench, he is 100% smile, and I feel all warm and melty inside.
16:47 Someone gets called for diving and it’s not Roy! Or Briere! It’s a Leaf! This game is just full of surprises!
14:40 After some pretty wide-open 4-on-4 (because, yeah, coincidental minors are such a deterrent for diving), the Sabres allow the Leafs to get over-comfortable in their zone and Miller has to look sharp. He reads the long, pinpoint passes perfectly, and has no visible trouble covering up. As impressive as big saves are, I gotta say I love when Ryan manages to be awesome without really looking it.
13:52 Kilger heads to the box for “upsetting” Stafford. Are unibrow jokes illegal now?
13:27 At the blue line, Briere performs the absolute worst turnover I’ve seen since, well… May. Miller stays calm and stonewalls the breakaway, but not before Danny can get some completely unnecessary hooking action in.
12:22 Kubina, jealous of Soupy’s spinorama, trips him right in front of the net. It’s a penalty party, this game! Must be the Paradise Penalty Box daisies are in full bloom, or something. They’re, uh, November daisies.
10:26 Drury gets a nice shot from point-blank range, but Jim points out that if he were a left-handed shooter he would have been able to one-time the pass and get a better chance. Don’t bullshit me, Lorentz. Everyone knows Drury can do anything. He’s not going to let a silly little thing like shooting right get in the way of his superpowers!
6:26 Wow. Miller makes a spectacular save after being swept out of position by the player Paetsch just shoved to the ice. There are few things in this world I find more satisfying than a good glove save, and this one fairly screams, “Oh, no you don’t! Gotcha!” as Miller reaches back to snatch the puck from the goal mouth. Impossibly, Patches doesn’t go to the box.
5:47 Uh, oh. I think Kubina’s been making unibrow comments! Staffy straightens up like a brick wall and levels him down to the ice, nearly knocking off his helmet in the process. Even from a distance, that check makes his eyebrow look devastatingly sexy.
5:03 Mike Ryan (yes, it IS that game!) scores on his own net. He’s just trying to gather up a rebound and steer it to safety, but mishandles it, and it ends up going into the net. It’s a terribly unfortunate play, and Ryan’s reaction is nearly heartbreaking, but let me tell you why I can’t help but love this goal. Next to Ryan Miller, Mike Ryan is my sister’s favorite Sabre, and--aside from pointing out that they not only share the name “Ryan,” but were also, apparently, clobbered by the same Ugly Stick at birth--bringing up this goal is the surest-fire way to get her blood boiling. Whenever she so much as mentions Mike Ryan I look thoughtful and say, “Oh, isn’t he the guy who scored on his own wide-open net? And who was that who just sat by and let it all happen? Was that your other hockey boyfriend?” And then I just sit back and watch her invent new and exciting colors on her face. I just like to give her a hard time, though. Realistically, this goal is so not a big deal. Since we end up winning this game (spoiler!), it means next to nothing. I mean, it’s not like it was the game-winning goal in a Stanley Cup Final game, or anything! I mean, how embarrassing would that be, right?!
2:18 The Sabres are shorthanded once again, but they’re not letting it get them down. For instance, Soupy knows just because we’re down a man doesn't mean he can’t take unscreened shots right at the goalie’s chest protector. Just like he always does.
0:52 Max absolutely nails Wellwood in the corner. I could see this hit coming all the way, but I was still kind of incredulous about it. “Really? Max is going to get a big hit? If you say so…” Wellwood appears to have been thinking the same thing, and falls down out of shock.
0:00 Staffy gets hassled in the corner once again, and Goose steps in on his behalf, exchanging words and fight invitations at the horn. Pretty Boy Paulie, with his perfectly separate eyebrows, fears no insult.

Third Period
19:27 The refs call their one-millionth penalty. Darcy Tucker celebrates by throwing a temper tantrum on his way to the box.
17:27 Sabres special teams stage an interpretive dance of Waiting For Godot, spending the entire two minutes preparing for a power play that never shows up. I think they might be able to fix all their problems if they stopped letting Samuel Beckett sponsor them.
16:35 Peca Captain Crunches Stafford into the boards, and Staffy’s slow to get up, cradling his face. Unsurprisingly, Peca heads to the box for “eyebrow endangerment,” or “boarding,” or something. Incidentally, I’ve only just realized that Peca is playing in this game. What a difference-maker! A slowed-down replay of the scrum after the hit shows Drury getting his face absolutely manhandled by some disembodied Leaf glove, and my heart skips a beat, it’s so beautiful.
14:35 That power play involved, among less exciting things, Kotalik icing the puck, and Numminen giving up a short-handed two-on-one. Can we stop drawing penalties sometime soon, please?
13:13 In perhaps his first real contribution to the game since taking that tripping penalty way back in the second minute of the game, Pominville fans on the puck.
12:39 This is the part where Miller falls down inexplicably, Tucker scores his second of the night, and my eyes vomit vitreous humor all over the inside of my eyelids. It’s now tied at four. This is the also part where everyone hates Mike Ryan.
9:37 The Sabres gain possession in their own zone, but it takes about an hour for them to get it to center ice. Must be Toronto took one of their skaters off the ice to trick Buffalo into thinking they’re on the power play. Bold strategy, I think it might just work.
7:27 As we head to commercial, I finally see why Pommer has been such a non-factor in this game. He’s recently shorn! He’s lost his curl confidence! And, okay, this period has been largely uneventful. I keep waiting for the Sabres to kick it into the next gear, but they don’t even look like they have one at this point. (This feels familiar.) Still, I have a vague remembrance of the final score of this game, so that next gear has got to come along eventually, right? Right?
6:58 Vanek decides to actually earn a little bit of his inflated plus-minus, and strips Peca of the puck right in the goal crease. It’s a good thing he’s not mic’d up, because I’m almost positive he’s saying, “There, I did some effing backchecking. Can I go score now?” But no, he can’t.
5:18 But Briere can! I mean, if you’re into that sort of thing. The replay of this goal shows Raycroft was tripped up by his own defenseman, McCabe, and so Danny had effectively a wide-open net to score on. Dude. That’s almost as embarrassing as scoring on your own goal. And he doesn’t even have the excuse of being a rookie.
3:53 Toronto gets a quick shot right off the face-off, but Miller flicks out his right pad in time to save it. It’s a good thing he’s not “protecting” a shutout right now, or that definitely would have gone in.
2:31 Miller covers up on a dangerous, bouncing rebound. Paille is right there, but apparently Miller’s learned his lesson about letting under-experienced forwards handle his rebounds. At least for tonight. Paille seems to recognize this and taps him gratefully on the head as he skates by.
2:25 Miller makes another grand, sprawling save, but Spacek wants to give us one more penalty kill for the road, and hooks somebody. Come on, RJ, how many hooking penalties do we need before you break out the “This game has more hookers than a street corner in Las Vegas!” call? I just know it’s in there, trying to bust out.
1:36 Miller puts on a clinic on how to single-handedly save your team from their own festering penalty kill. Get used to it, Ryan.
1:08 Pommer emerges from oblivion to score an empty-netter, and he’s so elated he’s grown his hair back! Seriously, I don’t know if I was hallucinating earlier, or what, but I could have sworn his head was all shaved. I could go back and check, but instead I’m going to just blame it on MSG for splicing in footage from later in the season.
0:45 Raycroft came back on the ice for all of three seconds before leaving again, which allows Drury to score from three-quarters of the way down the ice. My lamps feel unsafe.
0:00 Okay, so apparently Miller has a second gear (hell, he seems to have gears ad infinitum), but the rest of the Sabres only have empty-netters up their sleeves. Still, I did enjoy this game, and it was definitely worth remembering. If only for the fact that, if the Leafs had just managed to win this game (which was much, much closer than the 7-4 final indicates), they would have been in the playoffs. Suckers! (Also, what’s this? The post-game thanking of Miller [you better well thank him, chumps] shows Funk was playing in this game, and I didn’t even notice. How could I not notice a guy named Funk?!)

Next week (which is to say, uh, tonight), the game I’ve been waiting for since this whole 12 to Remember business started. December 26th versus the Capitals. Folks, I was at this game, and it was glorious! I can’t wait to relive it, although it’ll probably be weird as hell recapping a game I was present for. But I got on TV! Sort of.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Reason I Love Hockey #18

Hockey Land

My mom is a pretty nosy person. I say this with love, but she's happiest when she's in everybody's business. She turned 50 two days ago, but we had to plan her surprise party for next week (I hope she's not so nosy that she finds this blog before then), because otherwise she would have known it was coming months ago. My dad, on the other hand, is an entirely different breed. When we planned his surprise 50th last year, on the actual day, he didn't have a clue, even though there was immeasurable evidence: we snuck around, whispered behind his back, made excuses to get him out of the house so we could plan decorations and gifts. We even had random relatives showing up at our house unannounced right before we were set to "go out to dinner." But nothing was so hilariously obvious as the time when my brother accidentally blurted out "When are [Aunt and Uncle who never visit except on special occasions] coming this weekend?" no more than four feet away from my father. And yet he didn't even notice. Why? Because there was a Sabres game on. I'll never forget how everyone in the room--including my brother, who quickly realized his mistake--tensed up and turned in slow motion to face my dad, anticipating disaster, only to have him respond with: "Come on! Who was that pass to?" Eyes glued to the screen, he didn't even know anyone was speaking. Even though he's probably the smartest person I know, my dad's notorious for obsessively focusing on one thing at a time, to the almost complete exclusion of all else. But when that one thing is hockey? Forget about it. He's dead to the world until commercial break. And it's a good thing, too, otherwise we would have had a lot of explaining to do last January. Instead we all got to chuckle and say, "Oh, it's okay. Dad's in Hockey Land again."

Reason I Love Hockey #17

The Lingo

Two weekends ago, as I was relaxing in the middle of a canoe, gliding across the glass-like waters of Tom Thompson lake, something struck me. In a physical sense, that something was my dad's canoe paddle, which he had whacked lazily (albeit unintentionally) on my head. But in a metaphysical sense--after my dad had reacted with, "Oh no! I'm so sorry, is it a double minor?"--that something was that I really, really love hockey lingo. I love it enough that it causes me to giggle even when I've recently been smacked in the head with a wooden blade.

As a hockey fan, I have a plethora of specialized terminology at my disposal. Even the most pedestrian of sports terms (jersey, team...) have unique and exciting hockey equivalents (sweater, club...). Maybe it's the Theater Major in me, but I never thought twice about the use of "dressing room," until my boyfriend overheard one of the Sabres intermission reports and exclaimed, "What is this, a play? Don't they mean locker room?" I found myself strangely proud to declare that, no, they don't. There's something very satisfying about hockey having its own vocabulary. Even better is how so much of that vocabulary can fit deliciously into everyday conversation. I've found it can brighten any situation. Like when my dad wants to know if I'm bleeding. Or when I'm watching baseball with my mom (read: she's watching, and I just happen to be in the room) and someone hits a homer: "Uh, oh. Over the glass. Delay of game." Or when I stub my toe: "Oh no! A lower-body injury!" The possibilities are endless! I have visions of me in the future, sending my squabbling kids to their rooms by yelling, "That's it! Five for fighting! Get in the box!" (That's a good enough reason to want to have kids, right?)

This year my brother took biology from a teacher notorious for giving hockey players special treatment in his classes. He and one of his friends decided that since they don't play hockey, the best way for them to get free extra points would be to answer questions like, "On which side of the abdomen is the pancreas located?" with things like, "Gloveside!" Or explain that, "The gonads are located right above the five-hole, near the groin." Or raise their hands to say, "Mr. M, you might want to forecheck that answer. I think you mean mitosis, not meiosis." After which they would high-five each other and exclaim "Yeah! Ten points for us!" If I were their teacher, they would totally get the ten points. Hockey lingo is just that cool.