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!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fantasy Hockey

Kevin over at BfloBlog said today that there is nothing in the universe more boring than reading about a blogger's fantasy team. Well, I'm not the type of blogger who'll let a statement like that pass by untested. By which I mean, I'm a boring blogger. So, get ready to hear about my fantasy teams!

Recently, the experiment in fantasy hockey known as the IPB Superleague got underway with its draft. The point of this league (and it's less-fabulous sister league, the Amazingleague), besides the obvious smack talking possibilities, is to familiarize fans of one conference with players from the other. I'm certainly no expert even on the Eastern Conference, so I could really use this education, especially living in a WC city. Here's my team, It Just... Team:

Joe Thornton (C)
Jonathan Toews
Andrew Brunette
Ryan Smyth
Milan Michalek
Brian Rolston (A)
Dion Phaneuf (A)
Kevin Bieksa
Brett Clark
Mattias Ohlund
Mike Modano
Alexander Radulov
Fredrik Modin

Miikka Kiprusoff
Niklas Backstrom
Ilya Bryzgalov

I'm reasonably excited about this line-up, even though there are a few guys there I've never heard of. (Bryzgalov was a last-minute pick-up when the guy I originally had drafted from Phoenix was sent back to the AHL. There were few WC goaltenders left at that point, and I knew next to nothing about any of them. Bryz may not have been the best available option, but lord knows I love me some chatty back-up goaltenders, and since the team name is a tribute to him, I figured I owed him that much. Welcome to the fold, Breezy!) I seem to have achieved what I've decided is my trifecta of fantasy hockey desirables: 1) they're roughly talented, 2) I'm not morally opposed to them and all they stand for (I'm ignoring the general squickyness that seems to follow Ryan Smyth wherever he goes), and 3) they're acceptably hot (hello, Andrew Brunette and Milan Michalek!). We'll see how it all pans out.

I also joined another, non-conference-restricted league, partly to keep my jealousy of the other Superleaguers allowed to have Sabres and other ECers to a minimum, and partly to help take my brother's mind off the kind of shitty month he's been having. Well, the latter may have worked out, but the former backfired on me somewhat. Meet the Christ Punchers:

Jason Spezza
Marc Savard
Henrik Zetterberg
Alexander Frolov
Jarome Iginla
Drew Stafford (C)
Nicklas Lidstrom
Sheldon Souray
Dion Phaneuf (A)
Bryan McCabe
Daniel Alfredsson
Patrick Marleau (A)
Slava Kozlov

Roberto Luongo
Marty Turco
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

As you can see, my goal to get more EC guys kind of failed, and with the inclusion of Spezza, Alfredsson, and McCabe, #2 of my fantasy hockey desirables went completely out the window. There are only three other teams in the league (run by my brother and two of his friends), so talent is spread pretty thick, and I'm afraid that if I follow my heart and dump these guys for one of the leftovers, I'm pretty much guaranteeing myself the bottom feeder spot. Time will tell if anyone is willing to make me any kind of trade. In the meantime, I'm really psyched about that goaltending.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

12 to Remember: Buffalo @ Toronto 2/27/07

Whoa, Kevin’s sweaters are switching it up tonight, all crowding over to one side of the screen. I think it’s because they’re so excited to see me again. Aw! I missed you guys, too!

Kevin launches into the epic tale of how everyone and their grandmother was either injured or traded or absent or brain-scrambled for this game, so the Sabres had to make about a million call-ups from Rochester, and were still a man short. He tells us the cover-up lie about Briere leaving after warm up with the flu, but I’m going to agree with Heather and say Danny most definitely left because he was heartbroken about the absence of his beloved roommate, Marty Biron. To illustrate just how screwed up the roster was, the intro graphic features Clarke MacArthur front and center, with Pat Kaleta right behind him. Also featured is Jochen Hecht, looking damn fine with that A on his chest.

First Period

18:25 There’s some sort of strange tag-team move where Soupy takes Battaglia down behind the net, and Mair piles on top of him for good measure. Despite the blatant pushing, shoving, and squashing, Campbell goes to the box for hooking.

16:47 Pommer and Roy head in shorthanded, and Derek, as is his nature, ends up sitting on the ice. He still makes a pretty good pass through the crease, though. Hey, I guess if you’re going to fall down (or get taken down) as much as he does, you should at least know what you’re doing once you’re down there. By the way, aside from this moment this penalty kill has been brought to you by suck. (Actually it’s been brought to you by Napa Auto Parts, so don’t ever buy anything from there. It probably sucks.)

16:23 Just as that penalty expires, Vanek goes after Colaiacovo like he’s a particularly delicious baby he wants to kill. Here comes some more Napa-sponsored suck!

15:22 RJ gets inordinately excited about a shorthanded two-on-one that comes to naught when Pommer can’t get it to Tallinder. It takes me a second to get over my shock at the fact that so many Sabres are injured and Hank isn't one of them. This is a joyous occasion.

14:24 Miller, falling, just manages to get his glove up in time to block a shot from Steen in the last second of the penalty. Okay, this penalty kill was a considerable improvement (Miller wasn’t doing ALL the work), but can we please get some shots now?

13:33 After Peters and Gill get shovey along the boards, the players form what looks like a hug train in order to spread calm and peace and the message of love. Aw.

12:46 Lydman saves Millers ass as he blocks a point-blank shot from Sundin in front of a wide-open net. And everyone thought it was only Drury who did that! (Seriously, guys, can we take a shot on net please? At this point I’m not entirely sure Raycroft is down there, that’s how little I’ve seen of him.)

12:17 Vanek obliges, taking a drop pass from MacArthur and getting a nice shot from just outside the circle. He continues to work for the puck in front of the net, and gets a couple more chances before drawing a penalty. It’s after plays like that that I feel really confident about that humongo contract.

10:22 Stafford goes to the box for getting punched in the head. Or as they call it in Toronto, “interference.” Seriously, it’s a ridiculous call, but that Buffalo power play was clearly going nowhere, so I’m not going to get too upset about it.

9:19 This time it’s Tallinder who takes excellent care of his out-of-position goaltender by intercepting a pass at the side of the net. Okay, Buffalo, I get it. You’re playing good defense. Can we please try some offense now?

7:37 It’s so quiet in the ACC that you can hear one, lone guy yelling “Go Leafs Go.” Gotta love those passionate Canadian home crowds.

6:20 Lydman gets a good shot from between the circles (it seems the defense has to do everything around here), and Roy manages to connect on the rebound, despite being airmailed to the ice by some Leaf. RJ informs us that Lindy is “about to have kittens” about the non-call. Hmm, what sort of shower gift does one buy for an NHL coach expecting kittens?

5:53 Well, I don’t know what I’d get him, but Pominville apparently got him a goal! MacArthur nearly scores on a neat backhand, and Pommer is there to bang in the rebound. Perhaps aware of how enraged and murderous Thomas Vanek gets about new births in Pominville, RJ refrains from announcing that the population has increased.

5:05 Pommer, all excited and wriggly over his recent success, tries to clear the puck in front, but ends up both fanning and falling. Aw, Lindy, who needs kittens when you’ve got this?

3:13 After a great shift by his line on the power play (I know!), Staffy tries to muscle the puck out from under McCabe, who is down on the ice, but ends up getting the entire Leafs team on his back instead. Roy tries to pull some of them off, but of course, since he barely comes up to their shoulders, it’s pretty ineffective.

2:35 You know, I was just wondering where Hecht was in this game! He fancy-skates himself over the line and through some defenders to shoot from the slot. It deflects wide, but that was still a pretty neat play. Alternate captain Yo-Yo is in the house!

0:00 Well, period one has been somewhat underwhelming. I suppose I can cut them some slack, though, what with the absences and the short bench and whatnot. Plus, my from-the-future powers tell me there’s much more to come.

Second Period

20:00 Jim starts off the period by talking about Marty and what a sad atmosphere his departure created with the team. I think this is the part where Briere, watching the game from his hotel room, picks up the phone and leaves his 403rd voicemail comprised entirely of unintelligible sobbing. (And yes, I am making jokes to avoid having to relive the pain of losing Marty. What of it? At least I’m not soothing my heartache by whoring myself out to Philly. Unlike someone I know.)

18:59 Miller leaves his net. Disaster ensues. The only thing surprising about that situation is that Hank was the one who lost the puck, which is what forced Miller to have to dive across his crease like he was sliding into home. Okay, unusually sloppy for Hank, but still: What the hell were you doing all the way over in the corner, Ryan?

18:38 Roy is completely mugged, once again with no call. RJ doesn’t mention it, but I can only imagine that over on the Buffalo bench, the kittens are flowing like wine.

17:21 Someone taps the puck back to the point off of the faceoff, and RJ tells us it is “Vanek or Peters.” Wow. God knows I’m terrible at reading numbers, and that wasn’t exactly a play that required much skill, so I’m not trying to make fun of RJ’s commentating, here. I just think I would be remiss in my duties as a recapper if I let the one moment in all of history when Peters was mistaken for Vanek pass by without proper documentation.

15:50 Hecht makes a gorgeous pass through the goal crease, but Ryan can’t connect on it. I suspect it’s because he had to take that extra second to check and make sure it was Toronto's net he was shooting on this time. It’s okay, Mike. Take your time.

15:43 Hank gets credit for “flattening” Ponikarovsky, when all he really did was sort of lean on him until they both collapsed. It’s like someone was trying to build a house of cards using hockey players, but couldn’t get the first two to stand up properly. It’s… weird.

15:05 Stafford sticks with the puck through some pretty crazy twists and turns, and scores on a wraparound. The replay shows Yo-Yo, past the end of his shift, made the breakout pass here, albeit a really horrible one. It looks like it’s flying at an altitude of about Staffy’s knees, but he just waves his stick over it like some sort of Puck Whisperer and it immediately calms down to do his bidding. Jim and RJ start freaking out about how much they can’t wait for Drew to be a for-rizzle Sabre next season. You and me both, boys.

12:42 After collecting a shot and sending it up ice, Paetsch is run over by Belak outside the range of the camera. According to RJ, Mair then steps up to lay a little revenge on Belak. MSG, why am I not seeing this? (Instead, I get to see Kaleta completely flip a guy over in the corner, which, admittedly, is cool.)

12:22 As we head to commercial, Mair is chomping his mouth guard on the bench, and it turns out my eyes (and Google video’s pixels) weren’t deceiving me last game: He most definitely has a black eye. And it is wicked. (Reports of eyeliner are, as of yet, unconfirmed.)

11:12 The shot tally tells me that the Sabres only have two shots in this period, while the Leafs have nine. I feel like I’m being lied to.

11:00 After Sundin blocks one of his own team’s shots, Vanek roars in on a breakaway, only to shoot it wide of the net. And I wonder why the shot count seems so low.

8:46 The Leafs spend the better part of two minutes in the Buffalo zone, but don’t manage to get a single shot, or even do anything which requires RJ to say more than “So-and-so has it along the boards/at he blue line/behind the net.” Judging by the way the fans choose this moment to start cheering “Go Leafs Go” with real vigor, I think we’ve finally found the target fanbase for the Buffalo-style power play.

8:01 Roy chops in the rebound from a shot by Kalinin. In celebration, MSG shows all three Buffalo fans in the building, and, guys, one of them is wearing a fanny pack. Now, I feel like wearing a fanny pack into any hockey arena is asking for trouble, but into a visiting arena? Into the ACC? As a Sabres fan? I don’t even have a punchline for how dumb I think that is.

6:27 Gill steps into Ryan at the blue line. Hey, don’t bite the hand that feeds you, Toronto! (By the way, Tim Connolly, see how keeping your head up means you don’t get a concussion?)

4:33 Patches looks all kinds of clueless as he stands uselessly in front of the net while Toronto gets a couple of good chances. Finally he blocks a shot, seemingly by accident, and then instead of clearing the puck passes it to Peters. I mean on the one hand, Nathan doesn’t seem to be making a great case for cracking the top six, here, but on the other hand, maybe he just thought Peters was Vanek.

4:12 Sure, of all the players who could have scored, it had to be Ponikarovsky. Listen, Ponikarovsky, your name is fun to say, but way to intense to type. Don’t you have a snappy nickname or something I can use instead? How do you feel about Ponk? (By the way, the last three minutes of play wouldn’t have looked any different if the entire Toronto half of the ice had broken off and fallen into the Lake Ontario.)

1:33 Hey, look! The Sabres discover that not only is there more ice down there, there’s another net, too. And they can score on it! After some really neat, precise passing by Hecht’s line (hey, I like the sound of that!), Lydman lets a wrister go from the point, and Hecht, replay shows, deflects it in. The cute part is when Yo-Yo realizes he’s scored and begins to celebrate only to turn around and see everyone congratulating Toni instead. It’s like they’ve never heard of anything as preposterous as Hecht scoring a goal before. In the post-goal huddle, Toni and Yo-Yo engage in adorable “Did I score that, or did you?” antics, and even though Yo-Yo clearly knows the truth, he lets Toni go partake in the bench fist-bump anyway. Aw, how gentlemanly of him.

Third Period

20:00 Jim goes over the list of injured Leafs, and mentions that Darcy Tucker (Hey, he’s out! I was wondering why my eyes hadn’t felt like vomiting yet!) just signed a brand-new extension. Mike Peca, on the other hand, has let the media know how much it has always been his dream to play in Toronto in the year 2008, but only if they get him his extension by the end of the week. And he really means it this time. Not like last week.

18:13 Stafford, who according to RJ really wants to get to the bench, takes his sweet time skating over there, and all but attaches neon lights to his head reading “Pass me the puck, Patches!” Patches for his part does such a good job of ignoring him that he almost collides with him.

17:50 Kaleta flattens McCabe at the red line, and the crowd inexplicably erupts into cheers. I would say they’re yelling for some sort of penalty, but considering they were just booing McCabe a few seconds ago, it seems more likely that the Sabres’ strategy of wearing their home blue sweaters has tricked them into thinking they’re Buffalo fans. Score one for us!

15:54 Soupy knocks Stajan down in front of the net, and if there’s any sign of appreciation or outrage from the fans, it’s at catipillar-wearing-slippers-on-shag-carpet levels of audibility. Now it’s like the Sabres’ strategy of wearing their home blue sweaters has made the crowd forget that they were hockey fans in the first place. (The Slug has been known to have that effect.)

15:31 Vanek has his legs taken out from under him in the crease, as he’s about to score on a wide open net no less, and the ref takes a second to make sure that 26 isn’t a 9 before blowing his whistle.

14:37 Apparently Aubin has never heard of anything as preposterous as Hecht scoring a goal either, as he just assumes Yo-Yo is going to pass instead of shoot and leaves the entire short side of the net wide open. This time Hecht fires it in clean and gets the celebration huddle all to himself. By the way, Patches made a fantastic assist pass from the blue line, here.

14:30 RJ reminds us yet again that Briere is out with the flu, and that Hecht is filling in for him at center. Considering all of long-distance phone calls to Philadelphia Danny’s no doubt made by this point in the game, I think it’s more accurate to say he’s out with the Phlu.

12:40 Roy powers in on a breakaway, only to have the puck checked away from behind by Gill at the last second. I’d like to point out that Derek seems to trip a little on Gill’s stick, here, but resists taking a dive. It’s a small victory but I’ll take it.

12:24 And of course, Jim says Roy probably should have gone down and tried to draw a penalty. Stop confusing him!

10:00 Roy pulls some positively Afinogenov-esque moves as he steals the puck, spins, falls to his knees, gets up, loses control, spins again and passes to Vanek right in the goal mouth. Holy cow, that was awesome! But apparently not awesome enough for Vanek to score off of, as Aubin just manages to cover up.

9:52 Dude. Ty Conklin is hot.

9:13 The puck takes a crazy bounce up onto the top of the Sabres net, narrowly missing the open corner. Some Leaf seems to think it’s a good idea to attempt poking the puck off with his stick, before the ref reaches in and grabs it, explaining that God gave humans hands for a reason, and that reason is so that we don’t look like idiots trying to do everything with a hockey stick.

7:52 Staffy does a neat drag through a defender, but his backhand attempt is turned away. Still, it’s so impressive that the crowd thinks they’re Buffalo fans again and give him an appreciative “oooooOOOOOooooooh!”

6:40 Hecht’s line (which entails Pommer and Ryan) just did a fantastic job of working the zone in the past minute or so. Yo-Yo in particular had great puck possession and even set up one or two chances for his wingers. I think being a center with a letter suits him perfectly. (Hint, hint, wink, wink, Lindy.)

6:10 MacArthur takes a great pass from Mair, maneuvers past the out-of-play Aubin, and shovels the puck into the open net for his third point of the night. Man, I kind of wish the General could wear that Slug season-long. (And not just because I want an excuse to call him “the General” more often.)

4:15 RJ wants us to know that he’s not making it up when he says that Green passes to White. In a league where European names are butchered and giggled at on a regular basis, leave it to RJ to point out that, hey, white-bread names can sound ridiculous, too!

2:55 MacArthur draws two penalties in an interval of 20 seconds. It seems the General possesses both an enticingly elbowable head and irresistibly trippable ankles. He is a clear asset. (Also, is it just me, or have these teams been incredibly well-behaved tonight? The last penalty seems like it was about four months ago.)

1:00 Listen, Leafs, I know there’s only one minute left in the game, but I’m from the future, and I promise you: If you can just take this game to overtime you will make it to the playoffs. So get going on those five goals! Heh heh heh.

0:00 The game ends in the most anti-climactic of fashions, with the home fans booing robustly, and a pointless face-off after Aubin freezes the puck with just 5 seconds left. But at least it wasn’t a shootout! (And by the way, Leafs, in case you forgot, a shootout would have meant playoffs. Just saying.)

Okay, folks, I think that just about does it for me with these game diaries. I fully intended to go ahead and recap the next game, but I’m pretty burnt out. Especially since the next Game to Remember is against the Leafs again. I mean, there’s only so many times you can make the same “Hey, if only you managed not to surrender that substantial lead in the third period, you’d have been in the playoffs!” joke before it starts getting old. (For you, not for me. I could make those jokes all day long.) Also, real live hockey will be starting up in just over two weeks (!!!), and it will certainly take me longer than that to finish a game diary. I don’t want to live in the past. Anyway, I hope you all have enjoyed reading these as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. They certainly did help this interminable summer pass.

Ice Bowl Puts the "Desperation" in Desperation Hockey

Man, Buffalo, why so crazy? If you didn't want my family at the Ice Bowl you could have just said so, you know. Now I, like many poor WNYers, will be left out in the cold (or rather in the warm) this coming New Years Day when the Sabres play the Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. I'm plenty depressed about this, because the timing for this game is perfect: three weeks after my 21st birthday (hello, tailgating!), and six days before I leave to spend six months in Europe (goodbye, hockey!). And the circumstances surrounding the selling of the tickets certainly doesn't help matters. I mean, why should Toronto fans (both of hockey and of baseball[?!?]) get to see this game, and not me? I realize it's a momentous, once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing that all sports fans, not just those of the participating teams, can enjoy, but why reserve tickets for them? Let them buy them (or not be able to buy them) just like everybody else. And then there are the people who picked up 15 extra tickets, expecting to make a huge profit off of them, which they undoubtedly will. I mean, good for them if they enjoy getting back the hard-earned money they spent on hockey tickets by gouging fellow fans for their hard-earned money, but there really should have been some kind of volume limit on tickets.

BUT there is a big bright side to this, and that bright side is, Buffalo, that we rule. We sold over 40,000 tickets to a game over three months from now in ten minutes. Those tickets were selling, as Heidi Klum would say, "like bagels." Really, really delicious bagels. Sure, some of those tickets were going to Toronto fans and scalpers, but judging by the sheer amount of whining from the locals I've been hearing (and heartily participating in), those factors only influenced when the tickets sold out (and probably not by very much), not if they would sell out. Thanks to us, the Sabres are now like the Backstreet Boys circa 1998, and that's awesome, right? I mean, they were practically bigger than Jesus! Seriously, as bummed as I am by my lack of ticket situation, I'm really happy and proud to know that Buffalo loves hockey this much. (Oh, and Jerry Sullivan, do you want to tell us now how unready the fans are for the season to start?)

In other news, Maxim Afinogenov is a devious Russian. The mystery surrounding Max's play and benching in the playoffs has finally been cleared up as Lindy explained that he smacked his head on the concrete while partaking in the team's soccer warm-up during the first round. This answers some questions for me, as I had been wondering if he maybe came back from his wrist injury too soon. But no, he was just showing off his sweet bicycle-kicking skills. Or perhaps slipping on a banana peel. Silly, silly Max. For his part, he's sure he has no idea what everyone's talking about. "Injury? What do you mean injury? Look, I am fine, I will show you. I will do a back flip!" Max, maybe next year you should wear a helmet during those soccer games.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I'm Not Dead

Oh hey, look! It's my blog! Long time no see...

Um, yeah. Moving into school and adjusting to my new schedule has required more, uh, adjusting than I thought. And I don't know that it looks like it's letting up anytime soon, so I'm probably going to be the first hockey blogger in the history of hockey blogging who actually posts less during the season than during the off-season. I am so professional. So if any of you get fed up with my lack of production and abandon me, that's okay. No hard feelings. As the subtitle to this blog suggests, it's all about me listening to myself, anyway. But whether anyone's reading or not, I'll be here, still plugging away at my Reasons I Love Hockey, finishing those last two Game to Remember Diaries, and churning out all the rants and opinions that my roommates are too sick and tired of listening to. (I'm fully expecting that, "[Gambler], we don't care! Go write it in your blog," will become their new favorite phrase.)

The updating speed will be irregular and erratic, but don't worry: I'll be around. I'll be too desperate to talk about hockey not to be. As an example of just how dry the well of hockey discourse at stately Desperation manor is, I recently asked one of my roommates (a Minnesotan, and a half-Canadian to boot) to tell me five things he knows about hockey. He came up with the following:

  1. The puck goes in the goal.
  2. It's played in Canada a lot.
  3. The players wear lots of equipment which covers up their beautiful, beautiful bodies, but also, thankfully, their teeth, which no longer exist.
  4. "I'm a Flamer!" (Meaning that he is an occasional follower of the Calgary Flames, but also that he's gay and loves making that joke.)
  5. And, oh! It's played with a puck!

It would be a long, long season if I didn't have this blog to talk to. (If it ever gets started, that is. Come on, Oct 5th!)