Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Why can't I watch all Sabres games in HD?

Why do I hate Alex Ovechkin so much?

If we have the fourth best penalty kill in the league, why all the sudden can't we play like we have the fourth best penalty kill in the league?

Why does Clarke MacArthur have more goals than Jason Pominville?

Why does Adam Mair have more goals than Jochen Hecht?

Why is Jochen Hecht doing this to me?

Why do I do this to myself?

Is 2008 over yet?

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Dangerously Close to Love Letter

Dear Thomas Vanek,

I'm dangerously close to loving you. 

It's been a rough last couple of games, and I've been desperately looking for something positive to cling to and post about, so that I wouldn't have to spend my time photoshopping this picture with my and all other appropriate faces, and posting it under the title "The Sabres are Killing Me":

Et tu, Yo-Yo?

And that something positive is the fact that I'm dangerously close to loving you. As frustrating and sometimes depressing as these past three games have been to watch, you've found a way to put a smile on my face and a lighter feeling in my heart every time. What's remarkable is that you've been doing so without having to score. (Of course, that helps. Don't get me wrong. Please.) That's the indication that my regard for you is steadily moving beyond a mere appreciation of your talent toward a blind and unconditional love. You're not quite at the point where you can shoot the puck directly at the goalie on every shot and have me giggle affectionately instead of threatening to cut your hands off and sell them on the black market (that place in my heart is reserved for the most special of players), but you're a lot closer than most other Slugs I can name.

I already mentioned your play in the Pittsburgh game, in which you took on defending one of the best players in the league with enthusiasm, and still managed to work your magic in front of the net. You didn't find a way to put one home, but even from the 18th row of the lower bowl I could see how much you wanted to win, and watching you move the puck with confidence, swagger and creativity in the crease was still something. It may not be a flashy deke or breakaway, but if that kind of play ends with a puck in the back of the net more often than not, it's hard to hate it. It's hard not to downright dangerously close to love it.

In the Washington game you proved that you don't just play smart and you don't just play to win, but you also play tough. I'll admit I was too distracted with beating my family at Proclaim! to notice when you got hit by Ovechkin's shot, but I looked over in time to see you crawling to the bench, and I can honestly say that not only my heart, but also my pancreas, liver, and appendix were in my throat at that sight. (Granted, that could have just been my enlarged tonsils I was feeling, but the figurative meaning holds.) I'm pretty sure I could hear the collective scream of terror from all of Buffalo at that moment. I don't think you can blame me for letting myself get sucked in by the board game again after that. Down by two after two with you apparently gravely injured, I gave the game up for lost and decided to save myself the disappointment. So imagine my surprise when I turned around later and saw your number 26 flying around the ice, in one piece and, as demonstrated a couple of minutes later, in scoring form. The next night Kevin Sylvester recounted you pacing up and down the aisle during that second intermission, absolutely insistent on coming back out to play. Once again, I'm loathe to make this comparison, but even though no stitches were involved, I couldn't help but be reminded of a certain Sabre's last game in Buffalo. And as I'm certain you know from your up-close experience with that Sabre and his time here, that's exactly the kind of dedication that gets you loved around these parts. Or at the very least dangerously close to loved.

Saturday night was a little tougher. I suppose the win is the only thing that should matter, but somehow I couldn't agree with that and in your post-game interview, you didn't seem to want to, either. From the moment I saw your face during Lindy's rant after that goal with 2 seconds left, I knew you weren't going to be happy no matter what happened. From one perfectionist to another, I know that look, and I know there's no way Lindy could be as mad at you as you were at yourself in that moment. And even though Lindy was right after the game when he said it was noble, but wrong of you to take all the blame for yourself for that goal, you were also right when you said you could have done something to stop it. In a season full of guys being able to play better and needing to play better, it was so nice for once to see someone step up and say, "I could have played better. I need to play better." It was especially nice coming from you, someone who could have easily passed the buck on to guys who haven't been busting their asses all season. As high as Buffalo and that big contract have set the bar for you, it'll never be as high as the bar you set for yourself, and that brings me dangerously close to loving you. (I should also mention, speaking of televised interviews, that it definitely helps that you've somehow become legitimately foxy this season. Remember when I said I was looking forward to watching Nathan Paetsch grow into his hotness? Well, you did it, dude.)

I guess the short version of what I'm trying to say (which of course I can't say until I've already gotten the long version out), is that 1) I'm going to do everything I can to spend the Sabre Bucks I got for my birthday on something with your name on it, and 2) if I have to derive my main entertainment during this so-far maddening season (and I'm knocking on wood as I type this for fear of jinxing you) from nothing more than your play and your attitude, I... think I can do that. Of course I'd prefer it to be easier than that, but it just might be enough for me. Dangerously close to enough.

Liebe Grüße,

P.S. Because I don't want you to think that I'm leading you on, I should let you know that the 15 second mark of this video is a prime example of why, even if I decide to strike the words "dangerously close" from this letter, you'll never be able to be anything more than second best in my heart.

Friday, December 26, 2008

HSBC Homecoming

The HSBC debut of the Magic Jersey could have gone a little better than it did. Instead of spurring the Sabres on to a six-goal third-period comeback from 4-1, like it did the first time I wore it while watching a game, in Berlin; or bringing about a four-minute comeback from 3-1 to win 4-3 in overtime like it did the first time I wore it to a game, in Saint Paul, instead we got... that. We got the Sabres giving up a 2-0 lead to lose in overtime to a team they could have tied in the standings, we got my favorite player leaving the ice halfway through the game, we got the game ending in a goal knocked in by Sidney Crosby's (who else's?) questionably high stick. We got all that, and in the most soporific of fashions. Um, at least we got a point?

Still, I get to see live hockey too seldom to let a boring game ruin things for me, and I find myself with a couple of things to say anyway.

First of all, the atmosphere in the arena the other night was a little sad. Considering the last time I was there was during an ECF game, and the times before that during the best regular season the team has ever had, it's really not fair of me to compare, but I couldn't help but notice. I'm certainly not blaming the crowd--the way the Sabres have played this season has hardly earned blindly wild enthusiasm--I just found myself a little nostalgic for the times when there was palpable magic in the air at each and every game. As much as this city loves its sports teams (more or less) through thick and thin, that season was really something special, and I'm so glad I was around to appreciate it. I will say this: the game was practically a rave compared to the one I saw in Saint Paul in October, where the home team was leading for more than half of the game. State of Hockey or no, getting only one spontaneous "Let's go Wild" chant going in the entire game is pretty pathetic.

He may not have shown up on the score sheet, but Thomas Vanek had a pretty great game regardless. I had a good feeling from the moment his first shift ended with his shoulder in the middle of Malkin's back, and he went on to live in Geno's back pocket the rest of the game. Malkin's a pretty formidable player at any time, and he's been especially on fire this year (I should know, he's been great for my fantasy team), and he couldn't even think about heading toward the net without Vanek all over him. And he made it look so easy. For as much lip service as I'm sure Versus was giving Malkin and Crosby during their broadcast, it was ultimately Vanek who was attracting my attention on the ice. (Granted, I'm a little biased.) So I noticed, near the end of the game, how much he really wanted to score. As much as all of us in the building wanted him to put the game away for us, he wanted it at least four times as much. He slammed his stick against the boards after a missed chance near the end of the third, not because he really wanted to be the hero, but because he just really wanted to win. Visible, tangible desire to win is something we haven't seen on this team since the days of... that guy I'd rather not name, and it was a refreshing presence in a game we were apparently meant to lose. Watching Vanek I had a feeling--I know there's no way for me to prove this and it's ultimately useless--but I just had a feeling that he was going to score. Crosby just... got there first, I guess.

I somehow missed whatever happened with Hecht, though you would think your favorite player getting hit in the head with a puck would be pretty hard to miss. I spent the last minutes of the second and the better part of the third worrying about where he'd gone and peering down at the bench to see if he had returned yet, and as soon as we got back to the car I turned on the radio to hear what the word was. At first all we heard was that he'd suffered a laceration below his ear and had to leave the ice, which prompted my mother to say, "What, does the sight of his own blood make him queasy or something?" As is always the case with me and my mom in such situations, one thing led to another and we decided that the scene in the locker room during the second must have looked something like this. (I really want that video to embed, but blogger really wants it not to. You win this round, blogger. Please click, everyone.)

No wonder they came out and lost their focus in the third. They spent the intermission in a room full of smoke and half-cooked noodles! Who could stay focused at a time like that?!

All in all, a pretty average game. It could have been a lot better, but it also could have been a lot worse. Thanks to Santa bringing someone a new Pominville third this Christmas, our next trip to HSBC  (January 9th against the Rangers) will be another jersey debut. Let's hope that one falls on the "a lot better" side of the fence.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays from the Gambler Clan!

I have a post about the other night's game forming in my head, but I'm too stuffed with food and drunk on the joy of the season to deal with that now. Instead I'm just going to send you, all five of my readers, a copy of my family's Christmas card picture and a heartfelt wish for an enjoyable Christmas/other applicable holiday for you and your loved ones.

Love, the Gamblers

Monday, December 22, 2008


For those keeping score at home, since Thanksgiving I have:

  • written five papers
  • taken one exam
  • finished my penultimate semester of college
  • turned 22
  • traded in my buzz-cut for a mohawk
  • driven the roughly 1200 miles from Saint Paul to Brooklyn
  • taken the roughly 10,000 hour train ride from Brooklyn to Buffalo
  • seen exactly one Sabres game
  • written exactly one blog post

There are only two of those things I'm not very happy about, and they're both changing tonight. Tonight I'll be attending the Sabres/Penguins game, which will be my first live game since the Sabres came to Saint Paul in October, my first live game in WNY since the Winter Classic, and my first live game in HSBC since Game 1 against the Senators in the 2007 ECF. Yeah, it's been a while. It will also be the official Buffalo christening of the Magic Comeback Jersey, so I'll be carefully monitering its effects. As for the other thing that's changing, this may be a lame, cheap post filed under the much-used "I'm a Horrible Blogger" tag, but it still counts. Hopefully, if this game proves to be as exciting as our other games against the Pens have been this season, there will be more (and better) where this came from later.

In case anyone else is going to the game tonight, and happens to read this in time, I'll be in section 106 if you want to say hi. I should be the only girl with a mohawk and a vintage blue Hecht sweater, unless I have a serious stalker.

Let's go, Buffalo!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

News from the Abyss

Finals have had me in their deadly clutches practically since Thanksgiving, so I haven't had much time to think about hockey lately, let alone write something coherent about it. (I have a feeling if I tried to write a real post at this point I would end up either writing in German or citing Michel Foucault. My brain is so fried.) But I would be majorly remiss if I didn't take a second away from studying and writing to showcase this photo of Yo-Yo's latest handiwork, which I found this morning thanks to Goose's Roost:


That is all. The light at the end of the tunnel is approaching, and hopefully by tomorrow I'll be able to find out exactly how tiny Nathan Gerbe is.