Sunday, December 27, 2009

That Game Blew, but Live Hockey is Fun

Maybe I'm a bad hockey fan because I spend money to support a mediocre administration, but sarcastically cheering Montador's lone shot in the first period tonight was almost the most fun I've ever had at a hockey game. So suck it, Sully.

As for the rest of it... well, let's just say I hope everyone on the team got Ryan Miller really good Christmas presents.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tradition

We're big fans of tradition here in the Gambler household, especially around Christmas. I'm not going to bore you all with the entire list, but rest assured that me posting pictures of my family making fools of themselves on this blog as a way of wishing my vast readership a collective Merry Christmas has been tacked onto the end. So without further ado, I give you this year's Christmas card photo:

Happy Holidays!
Love, the Gamblers

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Weighing In

Sorry about the long silence, but travel and social engagements have kept me too busy to blog recently. Today, though, my mom and I have vowed to do nothing but wrap presents, and watch The Muppet Christmas Carol, so I'm going to seize the opportunity to unload about something that's been clogging up my brain for too long.

I don't have much to say about the Sabres play at the moment that a simple "thumbs up" won't cover, so allow me to travel way back in time to re-visit an issue that has been pretty well covered by many blogs already. Just to refresh your memories:



You'll find the bulk of my reaction already expressed in the aforelinked posts, so I'm going to do my best not to be redundant, but there are two particular quotes that I want to respond to. The first comes from this article in The Buffalo News:
"I tried to hit [Kaleta] and missed a little bit," Ruutu told the Ottawa Citizen. "My shoulder hit his head and then his head hit the glass. That was really it. Not much you could do."
This is a quote I find akin to Alex Ovechkin's "Nobody can kill me" reaction to criticism of his reckless play. I tried to blog about that gem at the time, but as always when I try to articulate my hatred of Ovie, I was too blinded by crimson rage to manage anything more than incoherent sputtering. The words I couldn't get out then are the same I have to offer Ruutu now: In my opinion, this kind of attitude doesn't belong in hockey. This is one of the most dangerous sports in the world. It's a sport where grown (sometimes over-grown) men slam into each other while traveling at top speeds on a low-friction surface. It's a sport where players swing fiberglass sticks around to propel a piece of frozen galvanized rubber through the air at speeds approaching 100mph. Not to mention the fact that everyone has razor blades strapped to the bottoms of their feet. Someone certainly can kill you, Ovie. Even though it hasn't happened yet, it's not that hard to imagine. In fact, I almost have a harder time imagining how it hasn't happened yet. What I'm trying to say is hockey is the last place you want to play fast and loose with safety. This is a sport where unavoidable, freak accidents have ended in arterial spatter on the ice. So, in my opinion, "I missed," just doesn't cut it. Personally, I don't buy that Ruutu wasn't aiming for Kaleta's head, but even if he wasn't, he shouldn't get off suspension-free just because he says there was nothing he could do. Accidents do happen, but you should have better control of your body than that or you shouldn't be playing hockey. Period. And don't tell me it's that hard, because most other players seem to manage. If they didn't, players like Ruutu, Neil, and--yes--Kaleta wouldn't stand out the way they do.

I understand that that's not entirely fair--after all, not all styles of play were created equally in this regard. Tim Connolly not properly controlling his body will more likely result in him losing the puck than someone lying unconscious on the ice. So I understand that while some players are able to stay away from the line between safe and reckless play altogether, others are forced to toe it in order to perform their role on the team. So how are they supposed to stay toeing the right side of the line? Well, that leads me to my next quote:
I'll be worried about Kaleta's quality of life after hockey when he starts showing an ounce of concern for his fellow players' quality of life after hockey.
This was a comment to the blog post from Top Shelf that I linked to above. I don't really have that much of a problem with this statement, given that it's coming from a fan. As much as I like to think that I would still be uneasy about this hit even if Kaleta had been on the giving end of it, if it had been Neil or Avery on the receiving end, I probably would be less upset. But that's the entitlement of a fan. We get to have subjective judgment and hold unfounded and unjustly long grudges. The problem is that this seems to be the same stance the league is taking on this issue, and they don't have the same entitlements. They have obligations to keep the rules of the game well-defined and to keep the players of the game safe, and they don't get to ignore those obligations just because it's "just" Kaleta lying on the ice. Heather did an excellent job explaining why, when it comes to issues of safety, all players are created equal, regardless of their talent level--although it's really sad to think that the league needs a blogger to point that out to them. Letting goons and bruisers beat up on each other as much as they like as long as they don't touch the "important" players doesn't count as fair strategy. I'm not sure it counts as strategy at all, actually. Trusting players to police each other and trusting them to keep each other safe are almost entirely mutually exclusive, as it turns out, so the neutral authority is going to have to step in at some point. Like it or not, Kaleta showing respect for other players' safety starts with the league forcing other players to respect his. Until that happens, the vicious cycle of "a boarding for a boarding" will continue to leave the whole world with mushy brains.

Of course, it's not certain that more suspensions are the answer to cleaning up the game, especially with one of the league's premiere players going around telling the world that no amount of discipline is going to make him change his ways. But that's still no excuse for not trying.

One thing is for sure, though: everyone's looking forward to meeting the Sens on the day after Christmas, and right now I'm glad that I happen to have tickets. Here's hoping I'm still happy to have had them on the day after the day after Christmas.

By the way, about last night's game against the Capitals: I'm afraid that was all my fault. I forewent (if that's a word) watching the game in order to go see New Moon with my sister. That's a bold admission to make in a public forum, to be sure, but rest assured that we went in irony. I had planned on zipping through the game on DVR this morning, but it seems the Sabres took it upon themselves to try to play a game even worse than New Moon, in order to make me feel better about ditching them. I'm sure they didn't actually succeed, but I can't imagine watching a hockey game that even approached that level of awfulness was a pleasant experience. So I'd like to apologize to everyone whose night I ruined. Believe me, it will not happen again.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I don't mean to make this all about me...

But it's my birthday, and I'm pretty sure that win was just for me.

So the rest of you can cease your enjoyment of it. Right now.

WOO!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jose and the Pussycats

You're not as scary as you think you are, Caps.

Now that's what I call a rebound game.

Following a game where even our otherwise rock solid goaltending looked weak, the Sabres put together perhaps their most complete effort of the season to shut out a talent-heavy team looking for their seventh straight win. The offense was creating and capitalizing, the defense was all over the ice, and Ryan Miller was the Ryan Miller we've come to expect him to be. As always it's impossible to tell if this version of the Sabres is going to stick around, but if ever we needed them to show up, it was after Monday night's ugly loss. It feels good to feel good about this team again, if only for a little while.

I'm not sure if this was entirely the Sabres doing or not, but Washington's best players were totally invisible last night. I literally just had to google Alex Semin to make sure that he wasn't injured, because I don't remember hearing his name a single time last night. Of course Ovie was talked about a lot (when is he ever not?), but he never really got anything going offensively. In fact, most of the replays he was involved in showed a good move made by a Sabre to defend him. In any case, the Caps never made me feel any kind of doom, impending or otherwise, despite having been led to believe that I should be shaking in my boots.

Of course, no Ovechkin replay sticks out more prominently in my mind than the one showing him taking a dive on a trip by none other than Derek Roy. I sure won't be forgetting that irony in a hurry. I'm disappointed that there's no clip to be found of it yet, because I so wanted to post it (not to mention watch it over and over and over). But in my search I found this:



It's quite similar, in that the trip is just as blatant, the embellishment just as obvious, and the broadcast team (though thankfully not the officials) just as oblivious. On second thought, maybe I won't be watching it over and over and over. The icky pirouette combined with the announcers' unjustifiable indignation is making me feel a little bit like looking for the fucking phone.

To close on a happier thought, seeing everyone on the ice tower over Nathan Gerbe made me think of this:



I'm glad the game didn't end up going south, but if it had, I would have greatly enjoyed posting a picture of Gerbe with the excuse: "I do not, for one, think that the problem was that the team was down. I think that the problem may have been that there was a "hockey player" on the ice that was in danger of being crushed by Derek Roy!" Maybe I'll put that extrapolated moment of happiness behind breakable glass for a future emergency.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Making Lemonade

Before I get into this, I know calling last night's game a lemon is an insult to lemons everywhere, but "Making Poopade" just didn't strike me as a good title.

Anyway.

The Sabres are lucky I kind of like the Devils and Brodeur in particular, because if they'd hit the trifecta of making me tune into Versus (blech) to watch them muster just 22 shots on goal (ugh) to give the 103rd, record-tying shutout to a goalie I hated (Emery), let's just say the poopade would be flowing like wine. Right into their water bottles.

I suppose I could be rational about this. I could say that, well, Brodeur was obviously going to get that shutout sometime, and someone had to give it to him. Bad luck for the Sabres that it had to be them. By the time Marty moves into the place of sole record-holder this game will be a dull (very dull) memory. Unfortunately, I'm too seasoned of a Buffalo fan to be rational.

Fortunately, though, I'm a seasoned enough Buffalo fan to know how to make the best of a bad situation by distracting myself with frivolous hilarity, when need be. Sometimes, when it seems like nothing is working right, you just need to latch onto a single detail and extrapolate until it entertains you, and last night such a moment floated right into my wheelhouse. The play was innocent enough that there isn't even a video to link to, but somewhere in the mire of the second period, MacArthur was high-sticked in front of the Devil's net by some guy named Fraser. Ultimately, no blood was involved, and the guy's name wasn't spelled right, but that didn't matter. I was already extrapolating my way to my happy place.


As far as I'm concerned, the rest of the game looked like this.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Randomness Roundup

Before I can settle into tonight's Sabres/Devils matchup, I have to get a couple of things off my chest.

--I watched the finale of The Amazing Race today, and I have to say I wasn't a fan. I didn't have a problem with the outcome; that was hard to argue with and hardly surprising. (Here's hoping Cheyne uses part of the winnings to file the paperwork to start spelling his name like a normal person.) It was just the whole finale atmosphere that was freaking me out. I know it's kind of silly to say, "Wow, this race around the world for one million dollars just got really stressful," but that's exactly what I kept saying to myself. I guess the fact that it's suddenly not just about beating the slowest team could account for the jump in the level of pressure, but whatever the reason I found it very unsettling. It was totally throwing off the grove of my lazy afternoon. And it made me glad that the Globetrotters weren't involved, because if anything could destroy the perspective-having, support-giving, team-working vibe that made me love them in the first place, it would have been the stress of the final three. And even if I had to watch them be undone by the most banal of obstacles (the Jumble fan in me was terribly disappointed), I'm glad I never had to watch them snap at each other.

I guess if I decide to watch more seasons of this show, I'll just skip the finale episode, look up who wins online, and go take a nice long bath instead.

--A week or so ago, I got an email from a "Leafer Sutherland" telling me I was in the running for some sort of Sabres blog-off on some message board. My first and pretty much only reaction was to wonder how the hell this "Leafer," if that is his real name, had managed to find me, since I consider myself a pretty well-kept secret of the Sabres blogosphere. (He was probably googling for Cliff's notes for the BFG.) I ignored the suggestion to advertise the competition on my site and invite my readers to vote for me--rationalizing that even if I rallied my whole army of ones of readers, they would be no match for my comptetition, and also that I was supremely lazy--deleted the message from my inbox, and promptly forgot about it. Until this morning, when I received an update that, on the strength of a mere five votes (update that army of ones to an army of a handful!), I had made it to the second round of the voting process. Slightly intrigued that I had entirely accidentally not lost this competition, I decided to click the link and check out how I was doing in the round 2 poll. What I found has been making me randomly chuckle all day:

I took a screenshot to preserve the hilarity for eternity.

Yes, you're reading that correctly. 17 voters got to choose seven from a possible 13, and not a one of them threw a vote in my direction. I think this is enough evidence to crown myself writer the most overlooked, under-appreciated, hapless, and mildly pathetic blog on the internet. The Jochen Hecht of blogs, if you will. Heh. I love it.

Just so there's no confusion, this is not a post asking you to go vote for me. Quite the opposite. I can't imagine a grander accomplishment than for Desperation Hockey to be the only blog to bow out of this competition with 0% support. I don't know why I haven't noticed before, but these hands I'm typing with might actually be made of stone.

Okay, now I'm ready for some hockey!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Letter Unrelated to Hockey

Dear people who keep finding this blog by googling "BFG Cliff's Notes,"

Just read the book. Seriously. It's only 220 pages. You won't regret it.

Sincerely,
Gambler

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Procrastinating a Win Away

The Sabres' attitude toward winning the game tonight is exactly my attitude toward posting about it:

I will, I just... don't have time right now.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Freaky Friday

Well, that was an odd game. Something about playing on a Friday afternoon apparently sends the Sabres into bizarro world. It was an entertaining, emotional, and hard-fought win, but it rarely made any sense. Here are some unorganized thoughts:

-This game was the very picture of inconsistency. One minute both teams looked fundamentally unfamiliar with the game of hockey, as things like creating pressure and maintaining puck possession seemed to elude them, and the next minute Tim Connolly was firing a perfectly placed shot past Emery, or Drew Stafford was maneuvering around him and his defenders like they were pylons. (By the way, was I the only one who thought there was something familiar about the way Emery tried to stop that first goal? [There you go, Mom, consider that your Pommer praise for the day.]) I spent a good portion of the game confused about what exactly I was watching, but it seemed that every time I was about to comment that the Sabres looked incompetent, they managed to pull a goal or some other smart play out of thin air. Very disconcerting.

-Inconsistency was the name of the game with the officials, as well, although that's not really anything new. Still, in a game that certainly needed a lot of enforced discipline, the refs seemed to invent tripping penalties out of nothing, and downplay actual dangerous plays. On the one hand Kaleta gets a major and a game misconduct for a hit that looked more unfortunate than malicious, and on the other hand Richards gets a mere two minutes for popping Myers' helmet off with the blade of his stick like it was a bottle cap. Not to mention the clear high-sticking incident later in the game when the Flyer player (I admit I don't remember who was involved) dutifully took himself to the box only to be told he wasn't receiving a penalty. I'm not one for blaming officials for the outcome of a game, and I'm doing that here (not least of all because I don't have any outcome to complain about), but I do think the officials have a duty to dictate the rules in a coherent way, and they were doing a rather haphazard job of that last night.

-About that Kaleta hit. Despite the way I characterized it, I have no problem with the call. As far as I'm concerned, any hit from behind into the boards should always earn a game ejection, just because that's too dangerous a situation to be ambivalent about. But I do wonder about placing all of the blame for such hits squarely on the hitter. I'm not saying the hittee should be assessed a penalty, but it seems pretty clear to me that Ross put himself in danger by turning into the boards when he felt someone bearing down on him. For Kaleta's part, it looked like he committed to the check just as Ross was turning, and while he may have been able to slow up (having never played hockey, I can't really say), I don't think it was his intention to hit Ross from behind. But by rightfully taking gray-area intention out of the equation, the refs have created a troubling scenario where players can get an opponent ejected from the game with just a well-timed pirouette. I'm not sure I have a remedy for that situation, except to hope that no one is dumb enough to let the promise of a five minute power play tempt them into a potentially career- not to mention brain-damaging position.

-As for the Richards/Myers incident, I can't see why that wasn't as clear a cut-and-dry call. Maybe a game misconduct would have been a little extreme, but I would have liked to see at least a major penalty called. Intentional or not, it was more dangerous than your average high sticking, and I wanted a punishment that fit the crime. If the refs intended to send the message with the Kaleta call, they mised the opportunity to send one there as well. Control your body; control your stick. It's pretty simple.

-Even without the rough and tumble play--not to mention the flaring tempers and rash of scrums--there was plenty of accidental mayhem to go around. Taking a shot to the face is never good, but I imagine a one-timed slapshot is the worst kind to get: apparently loss-of-seven-teeth, gain-of-seventy-five-stitches kind of bad. Likewise, heading feet-first into the boards is never a good way to go, but Rivet's looked especially bad, even before the replay was shown. Fortunately Rivet seems to have siphoned off some of Vanek's feet-first-into-the-boards luck, as his injury isn't as severe as it initially seemed. Which is certainly good news, considering my dad's professional opinion after seeing the replay was that Rivet had blown out his knee if nothing else. Too bad it doesn't look like Gaustad will be as lucky.

-It was an ugly game all around, even in the intermission, when Tim Kennedy ruined a perfectly adorable father-son piece by refusing to wear his teeth. Here's a hint, Tim, if the occasion seems to call for a suit, it generally calls for you to not have big gaps in your mouth. The least you could have done was worn a black suit to at least try to coordinate.

Tonight's the first time since coming home that I'll be able to watch a game in real time and in HD, and it'll be the last time before I return to the pixellated hockey wasteland that is Minnesota. So here's hoping the Sabres can manage a pretty one tonight, for me and for my relatives that will be attending the game. And I'm assuming it will have to be the Sabres who bring the pretty, if the Hurricanes are as bad as I've heard. Let's not give them their first road win tonight, Sabres, ok? Ok.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

As I write this, I am sitting in my parents' house, mere feet away from the HDTV that will be brightening my life with crystal clear hockey later on. I am so looking forward to that.

Another reason it's the most wonderful time of the year is that today is my sister's birthday, and she's pretty great. Happy birthday, Meghan!

And then I guess there's that whole Thanksgiving thing coming up, too.

One thing that decidedly does not make it the most wonderful time of the year is that the Sabres are playing the Caps tonight. For reasons I've never quite been able to articulate, the Caps--and Alex Ovechkin in particular--get my ire up in a way no one else in hockey can. There's no obvious historical justification for it, not like with the Senators or the Hurricanes, but that doesn't make it any less real. The Caps and I are just true hate. Even though I can't explain it, I see the potential to harness the power of that hate and use it for something good--or at least entertaining.

Just as the off-season was coming to a close, in an effort to rediscover my enthusiasm for blogging, I delved into the Desperation Hockey archives, hoping to be inspired by my own genius. It ultimately worked, and along the way I was reminded of a few running themes, structures, and jokes that I hoped and plan to revive. Chief among these was the exclamation "Where's the fucking phone?!" which is a reference to this scene from Wet Hot American Summer:



I originally used "Where's the fucking phone?!" to illustrate my feelings about seeing Chris Drury in a Rangers jersey for the first time, when I felt like tipping over cabinets and tearing things off shelves. As time went on, though, my grudge hardened and my rage waned, and my need to find the fucking phone appeared less frequently and less vehemently. I don't know if I'm getting soft, or if general cynicism has just mellowed out the peaks and valleys of my moods, but nothing seems to send me into an infirmary-destroying tizzy these days. That's where the Caps come in. We haven't met them yet this season, so I haven't given them much thought. Tonight they and the wrath they leave in their wake will become impossible to ignore, and I'm trying to make the best of that situation in advance. The Sabres need a win like they need fewer holes in their line-up, but since they seem to find expectations an unbearable weight, this is what remains of mine after pitching the majority overboard: no matter the outcome, if I have an excuse to type "Where's the fucking phone?!" again, well, it hasn't been all bad.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hey, Where's my Cash?

'Cause that sure was a clunker.

Warning: game in photo was less exciting than it appears.

At least I've learned my lesson about admitting my optimism. It wasn't even just my last post; I went through most of the game believing, despite the effort I was seeing, that the Sabres were somehow going to pull it off in the end. It wasn't a conscious decision, just a certain sense of the energy and flow of the game. Roby seemed to be there with me in the first intermission, when he pointed out that while the game seemed pretty even so far, we would really see the fruits of Buffalo's labor once the third period rolled around. He was right, but not exactly in the way that he meant to be right. What Roby and I sensed as the Sabres puting off winning the game turned out to be the Sabres just not planning on winning the game in the first place.

Or not. Maybe the Sabres really did plan on getting around to winning for most of the game, but then decided they didn't have the energy to follow through with their plan.

So either my hockey-dar is off, or the Sabres are lazy. Since this is my blog, I'm going to go with the latter (to make it fair, if the Sabres want to call me names in their blog, they're more than entitled), but either way it made for a thoroughly unenjoyable hockey game, at least in retrospect. Any potential excitement or pressure the Sabres may have generated throughout was ultimately erased by their lack of finish, both on individual chances as well as on the game as a whole. Just when I decide to praise them for the opposite, they fall back on their old tricks of giving away a game in the last few minutes, and in the biggest of ways. There's not even anywhere to point the finger, since the collapse was, as Lindy said, "a team effort," ultimately producing an overall impression of blandness with a strong aftertaste of crap.

Though actually it's just a concidence, I want the Sabres to think of me not watching either game this weekend as a conscious punishment. I hope they sit there, think about what they've done, and decide to change it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Don't Get Me Wrong

I realize that my last couple of posts here make it seem like I'm all doom and gloom about this team right now, but don't be fooled. After seeing two strong games and hearing about another, the Doldrums are festering far behind me now. It seems like the same can be said of the Sabres (with the possible exception of Pominville--it remains to be seen whether he has pulled himself together to my liking), who came off last weekend's decided lack of luster with square shoulders and straight screwed-on heads all around.

The Edmonton and Calgary games were hardly the prettiest games I've ever seen, but they were wins. They were types of wins, in fact, that it seems like this team hasn't been able to pull off in some seasons. If the biggest insult to the 2007-2009 Sabres was that they were gutless, then these two games (Calgary in particular) were undeniable displays of guts. Going up against the notoriously tougher Western Conference, the Sabres didn't let themselves get pushed around or intimidated off the puck. When they were shoved, they shoved back, to the point that their game against the Flames began to resemble a barrage of scrums and almost-but-not-quite highlight-reel goals in constant alternation. And instead of wearing thin from the effort of trying to keep up and allowing the Flames to pull away late in the game, they matched them through 65 minutes and met them in the shootout. Shootout wins are never my favorite, but this one did have a little dramatic flair about it since the game had been so hard fought by both sides. (I suppose that should make the fact that one of them lost remarkably unfair, but I don't really feel like getting into that right now. My vitriol levels are too low for me to accurately talk about my feelings for the shootout.) All in all, even though the Sabres put me to sleep (literally) with their early second period snoozeout, it was a game that they fought hard to win and that they deserved to win. Any time I see that from this team it's exciting. Maybe someday it will stop feeling new, too.

If the Calgary game was about grit, then the Edmonton game was about control. Sure, it got a little wonky in the middle, and the MacArthur on Reddox hit was obviously anything but controlled, but the Sabres started out with a firm grip on the play, and ended on a dominant note with a 5-minute penalty kill and successfully holding off the Oiler tie-up attempt. If you can't show up for a full 60 minutes, then those are the minutes you want to make sure you cover, and that's just what the Sabres did. It wasn't a perfect game, but it got the job done with as little drama as possible. That 5-minute PK was a reassuring sign from the Sabres that even when things get a little hairy, they know what they need to do. How many times did we see hairiness scare them in the opposite direction last season?

As I said, I didn't get to see the game in Philly, but I have a hard time imagining that toughness wasn't involved, given that the Flyers added names like Pronger and Emery to their infamy this off-season. Eye-witness reports have told me no differently, and that's a doubly encouraging sign considering that, with the game they played the night before, fatigue must have been a factor.

There are still many questions waiting to be answered about this iteration of the Sabres: Will Vanek get visible again? Will anyone show up when Miller can't? Will Timmy stay healthy? (Who am I kidding, we all know the answer to that already.) But for right now it seems like this team has finally figured out that there's more to the game than scoring goals when you can and hoping for the best when you can't. That, more than anything, gives me hope that they have discarded their old binary of either playing offensively (as in lighting the lamp), or playing offensively (as in I am offended).

And with the Panthers in town tonight, the Sabres find themselves with another prime opportunity to prove they've broken an old habit. Let's see if they've learned how not to play down to their competition.

Let's Go, Buffalo!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Letter of Disgust

Dear Jason Pominville,

You suck. What gives?

I know I've frequently enjoyed picking on you in the past, but honestly that's usually more about picking on my mom for liking you than anything else. Last night, though, I was genuinely appalled by your play. Now, I know what you (and my mom) are going to say: "But I won the game in the shootout!" To which I say: Big deal. That may be true, but the rest of your game sucked the big one. When you weren't passing to the other team or getting pushed off the puck by a stiff breeze, you were tipping the puck wide of an empty net. You know there's only one player on this team who can pull a stunt like that and earn my love for it, and you're not him. You're not quite German enough, and your shooting percentage is about 7 points too high.

You know I'm not just saying this to be mean. You know I want to like you. I have loved liking you in the past. But there's nothing to like about you right now. The only time I noticed you with the puck (during the non-shootout portion of the game) and didn't find something to gripe about, it turned out it was actually Connolly I was looking at and not you. It was hardly a perfect game for anyone, I'll admit, but at least the rest of your teammates graced us with a period of spunk before they slapped us with a period of suck. You were decidedly spunkless throughout. I know you have a new litter at home, and I'm sure that's exhausting and whatever, but you need to pull yourself together.

Luckily for you, your redemption can start as early as tonight, even though I won't be watching. I'll be spending the evening working, and I suggest you do the same.

Sincerely,
Gambler

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Doldrums

Man, it's been dull around here lately. Thank goodness for those adorable Globetrotters, or there wouldn't have been anything of substance in this blog for over three weeks. (One might argue that a post about the Amazing Race is hardly relevant to a hockey blog, but hey. If it's relevant substance you're after... you're probably in the wrong place.)

It's not that I haven't been trying, honest, I just haven't felt inspired in the least. Over the past couple of weeks I've tried to write about five different blog posts, but they only ever amounted to about six sentences before they were abandoned. At first I chalked it up to me, once again, not being able to watch the games. For one reason or another (geez, I don't even feel like blogging about excuses anymore--what's come over me?), I was hockeyless until last weekend. The good news is that all the right stars aligned and I finally got to watch two full hockey games. The bad news is that they were those two particular hockey games. Not exactly stellar blogworthy material. I have absolutely nothing to say about the "hockey" the Sabres "played" this weekend. (Nothing a few well-placed quotation marks can't say for me, in any case.)

And don't even get me started on the Adam Mair non-story. As sad as I would have been to see him go, I admit I was a little excited to finally have something worth writing about. But then yesterday noon came and went, and Mair's still where he's always been. Yawn. I'm sure I would have been more upset than most to see him play with another team, but what's the point in getting into all that now that he's not even going to Portland, let alone another NHL franchise? (Ironically, in the fond letter of farewell I had planned, I was going to curse myself for taking Mair for granted too much. But now that nothing's changed I don't see a reason to stop. Sorry, Mairsy. I'm very glad no one else wants you.)

Clearly I'm stuck in the Doldrums, but I don't think I'm the only one. The Sabres seem to be spinning their wheels right there beside me, and if I have any hopes of saving this blog I'm going to need a little help from them. If the only way to find my way out of the Doldrums is to start thinking, I'm going to need them to give me something worth thinking about.

Unfortunately, the Sabres are playing Edmonton tonight, who are pretty much the most doldrummy team I can think of. I can't be bothered to go look up their record, but I'm sure it's nothing good. Plus, they're in the Western Conference, so we can't be expected to care, right? Looks like I'm just going to have to be covered in Lethargians for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The New Guys

Long time no hockey. I haven't seen a Sabres game in over a week, a combination of working on Saturday, and spending last Wednesday evening in the clutches of IKEA, trying to spice up my apartment with some horizontal surfaces that aren't my floor. In my defense, the Sabres could have helped out a bit by, I don't know, maybe playing more than two games in more than a week. For such a "fast start" it sure seems exruciatingly slow.

Well, Sabres, I regret to inform you that in your long absence, I've found somebody else. That's right, there's a new team in my heart these days. That team? The Harlem Globetrotters of The Amazing Race.

Aww.

Before this Sunday, I had never seen an episode of The Amazing Race in my life, and I can't recall ever feeling like I missing out on something. Well, if contestants are routinely as charming and loveable as Flight Time and Big Easy, I have been most definitely missing out. After accidentally watching ten minutes of the latest episode at a friend's house, I was hooked enough to not only finish out the episode, but also head over to CBS.com and catch up on the season from the beginning. That's right! I'm sacrificing some precious, precious internet time, here! It's clearly love.

And really, what's not to love? They not only have the best attitude about the competition, and the sweetest team dynamic, but also: they're two goofy BFGs named Flight Time and Big Easy. Who are willing to use their hands in place of oars, if necessary. Nuff Said. Sure, they might be the one team in the race who needs $1,000,000 the least, but I'm still rooting for them to go all the way. And given the fact that their legs are about ten feet long, I can't see how they don't have this in the bag.

Let's go, Globetrotters!

(Oh, and Buffalo, too, I suppose. If they ever play again.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Too Soon

Well, it's clearly too soon to be throwing the M-word around with these guys, but it was worth a shot. Still, if this is what the new Sabres look like while playing down to their competition, I'll have a hard time complaining about it. They may have looked sloppy, timid, and flustered for most of the game, but they did also manage to score twice as many goals as their opponent. It wasn't pretty or particularly satisfying, but it got the job done.

With that said, let's move on to the really important part of last night's game: Clearly it was all about Jochen Hecht. He scored his first goal of the season (and only missed about 11 other golden chances), showed off the new red (hot pink?!) mouth guard that replaced his neon green standby (pictured above), and gave his first interview. After the long radio silence of the offseason and who knows how many months before that, that lispy German voice was like music to my ears. All in all he did his part to ensure that, even though the hockey was ugly as sin, there was still a lot of love happening in my heart.

I won't be able to watch tonight, but here's hoping the Sabres prove they actually can dominate a bad team. The Thrashers are still bad, right?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Point of Reference

If I was somehow wrong, and the Red Wings are no longer one of the best teams in the league, I don't want to know about it.

I've been trying to write about Tuesday night's game for a couple of days now, but all attempts have so far ended in a long trip to the backspace key. I have something very distinct that I want to say, but I want to be very careful about how I say it, for fear of jinxes or ending up looking like a feel-good fool--I'm not sure which. I suspect I'm one of many Sabres fans with this strangely immutable and yet inexpressible feeling, but I think I'm going to be one of the few to throw caution to the wind and let the expressing win out over the muting. Here goes:

I think the Sabres have changed.

And here comes the urge to backpedal. Four games is not a lot of games. At this point last season, the Sabres were 4-0 and we all know how that turned out. Still, if I ignore the murky future which may sweep in and ruin this new high, my gut tells me that something is different about this team. Something that has nothing to do with talent.

Talent has never been this team's problem. Even in the lowest times it was there, albeit invisible, dormant, flickering just below the surface of jerseys marked Vanek, Pominville, Tallinder. The Sabres have developed, over the past two seasons (and really more if we're being honest) a maddening peek-a-boo balancing act of revealing just enough of their talent to be sensed, but never enough to be realized. Who can say if they're done playing that game yet, but they certainly weren't playing it against Detroit.

Tuesday night's game wasn't a game decided by chances or bounces. It was a game in which everything went right for the Sabres because they made sure everything went right. They took control, dominated, embarrassed. The speed of play, especially in the second period, tells you most of what you need to know. The pace was slow without being lazy or sluggish. It was patient, comfortable, fearless. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't those trademarks of the team we were playing? The Sabres beat the Red Wings at their own game and made it look easy. There's a sentence I didn't expect to be typing this season.

Call me crazy or rash, but I think there's a mentality shift happening on this team. They seem (and of all the words in this post, this is the one I'm finding the most trouble getting out) mature. Only time will tell, of course, but I'm not going to let fear of what's to come keep me from embracing the thrill of right now.

I was hesitant about posting this, wavering between wanting to retain plausible deniability should I turn out to be wrong, and wanting to be able to say "I knew it all along" should I turn out to be right. Eventually, I decided that those weren't really relevant parameters. If this blog is about recording moments of fandom then I would be remiss to let this one pass by unnoticed, regardless of whether it pans out. It's my prerogative as a fan to say whatever I want. I don't have to be right; I get to believe. (And right now I believe in feel-good optimism. Maybe later I'll believe in cynicism again.)

In any case, tonight should give us another opportunity to gauge the 2009-2010 Sabres. Not only is Vanek out, but they're playing a winless team. Every Sabres fan is familiar with their tendency to play up or down to their opponent's level accordingly, and if the Red Wings helped us plot the new upper bound for this teams level of play, then the Islanders--of all teams-- should give an indication of the new lower bound. Here's a hint, Sabres: the strategy is the same. Take initiative.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thoughts

As I prepare my ritual sacrifices to the Internet Gods in the hopes that they will bless me with uninterrupted access to tonight's game, I have a few thoughts running through my head:

--Am I the only one who sees Sekera's fortuitous injury as suspicious? He just happens to get injured pretty much the moment Lydman seems ready to come back, so that no one has to make tough decisions about what to do with Myers or anybody else? I'm not buying it. I might be mistaken, but wasn't he not even hit? He just came out after intermission and "felt pain in his side"? I suspect foul play. Either he took one for the team, or someone discreetly pummeled him in the ribs while he was napping between periods. Someone's lying, and consider it being looked into.

--Yowza, I knew the Sabres were having trouble scoring even though they were getting plenty of chances, but I didn't know they were literally first in the league in shots and last in the league in goals. Maybe they should do something about that, huh? And before you say anything, Sabres, the something you should do is not taking fewer shots. So don't even try it.

--I'm not sure what to make of Lindy's reaction to the Sabres' lack of finish. On the one hand, I think he should be more concerned, but on the other hand, we're still winning. So, I guess if it's not broke yet, don't fix it. Yet. One thing he said stuck out to me, though: "We've missed empty nets, had pucks go off feet by empty nets, pucks slide through sets of legs going through creases that the goalie isn't there." Wow, I was so busy rejoicing about Hecht returning to old Yo-Yo form that I didn't notice that apparently everyone has returned to old Yo-Yo form. A team full of Yo-Yos is... not so great, as it turns out.

--Speaking of Yo-Yo, though, I'm going to be paying extra attention to his line tonight. I'm inclined to be outraged that Lindy broke up what seemed to be a pretty fantastic (not to mention attractive) line, but I'm going to restrain my outrage until I actually see what they can do. Kennedy might not be a Goose in the looks department (he's made me realize that the phrase "less attractive version of Soupy" can actually be uttered truthfully), but I guess he deserves to be given half a chance.

--Tonight will be, for me, the first real measuring pole of the season. The Habs have made so many roster changes since I last saw them that they were a bit of an unknown quantity, and I have vague conceptions but no hard evidence of the Coyotes and Predators being weak teams, but the Red Wings I do know a thing or two about. I could list a lot of things about them that everyone already knows, but long story short I know they're good. I know watching them play in the Winter Classic last season made me want to curl up into a ball and cry. And I suspect the way the Sabres play against them tonight will tell me a lot about where they are and how much they've grown. Here's hoping they can measure up.

--Now, everyone knows I don't write this thing to be read, but four posts in just over a week with nary a comment in sight makes Gambler a self-conscious blogger. Anyone out there? Hello? Echo?

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Family- and Sports-Filled Weekend

This was a big weekend of celebration for the extended Gambler clan that included my grandmother's birthday and an early Thanksgiving. (There's always room for another Thanksgiving in the year, is what I always say.) As is always the way with my family--which charts a vast map of sport- and team-allegiances--sports was the backdrop against which our family gathering was held. We went from college football (Go Cocks!), to hockey, to football, to baseball, ensuring that no one had to miss out on the game that they wanted just because they loved their family.

Unless you were a Sabres fan, of course. The Sabres game had the distinct misfortune of not only playing in fuzzy standard definition opposite the invitingly crisp HD of the Florida/LSU game, but also of playing on the evening of my grandmother's birthday celebration, when the TV eventually became occupied by a family portrait tribute slideshow, which watched like a Titanic-length presentation of Awkward Family Photos: The Movie. I'm not saying that it wasn't more interesting than watching the game would have been, but it was just about as long, and we tuned back in just in time to see the Grier goal and the mad scramble to the finish. I can't say I was encouraged by the raw panic I saw, or the apparent lack of scoring that I didn't get to see, but I'm not in a place to analyse the game any more than that. I'm going to accept the win as a win and move on.

The next afternoon was fully occupied by the NFL. As is tradition, my family had a football pool, but the day's real competition seemed to be a quest to prove whose favorite team was sucking the hardest, with the grand prize being a perverse kind of bragging rights that we all know so well. In a group that includes fans of the Redskins, Raiders, and Titans, there seemed to be room for argument, but after the Bills showed up the Browns in what looked like a 60-minute head-to-head Keystone Kops audition, no one else really had a leg to stand on. For my part, I was entertained by the antics. I feel a great amount of sympathy for die-hard Bills fans, but it was hard for me not to laugh like an idiot while watching the Bills fight to gain the line of scrimmage the way most teams fight to gain the first down line. I had no idea it was possible to be so pathetic at football. My advice to Bills fans is to laugh, a) because it's better than crying, and b) because, come on, it's funny.

All in all, it was a fun weekend packed with family and other, less awesome sports. It was a faint reminder that hockey might end up being a gateway sport after all, and that my potential to turn into a football fan is present. If the Bills ever get a bandwagon again--if their bandwagon ever stops being a wheel-less pile of two-by-fours perpetually parked in the dump--I expect I will be there to jump on it.

Tomorrow night, finally, hopefully, back to hockey.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Let's Try This Again, Shall We?

That'll show me for getting excited about watching hockey. Instead of getting in to Buffalo at 6:55 on Thursday, just in time to catch up to the game on DVR, I got in at midnight after being stranded in Chicago for 5 hours. I suppose I should have known better; the trip between Saint Paul and Buffalo has always been cursed.

As it was, I did get to see the game on a big screen, in its entirety, and in HD (thanks to my parents finally abandoning their TiFaux for a real DVR), just like I wanted, but it just wasn't the same. Call me crazy, but I think it's kind of anti-climactic to watch a game that's already ended, even if I don't know how it ends. It's markedly unsatisfying to yell at Miller to get the hell back in his net when I know that, even if he could hear me, he can't go back in time and obey me. It didn't keep me from yelling, anyway, but still. Moreover, I didn't get to watch the game with my family, which is what I'd been most looking forward to. In my humble opinion, watching hockey with the Gamblers is the absolute funnest way to watch hockey ever. My brother was sweet enough (or just lazy enough, I'm not sure) to watch the game again so I didn't have to be yelling at the screen all by myself. It was a refreshing change of pace.

All things considered, I'm glad I watched and didn't just take the easy way out of checking the score. It was a fun game that avoided being a repeat of one of the most maddening types of games from last season, where the Sabres dominated but still lost. It's way too soon to start declaring bad habits broken, but it was encouraging to see the Sabres neither scramble nor deflate after being scored on early in the third period. I don't know about anybody else, but I've been conditioned to react to this team getting a lot of chances and not scoring with panic, but somehow this game was different. Maybe it's just because my brother had told me it was a game worth watching, but I had faith in them coming back. And maybe I'm just projecting, but it seemed like the Sabres, for the first time in what seems like a long time, had faith in themselves, too. Instead of panicking or giving up, they just kept playing the way they had been playing, trusting in the fact that chances would turn to goals. And, lo and behold, they did. And once again, I find myself excited to see what the next game holds.

So maybe tonight I'll get the real season opener that I've been waiting for.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cliff's Notes

Thanks to my internet connection, I got the severely abridged version of Saturday night's game, which meant off-and-on coverage of the first half of the game, and then just continuously off coverage. Of course, at the moment when the Sabres scored, the coverage happened to be off. Sigh. How am I supposed to try to establish my image as a legitimate hockey blogger, when the fickle finger of fate gives me so little material to work with? One day my prince will come in the form of a Center Ice package, but until then, I'm going to have to make do with what I can get. So here's my in-depth analysis of what I saw of the game:

The Sabres looked good.

Okay, for the sake of filling up this post, I guess I can get a little more specific than that.

I know I should probably take a number by this point, but I think I'm falling in love with Tyler Myers. I'm loving the comparison to Chara, and not just because Chara is a talented player who plays the type of game the Sabres could use right now. I'm also hoping that Myers turns out to be a freak-of-nature BFG like Chara, because I think the Sabres could use one of those, too. In fact, I'm deliberately avoiding any Myers interviews for fear of disillusioning myself, so passionate am I about this idea.

On a slightly more relevant note, I thought he looked remarkably calm and composed for a rookie in his first NHL game. He skated well for his size, moved the puck efficiently, and really worked along the boards. On top of all that, he seemed to grasp the concept of clearing the crease and protecting your goaltender in a way that made my heart sing. The words "calm" and "composed" (along with another c-word, "consistent") haven't been used to describe the Sabres' defensive corps (or really any Sabres' anything) for the last couple of years, so Myers' performance was very encouraging. That's not to say I think he's here to lead us into the light; he's still young, and his greenness is bound to show sometime, either before or after his 9-game deadline. But if this is the way he plays in the biggest game of his career to date, then I think we have every reason to expect plenty of good with the inevitable bad.

There were a few other stand-outs. Yo-Yo looked like his old self again, making a few smart moves to break up an oncoming attack or keep the puck in the zone, and generally not looking just completely useless. I can't deny that it made me a little bit giddy to see him back to his solid ways. I'll admit that the majority of my joy at the Grier signing was caused by the hope that, with the return of the original Stone Hands, Yo-Yo's hands wouldn't look quite so stoney. Not so sure about that yet, but if Grier was the magic ingredient needed to snap Hecht out of his slump, then I consider it a signing well signed. It seems clear already that the Hecht-Gaustad-Grier line is destined to bring me much joy this season, although I confess that my heart broke a little at seeing Pommers and Yo-Yo split up. Still, if my heart's only options are breaking at them being apart or puking at them being together, then I think the choice is clear.

Actually, the only real let down I saw was the Canadiens' new roster:

Click to enlarge, if you dare.

Wha happened?! Man, the Habs used to have a roster full of the awesomest last names in hockey, a roster that read like a rollercoaster for the tongue, a roster on which a name like "Price" stood out as odd. This new roster makes me almost want to cry. A couple of my favorites (Chipchura, Latendresse) are still around, and they added at least one fun one in the off-season (Pacioretty), but Brisebois is gone, the Kostitsyn content has been cut in half, and the list is now packed with names that anybody could spell correctly on the first try. Gionta? Gomez? Gill? I think I'm dozing off. And those are just the Gs! By the time I got down to Stewart, I was convinced that Montreal is letting just any old regular-named Joe play for them these days. Clearly their standards are slipping.

Overall, though, the most positive impression I got out of the half of the game I saw was cohesion. The Sabres just seemed to be working together in a way that we haven't seen from them in a long time, and the result was that they were in complete control. That may have changed as the game went on (the final score would suggest so, though the goal highlights I watched looked pretty flukey), but I'm pretty optimistic after seeing what they're capable of.

Of course, the season is just a newborn, consistency is still a question, and we all know that this team is a big fan of showing us what they can do just to madden us to full capacity when they insist on not doing it.

With that cynical disclaimer in place, I'm really looking forward to Thursday's game. Mostly because I'm going home for a long weekend, and will be able to watch the game a) on a big screen, b) in its entirety and c) in HD. But also because the teaser trailer that was Saturday night gives me reason to expect good things from the game that will feel, to me, like the real season opener.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tabula Rasa

A new season. Let's start fresh, shall we?

In the interest in starting fresh, I probably shouldn't open by discussing the R-word, but let's just say that it's a good thing I didn't resolve to lose 20 pounds, because I would probably weigh over 500 by now. This new year I will resolve to have more resolve, but that's still a few months off.

I have no excuse for my long, long absence, except: Who knew it was so hard to graduate from college? Finals were practically nothing compared with the organizational hassle that preceded me actually getting my hands on a diploma, and even the all celebrating was draining. It left me with no time for hockey, let alone hockey blogging. And even once all that rigmarole died down, it was hard to get back into the once-a-week rhythm, especially since it was suddenly the off-season. So I decided to take a break when the Sabres did.

But, if I'm being perfectly honest, blogging wasn't the only thing I took a break from this summer. I also took a bit of a break from being a hockey fan. I can't recall watching a single playoff game, though I'm sure I had the opportunity, and off-season roster moves (even those involving the Sabres) passed mostly under my radar. My daily blog rounds slipped to a weekly, and eventually to a monthly rotation. I stayed informed, but only long enough to file the facts of a trade or a signing away without analyzing, judging, or critiquing possible repercussions. After the last two summers spent fairly agonizing over every bit of team and league news, I found this to be a refreshing approach.

That's not to say I shed my fandom completely. It was a bit like having a long-distance boyfriend who texted me from time to time, reminding me that I was interested in him and letting me know that he picked up that Mike Grier that I always liked. The Sabres were the old flame that I kept meaning to call, but never actually got around to calling, because I knew that when the time was right we would just pick up where we left off. As unideally as things ended between us last time, there are no hard feelings. Some distance was just in order so that my heart could grow fond again.

And my heart is so fond right now.

I am so ready for hockey. Sure, the Sabres didn't make all of the improvements that I would have liked, but then who am I to judge? I'm showing up on opening night under-informed, out of practice, and metaphorically 350 pounds overweight, so it's not like I've dedicated the off-season to self-betterment, either. And, as a new season begins, my dissapointment in the things that haven't changed pales in comparison to my joy at the one big thing that has stayed the same: I love hockey. Right now that's all that matters, and the other factors - Will Myers stay? Will Tallinder be traded? Will Hecht get his mojo back? Will we be good enough? - are just little surprises waiting to happen along the way.

So, here's to a new season and a fresh start. Hopefully, now that I've transitioned from the life of an over-scheduled, over-stressed student into the bright, new, post-grad world of semi-employment, I will now have the time and energy to enjoy and blog to my heart's content. I sure have missed it. In fact, so eager am I to get back into this blogging deal, that if I had my way I would be attempting an all-out game diary tonight to celebrate my grand re-openning, but since the bright, new, post-grad world of semi-employment hasn't yet yeilded things like a TV or cable or Center Ice, the machine I would be doing the typing on is unfortunately the same machine I'll be watching the game on, and I just don't think I have that kind of coordination. Maybe another time.

As for the Sabres holding up their end of the deal, they'll be able to win me over easily enough tonight, as my excitement is high and my standards low. After working on my feet for 27 hours in the past two days, the only way the Sabres could ruin my day-off good mood would be by forcing me to stand up. As long as there is hockey and I get to stay sitting I should be happy. (Of course with those words I have undoubtedly sealed my fate of being miserable with the outcome of tonight's game. The Sabres I remember aren't ones to let that sort of challenge lie.)

Let's Go, Buffalo!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

If The Season Ends...

... and you weren't around to see it, did it really happen? Isn't this like a tree falling in the woods kind of a thing?

You'd think, given that rehearsals are weekday evening types of occurrences, that a Saturday afternoon game would be one of those very rare instances when I would get to watch. Well, not when the game coincides with work weekend, when I have to spend all afternoon hanging lights for our impending performance. If there's one thing four years of college education has taught me, it's that the theatre department always gets the upper hand.

To be honest, though, I'm not sure I really would have been grasp the game even if I had been able to watch. It's been months since I saw a full Sabres game (to be fair, only mostly because I haven't been trying: last week's Capitals match-up was cut short by a technical failure). Even though it's finally, finally warming up around this place, it seems impossible that the season is over. Now, I'm no dummy. I have the internet, and my regular daily blog rounds, so when all reasonable hope was gone, I knew it, and when all mathematical hope was gone, I certainly knew it. So it's not like I didn't know that this was their last game, but I think it's going to take a while for that to really sink in. I've grown so accustomed to the thought that, even though I can't see them, the Sabres are still playing hockey, that it's hard for me to comprehend a world in which, even though I can't see them, they are done playing hockey. It's sad to see it phrased this way, but I've gotten so used to being hockey-less that the end of the season doesn't really phase me. Not that it should be some big dramatic event, but other than the content of the blogs I read, nothing in my life is going to change. Just like all last month and more, I still won't be watching hockey.

It's hard to remember at this point, but I'm pretty sure last season was different. The two seasons were superficially pretty similar: they both ended with the Sabres just barely on the outside looking in, and they both contained month-long stretches of me not being able to watch. But somehow, last season, even though I was six whole time zones away, I felt something. Maybe it was just my residual affection and expectations for the 2006-2007 squad ultimately ending to disappointment, or maybe it was just my favorite player having one of the best years of his career and getting nothing to show for it from his team, but there was definitely a feeling of loss and lament. This time around, I got the text message telling me the Sabres had won their final and meaningless game 6-1 and all I could do was stare at it blankly, wondering what it could possibly mean. 

Only one bit of information in the text solicited any kind of response in me: Thomas Vanek made it to 40 goals. Initially, I took this as a very small victory in a mostly painfully unremarkable season. Last season, even though it saw Sabres hockey and Sabres fans come crashing back to earth, there were still a number of positives to take away. I think back to my upgrade/downgrade ratings of last spring, and how I gushed about Pominville, Hecht and Spacek, and it seems all so foreign. Now, either I've grown bitter or the team has grown insufferable, but either way, I'm sure if (maybe when?) I replicate that exercise for this season there won't be half as many upgrade labels. And as I pondered the text message further, even Thomas Vanek, who was one of the brightest spots from the very beginning of the season, getting 40 goals isn't that great. Sure, he probably would have made more if he hadn't been injured, but as it stands that's only four more than his total last year, when he was downright brutal until the All-Star Game. Not meaning that I'm at all unhappy with his performance this season (hell, I didn't even see half of it), but I think it really puts this season into perspective that these are the types of positives that we have to hang on to.

By the way, as I'm typing this, it's 11:53 PM, so I totally made my resolution this week.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Waiting By The Phone

I got a call from the Minnesota Wild today.

Well, to be more specific, I got a prerecorded message from Wild owner Craig Leipold and Wild left winger (and certified cutie) Andrew Brunette, thanking me for being such a loyal fan, such a dedicated member of the Team of 18,000, and for making Xcel Energy Center the best arena in the NHL.

As you may have guessed from this blog, I am not, in fact, a loyal fan of the Wild. (You may have also guessed from this blog that I'm not a very loyal fan of the Sabres, either, and, well, I guess I can't blame you.) In fact, I'm guessing the only reason the Wild even have my phone number is because I bought tickets earlier this season to cheer their opponents (some guys in blue and gold...? It's been so long, I can't really remember) on to victory, much to the disappointment of their Team of 18,000. But Craig and Andrew didn't seem to care. Even though I'm pretty sure they were ultimately trying to sell me something (there was a mention of some Fan Week activity or another), they were practically falling all over themselves to tell me how great I was. And, even though I don't consider myself a member of their Team of 18,000, I really appreciated the thought.

But it makes me wonder when the call from B. Tom and our very own (newly) certified cutie left winger, Thomas Vanek, is coming. Surely they know what a loyal and dedicated fan I am, even if I haven't bought a ticket to HSBC this season, right?

(By the way, it's come to my attention that the Sabres are playing the Caps tonight. I had been waiting for this matchup for a long time, planning to finally let loose with the reasons I can't stand Alex Ovechkin, but it's been a long week, and I really don't have the spare energy neccessary to get my blood boiling. Once again, however, I find myself blessed with a Friday night free from rehearsal, so maybe watching the game will be enough to reinvigorate my loathing. If not, I'm sure my Caps-fan friend will be able to get the job done with some good old-fashioned trashtalk. In the meantime, rest assured that I have reasons, and that they are good ones.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Don't Screw This Up

Once again, it's Friday. Per the theatre department's promise I've had rehearsal all week, and was counting on having it tonight, too, until my directors informed me last night that I wasn't among the people called. That was a huge delight. Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying myself at rehearsal - this show is nothing like the soul-sucking curse of an affair that was the last one - but fun or no, three hours a night is draining, especially on a Friday. So what am I doing with my unexpected evening of freedom?

Well, I think it's about time I gave the Sabres a chance again.

Now, it's not like I actually think they deserve my attention again, and I'm fully expecting to not enjoy what I see tonight, but strangely enough... I've missed them. Once upon a time (or at least what feels like once upon a time) I loved hockey, and maybe the Sabres can prove to me that that's a sport they can still play. In any case, I can't very well be disappointed in them for being bad if I don't make the effort to see just how bad they are, can I? Seems like tonight's the night. They're coming off a cathartic, albeit likely meaningless, win against the Panthers, Ryan Miller is back, and they're playing one of the few teams left in the conference that's actually below them in the standings. Realistically, I know this team has consistently found new and creative ways to turn expectations into disaster, but tonight I feel like betting against the odds.

I'm giving you my precious, precious free time tonight, Sabres. Don't screw this up.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blowing It

It's Friday. I haven't posted in almost exactly two weeks. Less than three months in, and there goes my resolution. Well, I can't say I didn't make it longer than I thought I would.

But here's the thing: I'm not the only one who's blowing it. Three weeks removed from Miller's injury, the Sabres are five points removed from a playoff spot, and the outlook is suffocatingly bleak. All across Buffalo, fans are reacting accordingly. Even the most levelheaded are begging for the team to be blown up. Even the most steadfast are either prematurely switching off the games, or preemptively not tuning in in the first place. I don't mean this to be insulting to Buffalonians, but we've put up with some pretty crappy sports teams in our day, so if we're whining this much, it has to be bad. Hell, it's been bad enough to finally erode the teflon coating of Lindy Ruff's job security. That's bad.

To be honest, when I first made this resolution, I wasn't really being realistic about what this year had in store for me. Sure, I knew I'd be in rehearsal most nights, especially in the second half of the semester. I knew I was going to want to spend time with my friends, and that watching hockey wasn't really their idea of a good time. I knew that illegally obtaining out-of-market games through the internet is unreliable and unpredictable. So I expected that it was going to be challenging to keep up with the Sabres. What I didn't expect, was that I wouldn't even want to make the effort to try to keep up with the Sabres. If you'll notice, the above discussion of how bad the Sabres are is shaped exclusively by internet hearsay. The fact is I haven't seen a game in I can't remember how long, so I have no idea exactly how bad they've been. I just know it's bad.

Don't get me wrong, I still love hockey. I still keep up with my daily blog rounds; I still use every opportunity to bitch about Alex Ovechkin with my Caps-fan friend that I get; I still fill at least some part of every call home with hockey talk. I'm just not that interested in watching the Sabres anymore, and that isn't always because of time issues. Right now, for instance, I'm on spring break, which means no rehearsal. I have plans with friends, but not until later. I could totally be watching the Sabres play the Flyers right now. But instead I'm writing this blog post and doing some homework. (Homework! On spring break!) I'm not in a place to analyze this at the moment, but for whatever reason, I'm perfectly content to get all my Sabres knowledge second hand right now. And with the way the team has (reportedly) been playing, I don't see a need for that to be changing anytime soon.

Still, I'm not going to give up that easily. I may be totally out of the loop, I may be totally disinterested in getting back in the loop, but I'll still be here every week, churning out some sort of blather, pertinent or (more likely) not. I may be blowing it, but there's time to turn it around. If only I could say the same for the Sabres.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Uh oh. It's Saturday, isn't it?

End of the week! Quick, post something!

Uh... the last time I got to watch a full Sabres game (stupid theatre), Tim Connolly was still injured. So when I heard the news that he'd re-signed for 2 years $9 mil, I almost spewed Kix all over my keyboard. But apparently he's worth this money? Go figure.

Well. I'm pretty sure that's all I got. 

Until next week!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Now More Than Ever

Predictably, I didn't get to see the game on Saturday night, but rest assured that the blogosphere has let me know all about it. Outrage is typically pretty prolific. To be honest, after all the bellyaching I've been reading over the past couple of days about how soft this game showed the Sabres to be, I was surprised when I finally took a look at the game highlights, which I'm kind of ashamed to admit I didn't do until just now. From the way the situation has been painted by a lot of people, I was expecting to see a timid and tentative team backing away from a Ranger onslaught for fear of getting roughed up or called for a penalty. I'll admit, in the moment after the hit behind the net there was nothing I wanted to see more than someone coming up to grab a hold of Gomez and maybe punch him in the face once or twice, but my disappointment doesn't extend much beyond that.  Don't get me wrong, I certainly get why people are calling the team soft, I just don't understand why it's worth getting so worked up over. It's not like the they frittered away a three goal lead and a chance to move up in the standings because they're soft. In fact, it's clear the Sabres kept their focus, and while they didn't start a brawl, they didn't completely fold, despite the fact that they'd just watched their star goaltender hobble off the ice. I think they deserve some credit for that, considering how easy it could have been to panic, let alone how prone to distraction we've known this team to be. 

As far as failing to send a message goes, I'm not particularly outraged. I loved the Ottawa brawl as much as anyone, but that was a completely different scenario standings-wise, and while it's true that starting something wouldn't have necessarily meant a loss, it's also true that it definitely wouldn't have brought Miller back. So why risk the game and the season with penalties and suspensions? To send a message that you can't rough up our goalie and get away with it? Everyone knows the Sabres let that ship sail a long time ago, and I doubt punching in Gomez's teeth really would have made future opponents think twice about getting in our crease. That's obviously a big problem in and of itself, but I think it's too little too late at this point to bother getting so het up about. Also, I'm particularly averse to the argument of "It was dumb to retaliate at the time, and risk a 5-on-3, but why not later when the lead was secure?" If you have to pencil in obligatory message-sending time, doesn't that make it a fundamentally perfunctory and hollow gesture? Instead of honorably standing up for your teammate, you end up being a bully. As much as I enjoy the odd scuffle born out of passion, that kind of eye-for-an-eye bloodlust doesn't do it for me, and I'm puzzled by all the fans who apparently think it's a crisis and an indication of the team's gutlessness that they failed to participate in that theatre. Personally, I'd much rather hit the Rangers where it counts and where it hurts: on the scoreboard and in the standings.

All in all, I agree with Kate: we and the Sabres have bigger things to worry about. Like playing the Ducks tonight. Talk about a litmus test for how soft we are. Anaheim isn't the Stanley Cup team they used to be, but they're still pretty pushy, undisciplined douches, and in light of that I want to remind all the Sabres of this helpful diagram:

This still goes double for you, Tim Connolly.

Let's not let this woulda shoulda coulda retaliation debate obscure the real crisis here: Thomas Vanek is out, Ryan Miller is out, and we need healthy bodies. Now more than ever.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Place Holder

It's been a busy week. I sort of had to scramble to come up with something to fill my exhausting weekly quota of one whole post, but then I remembered this post about the Hockey Hall of Fame that I started more than a month ago and then abandoned. I don't have time to give it a full write-up (overall, thumbs up!), but please enjoy some clips of what was definitely my favorite part. My brother and I had tons of fun calling different plays in the HHoF makeshift broadcast booth. Here are the highlights of our highlights:


video

My reenactment of a Mike Lange call.


video

My tribute to Alex Ovechkin's famous, unparalleled passion for hockey. 

(Excuse my lack of diction [bad actor!], the lyrics are "And I will be the one to hold the sport of hockey down...")


video

Rick Nash is cool as a cucumber.


video

Marty Brodeur is batty as a bat.

(Once again, excuse the giggles, we were feeling super loopy by this point.)


Maybe next week I'll be able to get back to writing about actual current hockey, although the text I just got from my mom suggests I might not want to. Apparently Jeremy White on WGR has started calling Hecht the new Dmitri Kalinin. Great. Clearly Yo-Yo has stopped accepting my letters.