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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Letter of Encouragement and then (in case that doesn't work) Pleading

Dear Jochen Hecht,

I'm writing you this letter to make sure you're aware that the time is ripe for you to be good at hockey again.

A perusal of my blogroll tells me that in light of Vanek's busted face, the Buffalo public has quickly reached two conclusions: 1) Pominville really needs to step up, and 2) you replacing Vanek on Connolly's line is the worst joke since that one about how the difference between a Furby and an elephant is that a Furby doesn't look like an elephant. (True story: I have been told this joke.) But I think they're looking at it all wrong.

First of all, remember that time two seasons ago when Briere was out with the flu and Drury was out with scrambled brains, and you led a sundry group of Buffachester Saberks to a 6-1 victory over the Leafs in Toronto? Or especially the first half of last season when Vanek was playing like a negative ten million dollar man, and you were well on your way to your career-high 22 goals already? Clearly stepping up to replace missing or failing stars is your thing. Dare I say your bread and butter?

Furthermore, this is a great chance for you to continue the grand German tradition of stealing Austria's thunder. Its long history starts in the realm sports, where the Austrians are so used to getting pummeled by you that they're still clinging to a mostly meaningless victory that happened over 30 years ago (unfortunately the Wikipedia article is only in German, but take my word for it), but extends to the point where you frequently get international credit for essentially Austrian things like Wiener Schnitzel and Mozart. You know that national anthem you sing? Originally written by an Austrian. But it hasn't been all bad. You let them keep Falco. And Arnold Schwarzenegger. So there's no reason you shouldn't take the Thomas Vanek glory from them, too, now that you have the chance. I believe in you.

So there's your encouragement. Now comes the pleading.

Please, please, please, Yo-Yo, get good at hockey again. Ever since the beginning of the season, there's been a steadily growing rumble about how you're not worth what we're paying you, and how, in a roster full of underachieving forwards, you're the one with a reputation intact enough to actually get a decent return. And now that the trade deadline is approaching, it's starting to make me sweat a little. I don't think I'll be able to deal with you showing up in trade rumors or (gulp!) actually being traded. At all. And as much as I think it would be very stupid to trade you, as much as I believe that Darcy is smart enough not to, that line of thought still makes just enough sense for it to be a dangerous possibility. So, I'm begging you. Put my mind at rest. Play better. Stick around. For me. 

And for my readers, because, let's be honest, no one's going to want to read a post a week of solid sobbing for the rest of the year.

Go get 'em!
Gambler

Friday, February 6, 2009

Blacked Out

I may have mentioned this before, but I'm currently studying to get degrees in both German Studies and Theatre at a small college in Saint Paul, MN, and in case you were wondering, the life of a German and Theatre double major is a largely hockeyless one. 

It's like they've deliberately teamed up in order to deprive me of my favorite hobby and second-favorite hobby (watching and blogging about hockey, in case that wasn't clear), two seasons in a row. Last year it was my German major that forced me out of the country, forced me to rely on fickle internet connections and a weakened sleep schedule in order to even get a glimpse of my team. If you'll remember, the long months of separation eventually drove me into the arms of another sport. This year the Theatre major is picking up on that slack. I've just been cast in a show set to open at the end of the semester, and it's going to be eating up all of my prime hockey time. Between now and mid-March I'll need to attend two rehearsals a week, and from then until the beginning of May it will be four nights a week. Add in the fact that I have a night class, and that's 3 to 5 nights a week spent not watching hockey until at least mid-playoffs. Ouch. Since I don't have a TiVo (hell, I don't even have a TV set), I have no recourse but to sit back and let the hockey happen around me, deaf and blind to it all.

The timing pretty much tells the whole story of my relationship to my two majors. Whereas my German major turned out to be trying to save me (as it tries to save me in a lot of situations, mostly from going insane) from watching the end of an eventual 10-game losing streak and an unspectacular push to almost make the playoffs, my Theatre major is (as per usual) trying to ruin my life. The Sabres look like they're finally pulling their shit together, and all of the sudden my Theatre major needs my undivided attention? That can't be a coincidence. Sure, for a while there we were a heartbeat away from starting a traffic cone on defense, and the situation hasn't gotten that much brighter, but Ryan Miller has been, in the words of Marshawn Lynch, "too solid... way too solid," Thomas Vanek has continued to dazzle, and even Drew Stafford, for God's sake, has woken up and started devouring brains like it's going out of style. This team, for the first time since the beginning of the season, seems capable of (and maybe even destined to?) make the playoffs, and this is when I have to stop watching? I call bullshit, Theatre major.

I'd love to say more, and hell, maybe even watch some of the game that's starting right now, but--you guessed it--I have to get to the theater.

P.S. Just to be clear, this isn't to say that I plan on slacking on my resolution to post at least once a week, but perhaps you'll understand if my posts start to contain little more than hearsay and speculation, mixed with a large portion of complaining?