Archive for January, 2008

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Three!

January 31, 2008

Has a three game winning streak ever felt this good? With their two victories since the All-Star break, the Sabres have vaulted into 10th place in the playoff chase, just two points out of the final spot. Not bad for a team that started Tuesday’s game mired in 13th, 8 points out. I really think that this speaks to the competitiveness of the Eastern Conference, that teams are changing positions so rapidly. For example, look what happened to the Devils: one loss, and they went from leading their division and second in the conference all the way down to sixth. I know that I have an Eastern Conference bias, but it seems like for the past few years the East has had the mad scramble to make the playoffs. The Western Conference is usually sown up earlier, leaving us Eastern folk to provide some drama. Looks like this year will be no different.

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Hockey Makes It All Better

January 30, 2008

I had an absolutely horrible day at work yesterday. I was either thrown under the bus or had to throw myself under the bus several times because of things that happened. As an aside, my work has a weird thing about buses; we’re either throwing people under them or using someone getting hit by a bus as an excuse for training. We’re odd like that.

So after a day of hell, it had to get better, right? I came home, made a lovely dinner, and sat down with a nice cold Blue Moon to watch the Sabres / Lightning game on Versus HD. And it did get better! Last night’s game had to be the most complete 60 minutes of hockey I’ve seen from the team. The Pominville / MacArthur / Hecht line was really on their game last night. Miller played pretty well, despite letting in two wonky goals.

I also want to give a hearty HONK to Goose for playing over 14 minutes last night despite suffering from the flu. I know when I have the flu, moving from bed to couch is an effort. Never mind playing 14 minutes of physical hockey.

Pat Kaleta, as one of my old teachers would put it, is a snot nosed punk. He got called on one roughing penalty and later completely ignored the Tampa player who dropped his gloves and wanted to fight. If he learns how to harness some of that snot nosed punk-ness, he could be a pretty good agitator, ala Matthew Barnaby.

I read on Yahoo this morning that Ray Emery is going to be fined for being late to practice on Monday. He could be fined up to $14,000, as that is 1/187th of his salary, the maximum fine allowed by the NHLPA. I’d like to know who at the NHLPA came up with that number, since its totally random. While Emery’s excuse might be legit (he thought practice was at the arena, and not a practice facility), in light of all of Ray’s previous doings, a fine might be justified in this situation.

Moving on, its pretty nasty outside. Schools closed left and right, making this commentary from yesterday’s Buffalo News oddly prophetic. This quote is probably my favorite part of the whole piece:

Kids who otherwise couldn’t alphabetize a list of words if their lives depended on it know from kindergarten that “Frontier” usually comes right after “Fredonia” on the list of school closings. And the main reason most children in Western New York know the word “parochial” is from hearing “All Buffalo public and parochial schools are closed today.”

Its so true. I remember as a little kid, listening to WBEN, waiting to hear those magic words about the Buffalo public and parochial schools. I do remember those few odd days where public schools were closed, but parochials were open, meaning I had to go to school. Sadly, the days of the “public and parochial school” announcements are coming to an end, as each parochial school calls in their own closings. Listening to the closing list is sometimes like listening to a litany in church with all the St. This and Our Lady That schools that are mentioned.

When I got to high school, I actually had to have the name of my school announced, but after awhile, I got pretty good at predicting when we would be closed. Since I went to Catholic high school, and the majority of kids were bused in from the ‘burbs, if any combination of Amherst/Williamsville/Grand Island/Kenmore closed, we would not have class, since kids from those districts would not have a bus to get to school. If Buffalo closed, we would be shut down since the school was located in Buffalo.

I wish I was still a kid again. Snow days rarely happen when you’re a grown-up.

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Separated at Birth?

January 29, 2008

Soupy

Youppi

You make the call.

This is what not having hockey does to a person.

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Is There Real Hockey Yet?

January 28, 2008

- During last night’s ASG, I was hanging out at IPB, and one of the topics that came up was Buffalo hosting a future ASG. The group pretty much agreed that the city has a snowball’s chance in hell of that ever happening, since our city doesn’t have enough swanky hotels, restaurants and cultural attractions for the people that require swanky hotels, restaurants and cultural attractions. (I don’t want to see the fights that would break out over who would get to stay at The Mansion and who would be relegated to the Hyatt or a No-Tell Motel. )

However, in reading the Buffalo News site this morning, Bucky writes that Buffalo is on the list of contenders to hold the World Junior Championships in 2011. The tournament has been awarded to the USA, but USA Hockey needs to make the final decision on who the host city would be. Bucky rationalizes that the city’s proximity to Canada, plus having satellite sites in Rochester and Jamestown, make the area a natural fit.

Buffalo can put on a show, as we just proved with the Ice Bowl. If your looking for tournament credibility, check out what Buffalo’s done for the NCAA Basketball tourney and The Frozen Four. (I only remember the Frozen Four because some kid named Vanek was the star of the show. Wonder what happened to him?)

- Continuing with the Bucky writings, he gives Bettman a written BJ. All that aside, Bucky does bring up an interesting idea to make the All-Star game more relevant: put a prize on the table, a cool couple million. Winning team takes all. Losing team gets nothing but the swag they picked up over the weekend. It might give players an additional incentive to stay on the All-Star roster, and would make the game have some meaning. If the NHL doesn’t want to pony up the cash, then give the winning team’s conference home ice advantage in that year’s SC Finals.

- Surprisingly enough, Bucky only mentions Soupy’s contract in his blog, not in the actual paper itself. And there’s nothing new to add, nothing that no one with half a brain couldn’t figure out.

- Am I the only person who didn’t know the All-Star uniform pants were worn over the player’s regular team uniform pants? See here for an example.

- Flipping channels last night, I stumbled across Snoop Dog’s reality show on E! Its not my cup of tea, but what made me stop and watch was Snoop and his kids on ice with the Anaheim Ducks. It was pretty hilarious watching Snoop try to skate and Getzlaf encourage him (I think this show kind of cemented my Getzi-phiphany, which started with the Home Depot commercial of him just jammed in the back of an SUV. He really was quite adorable with Snoop, though the camera did get a rather unfortunate look at his bald spot.) The only other Duck mentioned by name on camera was Pronger, talking to Snoop about the penalty box. Even though he wasn’t called out by name, I did see Baby Crunchy floating around in the background. I guess this is another thing he can lord over his brother.

- Poking around on one of the message boards this weekend, it looks like Crunchy has a new mask. Its a similar design, but there’s more blue in it than before. And, the back of the mask features a halo over the bulldog representing his cousin Matt. Aww.

- Not hockey related, but New Kids on the Block are getting back together. It will be interesting to see how they sound after so many years of being apart. Will they try to be that cutesy boy band (like the Backstreet Boys were when they reunited), or will they sound a little more grown-up (like Hanson has managed)?

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All-Star Mishmash

January 26, 2008

- For those lucky few named to the All-Star squads, its four days of hockey related fun and frolic. For those luckier players not named All-Stars, its a chance to be away from hockey for four whole days. Its also a chance to reflect on the games already played and look ahead to a playoff push or a high draft pick push.

The Sabres have definitely been an up-and-down team this year. Lately, they’ve had more ups that downs, more un-dependable players than dependable players and less bounces going their way. I still think they have an outside chance at making the playoffs, but there needs to be a serious amount of removing heads from sphincters if they want to have a chance of making it.

- Speaking of removing heads from sphincters, this gem came from Jerry Sullivan’s blog today:

But it amazes me sometimes how little some people understand about the sports writer’s role. Heck, a lot of athletes don’t get it, either. I’m told one of the Sabres actually thought the reporters would get their names on the Stanley Cup if the Sabres actually won it all.

Now I don’t know if its a current or former Sabre that said this, but shouldn’t a hockey player have a pretty decent idea about who gets to be on the Cup? Or even that Cup names are usually limited to people that work for the team, not journalists that do not work for the team? Maybe the player was mixing up PR people and journalists, I don’t know. Its just very bizarre.

- I’ve been watching the Skills competition. There’s been a few good moments: Pronger’s delicious face plant, Jarome Iginla almost killing Corey Perry, Getzi and Ovechkin’s performances in the shootout exhibition, just to name a few. The only complaint is that the same 8-9 players are participating in the events. I get it, they’re the name players, but its got to be pretty boring for someone like Campbell to compete in the first event and then be out for the rest of the night.

- I was poking around on different corners of the internet, and stumbled across a Canadian article about what the Sundin would be worth to the Leafs in a trade. The reporter posed the question to a bunch of different former GM’s around the league. One of them suggested that Sundin would be a good fit for the Ducks. The Leafs would then get the Ducks first round pick in 08, next year’s first round pick AND Drew Miller. Why is Miller so important here? The rationale being that Baby Miller in Toronto could be used to lure Ryan Miller up to the Leafs when his contract expires at the end of 08-09.

Scuse me, while I try and stop laughing. I really can’t see Miller going to Toronto. First, the Buffalo fans would totally melt down. Second, I don’t know if he has the mental fortitude to be playing in the media fishbowl that is Toronto. When your own family expects you to melt down after your baby brother wins a Cup before you, the Toronto environment might not be your cup of tea. Third, if Miller bolts anywhere, I could see him bolting to Detroit. He would be able to play for his “hometown” team. (I know Detroit currently has Osgood, and spent boatloads of money developing their next goalie, but stranger things have happened in this NHL). Some of the other scenarios provided for Sundin are pretty out there, including shipping Sundin to the Devils. Something tells me Mats would not fit in with Lou’s vision of an orchestra.

- This has to be probably one of the nicest shots of Soupy I’ve seen in a while:

Soupy at ASG

I wish I could post the actual picture, but doing so has been throwing the formatting of the blog off.

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Semi-Live: Buffalo v. Dallas

January 25, 2008

I had no access to my computer last night, so my game notes were written the old-fashioned way: with a pen and paper. So please, keep that in mind as you read this. Now that I’m reading them over this morning, some of my spelling is atrocious. I’ve corrected my errors here, of course.

- Roby looked really uncomfortable during the pregame show with Paul Hamilton. I’m not sure if it was due to a lack of comfort factor with Paul, or just a lack of comfort with the hosting role in general. It make for some awkward moments, not including Paul’s Space Jame tie. Hee.

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Overrated or Underrated?

January 24, 2008

Heather at Top Shelf brought up Jerry Sullivan’s most overrated Sabre poll, where Ryan Miller currently leads the pack. I don’t think Miller should be the most overrated Sabre. Is he having a crappy season? Yes. But at the same time, he looked so good last year because he had a decent team in front of him. He could make that absolutely ridiculous save knowing that if he got out of position, someone would back him up. You’re not seeing that this year. Miller gets out of position, and his teammates are standing around with their thumbs up their bums watching. The entire team had career years last year. Miller’s just following the curve and adjusting.

Anyways, my pick for most overrated Sabre is Max Afinogenov. I won’t argue with you that he’s a good hockey player. He’s a strong skater and can leave most defenders standing still. But, he’s frustrating to watch sometimes. He’ll dipsey-doodle to no end, when there’s multiple shots or passing lanes available. He’s also mysterious off the ice, what with his lack of commentary about his head injury “playing soccer” in Russia (which is almost as good of an injury story as Patrick Carpentier’s, who broke his wrist “carrying luggage”), and refusal to discuss his life off the ice. I’m not saying the rest of his teammates are chatterboxes, but compared to Max, they’re open books. His scoring this year is down, he’s been off-and-on the injury list this year, and his salary of $3.5 million all make him the winner of Shots Off the Crossbar’s Most Overrated Sabre Award.

Also recieving votes: Tim Connolly and Brian Campbell

In the interest of fairness (I’m not always going to be throwing this team under a bus, no matter how much I want to), my pick for most underrated player is Danny Paille. He’s been a solid, dependable call-up from Rochester for the past two years. In his first year as a true Sabre (meaning he’s on a one way deal), he’s continued that solid, dependable play. He’s 10th on the team in scoring with 23 points, and his plus/minus is the highest on the team at 11. And, he’s doing all of this for a relatively cheap salary of $585,200. Granted, he is an RFA at the end of the year (along with Goose and C-Mac), so his price will probably increase, but it should only be a minimal increase. He won’t be getting a Vanek deal, that’s for sure. Now watch that happen and me have to eat my words.

Also receiving votes: Paul Gaustad and Adam Mair.

Moving on, according to John Vogl in this morning’s Buffalo News,

The Sabres will dress the usual crop of six blue-liners, but Ruff had made no decision on whether Paetsch or Nolan Pratt will sit.

The coach could have them redo the routine they conducted Wednesday. The Sabres were doing five-on-five drills, with the defensive combinations of Henrik Tallinder-Toni Lydman and Jaroslav Spacek- Brian Campbell getting the first shift. When it was time for the next pair, Dmitri Kalinin hopped over the boards sans partner.

Pratt and Paetsch looked at each other on the bench, took off a glove and played Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who practiced first. Pratt won.

Good way to do it at practice, but if that’s how its decided for the game, it will probably replace the Chris Drury / Scott Gomez puck flip as the most ridiculous off-ice moment this season. If I had a choice, I’d pick Pratt over Paetsch. Nothing against Patches, but I’ve seen more fire out of Pratt lately.

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Please Be Nice To Them

January 23, 2008

Oh sweet merciful crap. Jerry Sullivan writes in his blog that one of the Sabres players asked Sabres beat reporter John Vogl to write more positive stories to boost team morale. Those of you with tender sensibilities might not want to read the next sentence.

Are you fucking kidding me!!

The team wants the press to be nice to them? Have they not heard of a little thing called freedom of the press? The media can write whatever they want (within slander/libel laws, of course) since they are the media. They have no obligation to write anything “nice” just because a player asked them to. Not only that, the team hasn’t done anything worthy of “nice” coverage outside of the 10-1 win versus Nashville.

Now I really want to know which of the yahoos asked Vogl to write nicer stories, since they deserve a very, very hard slap upside the head. If the team is looking to build morale via the media’s coverage, they’re in even deeper trouble than we thought. I also thought that most professional athletes don’t read the sports stories just because of the potential for negativity. Its a whole turning a blind eye thing.

Based on Sullivan’s comment, why do I have a feeling that players will stop being friendly to the media if they don’t see “nice” coverage?

That’s right . This team makes me sad. And angry.

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Head, Meet Desk

January 23, 2008

Its one of those mornings over here at Shots Off The Crossbar.

- Versus and the NHL extended their TV contract. Way to keep the sport that’s currently the 4th out of the 4 major sports relegated to an obscure network. Remember all that pommerdoodling that happened when the Expletive Deleted Stupid Ice Bowl scored a 2 in the ratings? Well, be ready for more of that.

- Lindy gave his players the day off yesterday. The day off. No bag skate. No Herbies. Apparently, Lindy is not a regular reader of this blog, as how many of us advocated skating the team until their feet fell off or they came to Jeebus. He did take the blame for their recent failures, according to an article in this morning’s paper. I have to disagree with Lindy on this one. He’s not the one that’s got the skates strapped on and the stick in his hands. He’s not one of the 23 guys on the roster that can control what happens during a game. Until he is, he’s not (fully) responsible for what happens.

- This ESPN article gives a great explanation about high ankle sprains and how they’re different from regular ankle sprains. It seems like this is an injury that happens a lot in hockey, so its a good read to understand why they’re such a frustrating injury for players.

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I Agree With Rob Ray

January 21, 2008

Rayzor brought up during the postgame show that the team needs a good, old-fashioned ass-kicking bag skate tomorrow. You know, skate them till they drop. Make like Herb Brooks and have them do some Herbies. Something, anything to quench the apathy that appears to have shown up on the ice lately. (Except you Goose. You took one for the team today and scored a goal. Blood plus offense equals sitting on the bench with me when this happens. I even have snacks to share.)

I don’t get it. The team has shown little to no enthusiasm these past two games. What happened to the bunch of guys that beat the snot out of Atlanta Friday night? Did they get lost on the way to the airport? There’s one more game before the All-Star break. I’m really hoping the team pulls their heads out of their asses before the break, or its going to get ug-lay around here.

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