Archive for April, 2011

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The End of the Road

April 29, 2011

What am I going to remember most about this Sabres season? Here are a few thoughts in no particular order…

- The horrible, horrible first half of the season. The team was a cellar dweller just after the new year, but somehow managed to charge to a respectable 7th in the conference. I still have no idea what caused the come to jesus turnaround, but I’m pleased with how the regular season ended up.

- That Rob Niedermayer took for-freaking-ever to score a goal.

- That Rob Neidermayer played a few games for the Sabres this year. How no one, including Niedermayer himself, realized that his sweater contained a misspelling is a mystery to me.

- The end of the Craig Rivet captaincy. Giving Gaustad/Pominville/Vanek/Hecht the A after he left could have led to a potentially hilarious moment had the Sabres won the cup this year. How would they have decided who got to take the Cup from Bettman? Would there have been a gentlemanly discussion beforehand? A coin flip? A rock-paper-scissors battle? A slap fight? I know the captaincy situation will most likely be resolved by the start of next season, but it still was an interesting problem to have. I’d love to see Goose wearing the C next year, but wouldn’t mind if it was Vanek.

- Connolly’s surprising play on the penalty kill. I didn’t know he had it in him.

- That Nathan Gerbe appeared to find his swagger around February or so and proved that he deserved to be in Buffalo and not in Portland. Somewhere along the way he turned from “why is he here, again?” to “hey, look at that little fun-sized guy taking on Chara.” Gerbe’s persistent tenacity endeared him to a lot of people, me included. I also enjoyed his surprising chemistry with Gaustad. They seriously are the team’s odd couple on the ice, aren’t they?

- This Patrick Kaleta fight.

I was at that game and remember how insanely loud the crowd got. Good times.

- How injury prone Kaleta is. I swear, the guy can’t sneeze without ending up on the 15-day disabled list, to borrow a baseball term. And for some reason, I really do not believe that Kaleta broke his hand blocking a shot in Game 6. I can’t exactly pinpoint why I believe the “he allegedly punched a wall” story more, but I do. I really hope that he just rests and heals this offseason and comes back next year with a new outlook on how to play his game but protect his body more.

- How hilarious a pissed off Ryan Miller is. I’m not talking about the whiny, pissed off Ryan Miller that usually appears when he gets a bad call on the ice, but the ornery, pissed off Ryan Miller that takes swings and slaps at people that come too far into his crease. Since it seems like Miller is left to his own devices entirely all too often, it’s interesting to see just how much Miller’s feathers have to get ruffled before he snaps.

- And speaking of snapping, Miller’s rant/tantrum/shitfit towards John Vogl this year was a thing of beauty. I’m pretty sure no reporter will ever ask Miller “are you ok” ever again.

- Connolly leaving the arena on locker cleanout day without talking to the media. I know Connolly hasn’t always been the warmest and fuzziest interview out there, but it doesn’t say too much about him that he fled without at least making a perfunctory appearance in front of the media. Sure, he was hurt and probably didn’t have much to say, but it’s still a cowardly move in my opinion. Just smile and nod and say all the things you should say and then you can go hide in the corner. It’s not that hard!

- That Enroth proved his worth as a perfectly cromulent backup goaltender while Miller was resting after his temper tantrum and late-season concussion. I know Enroth’s success signaled the end of the Lalime era as backup goalie, but it will be nice to see Miller get a night or two off next year and not have to joke that Miller’s night off means an automatic check in the L column.

- That Patrick Lalime and his giant bear hugs/on ice dances will not be a part of the Sabres next year. That makes me sad, even though I know that his presence on the roster means that Miller has to work harder and wears down faster.

- That I had “Somebody’s Getting Married” from “Muppets Take Manhattan” running through my head after news of Ryan Miller’s engagement leaked out in December. I also remember Miller’s utter shock that the news of his engagement had broken so quickly. Uh, Crunchy, in case you didn’t get the memo, Buffalo is the biggest small town you’ll ever see. Everyone knows someone that knows someone that knows somebody else’s business. You should know that by now.

- The start of the Pegula era. The ownership change was the equivalent of opening up the windows on that first nice spring day and airing out a dark, musty apartment. Pegula brought a sense of optimism and hope to both the organization and the fans. It was good to see him geek out like a fan over seeing Gil Perreault in the audience. You can tell that Pegula is 100% committed to building a team that will win the Stanley Cup.

- Rick Martin’s passing. I feel like this event demonstrated just what it means to be a Buffalonian. While Martin may not have originally been from buffalo, he did settle in and make this community his. He’s what I think of when I hear “lifetime Buffalo Sabre.”

- That some of the players chose to honor Martin by wearing ‘staches & chops during the playoffs. While I admit that some players (Miller, Stafford) pulled off the look better than others (Gerbe), it was a fitting tribute to a team legend (and in some cases, a way to shake up the playoff juju).

- That Nathan Gerbe isn’t going to spend his off-season loafing around or being completely skeezy. He will be going back to class at Boston College and working towards completing his degree. The internet tells me that Gerbe was a Communications major at BC. I’m kind of geeked out that he’s a fellow member of the “communications majors at Jesuit colleges” club. (We have t-shirts and everything.) I know that a lot of players leave school early to focus on their pro careers, so it makes me happy when I hear that someone is going back to school. It’s like they’ve had the realization that hockey careers don’t last forever, so it might be good to finish that college degree. Good luck to little Gerbe.

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Wow.

April 21, 2011

Creative title, right? But still it pretty much sums up my feelings regarding the past 48 hours in Sabre Nation. It’s been a wild & crazy ride so far, hasn’t it?

- If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know I’m a huge fan of The West Wing. There’s a line from the show about how victories are sweetened and defeats are softened because they were done together by a team. Last night’s win was that sweet victory that was a result of total team effort. Miller played an outstanding game in net, coming up big when needed. Kaleta was his usual punchy, twerpy self. Gaustad was solid on faceoffs again. Connolly was a dependable penalty killer. Gerbe was a tempest in a very small teapot. Myers was a beast on defense and Pommers scored the lone goal. I’d call that a good, balanced team effort.

- The Sabres have definitely stepped up their game in the video presentation department. The playoff open is incredibly well done. Excellent work to link the 16 end of the regular season wins with the 16 wins needed to win the Cup. I’ll admit that I hadn’t made that connection at all. And I also hadn’t noticed that win number 7 came on the day that Rick Martin passed. The music is also perfectly paced and works well with the hockey footage. Bravo, Sabres staff, bravo.

- While I could write an entire post about how the Sabres skaters too often appear to be looking for that “perfect” shot rather than just taking the shot that’s available to them, I won’t. There’s far better writers out there that are able to be much more eloquent than I would be about the topic. However, the power play needs to stop being a neverending bunch of passes that ultimately culminates in a blocked shot. We know slapshots haven’t worked. Try a wrister or a lucky bounce. Don’t just hoopedty-do around in the zone looking for that perfect pass. Take the shot and roll with it.

- Where the heck has Rob Niedermayer come from? He’s been a solid presence in each of the games so far. I’m fairly confident that he would have had a goal last night, but again, he skated too far in on the goalie and was left with no room to shoot. If he just would have whoa’d up, he would have been fine. I almost want to tell these guys to stop thinking and just do, but that might open up a whole new box of problems. So maybe the Sabres should stop thinking so much and just do. That might work.

- I love that the Mustaches for Martin effort has gotten national attention. And it might just be me, but Stafford and Miller actually look fairly decent. I know it’s not the traditional playoff beard, but it is a fitting tribute. Also, and maybe I’m reading more into it than I should, but Miller’s participation appears to be a late addition. He was fully bearded after Game 3, and then came out for Game 4 freshly shorn. Is he trying to shake up the juju?

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Dear Sabres – Game 2 Edition

April 16, 2011

Dear Sabres,

Stop taking stupid penalties. I mean it. It is easier to play hockey with five skaters, not four. You had six penalties in the second period alone. When you take penalties, you keep your scorers off the ice. As much as I adore a good penalty kill, I do not adore having six penalty kill attempts in one period. Please keep that in mind on Monday.

Frustratingly yours,

- Shots Off the Crossbar

*~*~*~*

Dear Goose,

Your straight arm of Danny Briere in the first period was a thing of beauty. You became the talk of Twitter and I’m pretty sure you made Buffalo smile. Your ass kicking of Hartnall also was admirable. You beat the snot spewing grin right off his face. And you didn’t break your hand on his hard head. Kudos to that.

Honkingly honky honk,

- Shots Off the Crossbar

*~*~*~*

Dear Nathan Gerbe,

Outstanding work in body-slamming Claude Giroux. Way to show him that just because you are fun-sized doesn’t mean you’re a pushover.

Your fellow height-challenged person,

-Shots Off the Crossbar

*~*~*~*

Dear Andrej Sekera,

I was quite worried about you when Mike Richards came and poked you in the face while you were writhing on the ice in what appeared to be “man pain.” He broke all rules of good sportmanship by doing so. But I should expect nothing less from a Flyer.

Way to suck it up and come back on the ice.

Respectfully yours,

Shots Off the Crossbar

*~*~*~*

Dear Crunchy,

What. The. Hell? Was tonight’s game needed to average out your outstanding performance in Game 1? While I will admit that you did have some great saves tonight, there were quite a few moments when I wondered what was going through your head. I’m also surprised that Lindy didn’t park your rump on the bench for the third period. Not only would a benching have sparked the team, but also prevented you from getting killed by an overzealous Flyer.You did take quite a few checks, whacks and smacks tonight.

On the plus side, I did enjoy your yammering at Mike Richards after he poked at a wounded Sekera. I’m sure you had a pithy, witty and well-though out retort to his actions. I would expect nothing less from you.

Get some sleep and come back strong for Game 3.

Respectfully yours,

Shots Off the Crossbar

*~*~*~*

Dear Tyler Myers,

Stop pushing players into your goalie! It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, and 99% of the time, it will be your goalie that gets hurt. Do we understand each other? Good.

Thanks,

Shots Off the Crossbar

*~*~*~*

Dear Internet Gods,

Please take pity on the poor reporters and let them have at least one game with a dependable internet connection. I know that asking for constant connectivity is a wild and crazy request, but the role of the reporter in the 21st century requires the use of the internet. I missed reading Sabres Edge this game and want it back for Game 3.

Sincerely,

Shots Off the Crossbar

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You Know…

April 13, 2011

- If Miller was THIS EXCITED about just making the playoffs, can you imagine how freaking excited he’s going to be once this team actually WINS something in the playoffs?

- The fake Butler & Stafford Twitter accounts that were set up within the past 72 hours are just completely repulsive and taking things way too far. Parody or satire accounts are one thing, impersonation and cruel/inappropriate/disgusting remarks are not. Shame on whomever pulled that stunt.

- If you haven’t read ESPN’s list of the 75 reasons the playoffs are great, please go and do so right now. Nice work by all involved in capturing why this sport is so great at this time of year.

- In case you’re wondering, in Round 1, I’m pulling for the following teams: Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Rangers, Coyotes, Ducks, Canucks and Sharks. Regardless of who wins each series, I hope that we have some good, clean, exciting hockey to look forward to with no to minimal shenanigans by the players or the fans.

Go Sabres!

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Doing Some Penance

April 10, 2011

In December, I wrote about my new Sabres toaster. At that point, I had stuck the literal fork in the Sabres playoff chances. It was right after Derek Roy’s season-ending injury was announced and the team was finding new and different ways to consistently be terrible. It was not a good time to be a Sabres fan.  However, at the end of my post, I also made the note that if by some small miracle the team did make the playoffs, that I would eat my words.

Well, this morning, I did eat my words. I had a piece of toast and acknowledged that I was wrong and the fork was prematurely stuck in the Sabres playoff chances.

I can’t wait for the playoffs to start. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and there’s the smell of springtime in the air. It’s perfect playoff weather. I feel much more optimistic about this year’s playoff success than I did last year’s. We have two excellent goalies on the roster, a scoring line that is finally clicking, a surprising 3rd line combination in Gerbe/Gaustad/Mancari and a somewhat solid defense (provided one overlooks those rare lapses).

Is it Thursday yet?

Let’s Go Buffalo!

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