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.
Archive for January, 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.
You make the call.
This is what not having hockey does to a person.
– 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:
I wish I could post the actual picture, but doing so has been throwing the formatting of the blog off.
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.
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.