Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's Retrospective Time!

Yesterday may have been the worst day I've ever experienced as a Bills and Sabres fan in terms of combined disgust.

First comes the news of Coach "I lost the challenge flag" Jauron's continued employment. Then, we all get to witness that spectacular display of team apathy and heartlessness by the Sabres. I usually call upon Lindy after games like this to run them into the ground, but I don't think he can do much else with this bunch of divas.

As my father said this morning, I don't want Nate to go back to Portland, but maybe it's better so he doesn't learn bad habits from these players any more than he already has.

So....Now that the ranting is over, I am going to try to be the ray of sunshine after the multiple natural sports disasters that came last night.

My favorite part of New Year's Eve is the year-end, retrospective lists. Therefore, I have decided to combine my love of countdowns with my need for a pick-me-up.

I present you with My Favorite Buffalo Sports Moments of 2008:

10.) The Sabres Signings of Summer '08. Tim Kennedy. Chris Butler. Nate Gerbe. Danny Paille. Paul Gaustad. Jason Pominville. Ryan Miller. Patrick Lalime. Craig Rivet. After the previous summer and the departure of Brian Campbell in February, it was nice to see the Sabres adding people rather than letting people go. Each of these players has contributed to the team this season, some (Craig Rivet) more than others (Tim Kennedy). Some signings made me happy for personal reasons (Goose and Gerbe) while others made a strong statement to the entire NHL (Miller). All in all, it was nice to be happy every time I heard Darcy this summer rather than holding back tears like the year before.

9.) Craig Rivet's First Game at HSBC Arena. There were many nice things about the Sabres preseason victory over the Leafs. It was my little cousin's first NHL game, and I got to be the one to take her. We got to see the boys looking all spiffy in their suits on the red carpet. The Sabres pulled off another improbable comeback to force overtime and beat a heated rival, even if it was only in the preseason. The best thing about this game, however, was its status as Craig Rivet's coming out party. Rivet pounded Ryan Hollweg into oblivion for grazing Ryan Miller, and the entire crowd seemed to fall in love at first sight. That one act said volumes in the locker room as well, with Rivet finally ending the rotating captaincy by being named permanent leader.

8.) The Buffalo Bills Beat the San Diego Chargers 23-14 and Improve to 5-1. At the time, I thought that this game was our "statement game." Trent was recovering from being knocked out of the game against Arizona, the first loss of the season. Then, the Bills delivered this complete win over a team that, while struggling, still had a reputation as an AFC powerhouse. With the win, the team improved to an impressive 5-1 record, and that was the last time I felt really good about football in Buffalo in 2008.

7.) Pat Kane Wins Calder Trophy. It's always nice to see a hometown kid succeed, especially one who doesn't forget where he comes from. Moving from a little kid playing in rinks in South Buffalo and West Seneca to owning opponents from Carolina to Edmonton, Patrick Kane has become a household name in more places than Western New York. To see him recognized as the Rookie of the Year was a proud moment for anyone from WNY. It was especially touching when he thanked the people of Buffalo for supporting him because it showed that little Kaner really hasn't forgotten his roots. I can't wait to see even more big things from him in 2009 - as long as it's not against the Sabres, of course.

6.) The Two Sabres Comebacks Vs. the Lightning. In a season lacking special moments, these two games provided Sabres fans with something to cheer about. I was at the arena for the first of these two games, both led by hat tricks from Thomas Vanek. In a 4-3 OT victory, Vanek scored three consecutive goals to cap a furious late-game comeback, including his first two only 36 seconds apart at the end of the third period. The second comeback may be my favorite game of last season. Losing 4-1 going into the third, Paul Gausatd and Jason Pominville began a scoring avalanche that would produce 6 third period goals, including three by Vanek once again. Yes, I know it was against Tampa, but thinking about those two games still makes me smile, and on a day like today, smiling is certainly needed.

5.) The 2008 Bills Season Opener (Bills 34, Seahawks 10). Remember when the whole football world was at our fingertips and the AFC East seemed to be ours for the taking? Yeah, I barely do, too, but what a great feeling it was. Trent was the next Jim Kelly. We played smashmouth defense. We called trick plays. Tom Brady was hurt and then suddenly it was like the heavens opened up on One Bills Drive. I know that nothing can ease the pain that the rest of the season brought, but it is nice to remember that, for just one day, the Bills were able to pleasantly surprise us.

4.) The Buffalo Sabres Season Opener (Sabres 2, Canadiens 1, SO). Remember when the Sabres earned points in their first 8 games, looking like they had exorcised all of the demons of last season? Yeah, I barely do, too, but it did happen and was lots of fun to watch. They played Lindy's system to perfection, cleared the net for Ryan, and took the ice with heart, grit, and a chip on their shoulders. I can only hope that this memory sticks with them too because they need to find that team again in order to make 2009 a better year than 2008 for Sabres fans.

3.) The 2008 Winter Classic / Ice Bowl. I know, I know - we lost to Sidney Crosby in a shootout. Still, though, when you look back on that day, is that one of the first things you remember? I'm thinking it's not. What I'll remember is the sight of over 70,000 fans watching a hockey game all in one place, the sight of Ralph Wilson Stadium looking like a Christmas card, with flakes softly falling like a snowglobe. I'll remember tearing up when Ronan Tynan sang, and, for one day, I knew that people around the world were getting to see what I've learned every day - that Buffalo is a truly amazing place.

2.) The Buffalo Bandits Win the NLL Championship. Finally - a championship comes to Buffalo! It may not have been in the way we expected, but the Bandits made Buffalo the home of a champion. NLL fans are some of the most intense in pro sports, and it was great to see the members of "Banditland" rewarded for their passion. I have season tickets this year, and I can't wait to cheer them on to a repeat!

1.) The Entire 2008 Season of UB Bulls Football. From the Hail Mary pass to the MAC Championship, it's been an amazing ride for anyone who has watched the Bulls this season. What Turner Gill has done is nothing shot of miraculous, and I could not respect a coach more than I respect him. I'll admit that I am not the biggest college football fan, but this team sucked me in, and I am so glad that they did. Turner Gill gave Buffalo a team that we can proud of, a group that is as blue-collar as they come. They play with heart, grit, and boundless determination, just like their coach. I can only hope that 2009 starts where 2008 left off, with a character- driven group of underdogs proving everyone but themselves wrong.

I hope everyone has a very safe and happy New Year's Eve and New Year's Day! Feel free to share your list of favorite moments with me, too, I'd love to hear what I'm sure I missed.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Picture Time!

I'm glad to read that everyone around the Buffalo blogging world enjoyed their holidays. I've spent the last few days catching up with family and friends, so I haven't had much time to write.

Also, I feel that there hasn't been much worthy of a post - another uninspired performance by the Bills on Sunday, a sham of a win by the Sabres on Saturday. Anything I could say would only be redundant - about Dick Jauron or the Sabres' inability to close out the worst team in the East.

So, instead, I present a short photo diary of how I've spent my Christmas vacation:

I got some great sports-related gifts for Christmas: Sabres gloves, a new Bills baseball cap, an "I Love Buffalo Lacrosse" shirt to wear in my Bandits season ticket seats, and money to buy this:
I'll have a book review up as soon as I get it and finish it!

Though all of those were great gifts, the best present came from my parents. I've been talking about it forever, so here is my brand new Pommer jersey:

My mom said that the guy at Laux told her that mine was the only jersey with a letter on it - I was so glad that she asked specifically for that. Thanks again, Mom!

Excuse my Christmas morning no-makeup look that I'm rocking in these photos.

Today I received the best belated Christmas gift ever, thanks again to my mom and dad. She was driving by Bases Loaded Sports Collectibles on French Rd., and she saw a sign laying on the ground because of the gale-force winds we've been having. Knowing that they sometimes have Sabres doing signings, she pulled in and looked at it for her slightly obsessed daughter.

Well, it turns out that Andrew Peters and Nate Gerbe were there tonight, and my father took my sister to see them. Naturally, I just had to tag along - I would never pass up a chance to meet the hero of all vertically challenged people everywhere!

Needless to say, Amy and I had a blast. Petey was extremely nice, joking around with the little girls in front of us. He was also cracking endless jokes about poor Nate, saying that he was as tall as Gerbe when he was nine and that Nate may need a booster seat to see over the counter he was signing on.

My sister couldn't wait to see Petey!

Nate was everything I hoped he'd be - little (but taller than me), adorable, and very sweet. He took the time to ask how I was doing, and, when my father wished him luck for the rest of the season, he responded: "Thanks so much; I really appreciate it." The nice thing was, that he actually gave off the vibe that he did mean what he said.

I swear, there was a moment before I left that he told me to "have a great night" with a cute little smile, and I thought I would have to be mopped off the floor in a big puddle of Gerbe-love. Maybe he was just excited to see a girl his age that is shorter than he is, but in the words of every character on "The Real World," I think we have a real "connection" (if by "connection" you mean one-sided infatuation).

I think this is the perfect shade of painfully awkward to make great engagement announcements someday!

Tomorrow morning, I'm heading out to morning practice at HSBC with my younger cousins. I always try to get to one per year, so it should be fun. I'll try to post pictures sometime after!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Today is my favorite day of the year. Ever since I was a little kid, I've always loved Christmas Eve. Between the big Polish dinner we make tonight and opening gifts with all of my cousins, this is always the day I dream about what will be under the tree tomorrow morning.

In that spirit, I present you with my Buffalo Sports Christmas list for the coming year (and Santa, if you're reading this, all of us tortured Buffalo fans have been very good again this year, despite our teams' circumstances).
All I want for Christmas is...

* A healthy Buffalo Sabres lineup for the first time in a long time

* A Bills win over the Patriots on Sunday. I would love nothing more than to knock them out of the playoffs.

* A new coach for the Buffalo Bills (preferably someone with more than one facial expression)

* Paul Gaustad to return to the ice as soon as possible

* A way for Nate Gerbe and Chris Butler to stay up with the big club

* A veteran backup quarterback behind Trent Edwards next season

* To see Maxim Afinogenov in another team's jersey come deadline day (if not sooner)

* A goal scored by Jason Pominville that isn't an empty-netter

* Thomas Vanek to take back the lead in goals from Jeff Carter

* More interviews with Jaro Spacek using the word "pigeon"

* To see all of the years of heartbreak and dreams of "next year" fade into oblivion with that first championship.

* A safe, healthy, and happy holiday season for all of the Buffalo Bloggers and our readers.

Merry Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever it is you celebrate)! May you and your families have a joyous holiday season!

Nothing says Happy Holidays like puppy nap buddies!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dear Santa...

With only three days left until Christmas, I figured that Muckers and Grinders needed to get into the holiday spirit.

With the blizzard around us and the clock ticking down for last minute shopping, I figure that even the athletes of Buffalo must be thinking about what will be under their tree come Christmas morning.

With that in mind, I present a look at some of the Christmas wish lists of our very own Bills and Sabres, written in their own words to the big man at the North Pole:

Dear Santa,
This Christmas, all I would like is a win to close out the season. When I said I wanted consistency last year, I didn't mean having the same record all the years I was a coach. That makes me very frustrated, and if you could see my face right now, I'm certain you would know. All that being said, I have tried to be a good coach this year; ignore all those "naughty" people who may say otherwise.
Enthusiastically waiting for your arrival,
Dick Jauron
PS: I've heard many people say that I should ask for a personality this Christmas. I do not know what that is, but it sounds great - maybe you could leave one in my stocking?

Dear St. Nick,
I don't know what I did to tick you off last year, but it had to be something big to get that 10-game losing streak under the tree. If you're thinking of that again this year, just send coal; I can use it to light a fire under my team.
Lindy Ruff

Yo Santa!
i know i wuz pretty naughty this summer and everything, but i tried to do right by taking the blame for the running game being so bad (when even u know that wasn't my fault). i guess all i want this year is for everyone to forget my little "problem" this summer - oh yeah - and a new offensive scheme that gets me more carries would be nice, too.
Beast Mode!

Save all the gifts for the poor and sick children of the world, all I'm asking for is world peace.
Paul Gaustad

Dear Mr. Claus,
As Yoda says, "A Merry Christmas will you..." - oh screw it! I just want a job next season, ok?
The best third string QB ever,
JP Losman

Dearest Santa,
I tried to be a good boy this year, taking my naps on time and sticking to the system as best as I could. All I really want are some better hockey sticks, maybe ones that aren't made of glass that shatter on contact.
Thank you oh so much,
Jason Pominville

St. Nick,
I'm just going to keep asking for the same thing every year until I get it, and I'll hold out the milk and cookies until I do. I want BIG $$$. I know that my Pro Bowl status should be enough to convince you of how nice I've been; don't listen to the fans who only pay attention when I mess up.
No treats for the reindeer either if I don't get it,
Jason Peters

Take Max back to the North Pole with you this year. I'm sure he'd like it up there; he can give away things for a living then.
Sabres fans everywhere

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's Okay, Really

Well that was a heartbreaker.

It's not your fault, Ryan. 42 saves on 46 shots is pretty gosh darn impressive once again.

I was pretty upset about losing 4-3 in overtime to the Habs right after it happened, but I'm surprisingly calm about it now. I guess it's because I expected a pretty ugly loss, so the mere fact that we got a point (and for the moment have sole possession of the 8th seed) is fine with me.

There were plenty of things to be happy with tonight, enough things to make it a loss that was far from deserved. The team played with heart, taking and giving hits (especially the Carubba Collision ice one by Stafford) and skating with good speed for the second game in as many nights. Despite the 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 goals, the PK unit was impressive and aggressive.

My unsung hero tonight goes to Andrej Sekera. There was a shift not long before his goal where he kept the puck in the offensive zone for an unbelievable chunk of time. Though we didn't score on that shift, his hard work was rewarded with his first goal of the season a few minutes later.

There were some things not to like, though. I'm going to take the "no comment" road on the officials tonight. I'll just say that if Matt Ellis got a goalie interference penalty, then Montreal should have gotten one on the second goal. There are only so many penalties you can kill off before they bite you in the behind, and that's what happened tonight. Some may have been more warranted than others, but we still needed to make it more difficult for the refs to call anything.

Derek Roy had a nice goal, but he also deflected in the first Montreal goal and failed to clear on the shift that led to their third goal. Max made another "Max-tastic" play in OT, passing it back to an unprepared Sekera when he should have tried to "make like a gravedigger and get it in deep" (Harry Neale's words, not mine).

All in all, though, the boys overcame sure exhaustion and iffy officiating to get a point against a difficult rival.

Now, as promised, I present a sappy analysis of my favorite thing about these last two games, and that is this clip from this weekend's Sabres Show:

If you haven't seen this clip of the team visiting kids at Children's Hospital, I suggest you do so now. I have it saved to my DVR to watch whenever I get mad at the team. It reminds you that, even if they lose, they are some pretty great people even if they are not always great at hockey.

From Sekera's smile talking about the kids to the surprisingly human and - dare I say - sweet side of Tim Connolly, it was nice to see the guys without kids still get into the visit with all of their hearts. It was especially nice to see Nate Gerbe begin to make his mark in the community like that.

What really struck me, though, was how much this visit meant to the guys who are fathers themselves. I couldn't tell who was more excited with the coloring time, Toni Lydman or the kids. Captain Craig brought a tear to my eye holding that little baby and talking about how important it is to bring joy to these families.

I guess I'm just saying that there are moments when I'm really proud of this team, and usually it has to do with something special done off the ice rather than on it. So maybe that's why, for tonight, the image of Toni Lydman in a Santa hat next to a sick little boy is sticking with me more than Kovalev's goal.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Five Random Things

In honor of the five goals we scored tonight, I present five random statements about the Sabres much-needed 5-0 win over the LA Kings.

1.) I'm so proud of Ryan Miller. A 40-save shutout is nothing to scoff at, and I'm glad that he's getting all the praises tonight. His play may have been iffy on Wednesday, but tonight he was rock solid in game that we couldn't lose. I hope he can carry this confidence for a while because he has every reason to be confident after a performance like that. On a related note, I love Patty Lalime's reaction to wins for Ryan; they both seem so happy when Lalime attacks him with his big bear hugs. They seem to genuinely like one another, which I think works well for a goalie tandem (and it makes for great goalie-love celebrations).

2.) My unsung hero tonight is actually a pair of players - our latest call-ups, Chris Butler and Matt Ellis. Butler played very sound hockey, and Roby praised his "grey matter," which is something that he doesn't take too lightly. He has a very accurate shot, as evidenced by his assist on Mair's goal, and he made some very good outlet passes. I also liked that, when he was complimented on his play on the postgame show, he thanked the reporter for his praise. He seems very humble, and you all know that this is how I like my hockey players.

Matt Ellis gets the nod for his hard-working effort filling in for Goose. He had some very nice hits and was rewarded for his work with a goal. I love when our grinders score, so this was my favorite goal of the night (plus it gave Peters his first point on the season!).

3.) I was surprised at the number of people in the arena despite the weather (and the Silver pricing). The snow ruined my plans for a breaking-in party for my new HDTV, but hopefully we'll play just as well on Monday against the Pens because that's my "snow date." You never know with this team, but I hope this win signals a turnaround in home-ice play. It was nice to hear "Sweet Caroline" at HSBC again.

4.) There was a lot to love about the Sabres Show tonight, so much that I have a whole blog planned for tomorrow about it. Be ready for a complete gushing session about how sweet the clip of the visit to Children's Hospital was because I swear I almost teared up seeing the kids' faces (I am such a softie!).

5.) Denis Gauthier is a scumbag, and I hope he gets suspended:

Not only does he sucker-punch Kaleta; he tries to throw an elbow at him before it. After the classless punch, he throws his hands up like he didn't do anything. Then, when Peters tried to challenge him later in the game, he ran away. Spineless moves like that make me angry like nothing else.

I hope Patty is okay; Lindy seems to think that the outlook is not good, but I hope it's nothing too serious. The only good news is that he isn't in the hospital. Poor guy, he didn't even hit anyone on that play, and he's going to be sidelined again for God knows how long.

I hope you're proud of yourself, Gauthier. I'm going to use my favorite Roby-ism and refer to you as a "gutless puke."

Am I wrong to be so worked up about that? Is this just something that Patty should expect with the kind of game he plays?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why Am I Only 20?

I really don't care much about not turning 21 until August. I'm not much of a drinker or a party girl, so it usually does not bother me that I still have eight months until I reach the legal drinking age.

Except today - today it bothers me a lot.

You see, today Ryan Miller announced the third annual Catwalk for Charity, which you have to be 21 in order to attend.

Look at this video and see exactly why I would want to attend:

There are about a million reasons why I need to go to this, especially this year, but I'll narrow it down to a few:

1.) I'm obsessed with the 1920's. Really, it's a problem. I wrote my first 20-page paper on the influence of flappers in American culture, which I'm thinking of writing my college Honors thesis on as well. My favorite book is The Great Gatsby. Ryan, you couldn't wait one more year for this theme?

2.) According to Sabres Edge, there will be a costume contest for best 1920s look. I was a flapper for Halloween last year and found an even better dress this year (at Target of all places). Maybe I'll just shell out the $35 bucks and wear it around my house pretending to be cool. It wouldn't be the first time...

3.) Also on Sabres Edge is the reveal that all of the guys will be taking part in this dress-up game as well. The image of Goose and Pommer in pinstripes with fedoras is enough to make me feel lightheaded right here. If any of you reading attend, I better see pictures!

Honestly, this event is one of the reasons I am most excited about turning 21 (is that sad or what?). I would love to see all of the guys just goofing off and being themselves, and knowing that the money goes to a great cause doesn't hurt.

I hope some of my fellow bloggers or readers will be attending this year, for the reasons stated above. I expect to hear some stories about Ryan getting his runway diva on and Timmy trying to pick up a scantily-clad girl in fringe.

In other, real news, the Sabres called up Matt Ellis and Chris Butler for tomorrow, with Nate Gerbe being placed on injured reserve. I can't wait to see Butler out there; he could be no worse than Paetsch was last night. Chris was also really nice to my little cousin on the red carpet, joking around with her and taking the time to sign her shirt.

Welcome to the big club, Chris (great hockey hair, by the way)!

Finally, yes, dear readers, I did go to the game last night, but I've decided to put as much effort into my recap as some of the guys put on the ice last night.

*The seats were great - Section 118 Row 13 (thanks again, Uncle Keith), and it was nice to be surprised by seeing so much of my wonderful family there.

*Kaleta scored, my father couldn't have been happier. Then, Goose scored, I couldn't have been happier. That was the first time I've ever seen either of them score in person, so it was pretty cool to see my favorite find the net right in front of me (well, on the other side of the rink...)

*My unsung hero for last night is Goose because he scored, he always looks like he cares, and the seats I had allowed me to see just how much directing he does out there. He really is a leader; he has a great mind for the game (if only his hands and feet could catch up - but I love him anyway!).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Game Day Notes

I really thought that the semester's end would signal an intense revival of the blogging spirit, but I've been so busy Christmas shopping and working extra hours to pay for said shopping that I haven't kept up my part of the bargain. Sorry about that...

Tonight the Sabres face the Devils for the third time this season and the first at HSBC. I will be there tonight, thanks to my fantastic Aunt and Uncle (Uncle Keith, I know you read this, so thanks again!).

I'm taking my dad tonight, and this is the first professional sporting event we've ever seen together in person without the whole family to keep us restrained. I'm actually really looking forward to it.

My dad is insanely excited for this game because his favorite player will be making his return to the ice.

Patty's back!

My dad fully admits to having a "Man Crush" on Patrick Kaleta. He loves everything about what Patty does on the ice. Any time he crushes a guy along the boards or goads someone into taking a dumb penalty, my dad always responds with a loud "I love that kid!"

Patty better bring a ton of energy tonight because he is replacing someone who had a ton of his own. Poor little Nate Gerbe will be sidelined for about two weeks with an upper-body injury following a hit by Jamie Langenbrunner on Saturday. Get well soon, Nate, because I can't wait to see you score your first NHL goal!

I'm really going to miss seeing that tiny #42 jersey shooting up the ice or battling in the corners and usually coming out with the puck. He brought a lot of heart to a team that was lacking it when he got here. I can only hope that someone lets Langenbrunner know that what he did was not cool (I'm taking to you, Mair and Goose).

Speaking of Goose, does anyone else find it somewhat funny that he is "freak-accident boy" on the team. Seriously, if you look at his injuries, the only one who may rival him in absurdity is Timmy. Let's list a sampling, shall we: severed his tendon with his own skate, got hit in the eye so that it swelled enough that he couldn't get a contact in to play, injured his hand while fighting in the preseason, and, finally, got hit in the face with a puck when James Patrick was shooting it in during practice. Oh Goose, you were probably that little kid in school who sprained their ankle tripping on the pavement while walking to the bus (oh wait, that was me...).

In other Goose news, many thanks to my Sabre Sister Dani from Sabre Kallisions for informing me that Goose got into yet another flour fight this year while baking cookies with the kids from Camp Good Days. If anyone can find better pictures or video of this, please email it to me, so I can bask in the sweetness that is Goose helping kids:

Sorry for the terrible quality, I had to scan it from the paper, but I think the cuteness still comes through.

This year, Goose brought along Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville to help out. More Nap Buddy bonding time is always a good thing, and I love that Thomas is getting involved in the community more than ever this season.

Ryan Miller and Pommer were also helping out at the Carly's Club Christmas party this week. It truly does make me happy to see them doing such good things for kids who really need it. We're lucky to have such great additions to the community on this team.

On that note, I hope you all are enjoying getting into the holiday spirit. Yesterday I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas and tomorrow I plan to sit down for the first of probably 5 viewings of It's a Wonderful Life (my favorite Christmas movie).

I'm not sure where I'll be sitting tonight, but if you see a short girl in a Goose jersey with a guy rooting especially hard for #36, that would be my father and I!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wow...That was Really Bad

Be prepared, this post is an example of Overreaction Central at its finest, so if you're looking for calm analysis of the Sabres 2-1 loss to Toronto, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Now that all I have left are the Negative Nellies like myself, welcome friends, and let's get down to business. This was not a fun game to watch by any stretch of the imagination. When the two best things in the game happened during the Sabres Show (Jaro Spacek getting an entire segment to show off his best Cookie Monster impression and Drew Stafford in yet another fake moustache), you know that it's going to get pretty snarky around Muckers and Grinders.

This should never happen. Leafs should never be smiling in our arena. They should be cowering in a corner, begging for us to show them mercy.

Things I liked about the game:

Toni Lydman's goal because I love it when fantastically self-deprecating defenseman score goals. Goose's hit on Ryan Hollweg. Way to be a "big animal" out there again, Goose! There was also a shift where he and Paille (I think) led a pretty ferocious forecheck that kept the puck in our zone when I was sure numerous times that Toronto was going to get it.

Things I disliked:

Pretty much everything else.

I'm not even really sure what to say about that effort, especially in the third period when they needed it the most. All I know is that it may be the worst game I've watched this season (mind you, I missed the Nashville game).

Dear Sabres PP Units,

Way to turn a 6-minute powerplay into one of the most inept displays of hockey that I have ever witnessed. One shot on goal? I told my dad that if we ended up losing the game, I was going to blame that stretch of time, and I hold to that blaming. If a great kill is a huge momentum booster, then a lousy powerplay is a huge momentum-killer. Be better; I don't think there's anything else to say.

Dear Drew Stafford,

When the net is open, the puck is supposed to go in it. Please try to remember this for next time.

Dear Lindy Ruff,

Bag skates for all of them, right now. I don't care if they have a game tomorrow; effort like this cannot be tolerated. I know that you will chew them out properly, and for that I am truly thankful.

Dear Buffalo Sabres (yes, all of you),

I hope you are all thoroughly ashamed. You let the Maple Leafs come into your house and outplay, outwork, and outclass you in the period when you needed it the most. I don't know how you can play so well for three games and then do things like this - running around in your own end, forgetting to go hard to the net, losing every battle along the boards...It's disheartening that you seem to get so cocky after a few good games; I expect more from you, more effort and a lot more heart in a game like this. After a night like tonight, I think we need to go on a "break," and no, it's not me - it's you...

Dear Toronto Fans,

I hate all of you. I hate how you think you own our arena. I hate how you jeer our goalie when he's actually the only one playing decent hockey. Screw you (and I mean that in the nicest possible way).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Captain Craig = Father of the Year

Today I bring you a random collection of tidbits about what our beloved athletes are doing in their spare time (sorry, I defer all TimmyHo spare time tidbits to MJ):

* One of my best friends just got a job at Toys R Us, and she informed me today that, on her first day, she has already seen more Sabres on the job than have ever come into my library or dance studio (translation - she saw one of them). Apparently Captain Craig decided to take his afternoon to be an awesome dad and go Christmas shopping for his kiddies. For some reason, I find that so awesome. I love the idea that such a tough guy on the ice is a doting dad off the ice.

I wonder if his perfect parenting skills are coming in handy with the big kids commonly known as "the core"?

The idea of Craig Rivet shopping for his kids makes me wonder - Do you think kids of professional athletes know what their dads do for a living and how different that is from other people's dads? Someday, little Blake Vanek is going to tell his classmates on career day that his dad isn't there because he's on a road trip to Calgary getting ready to lead the league in goals (again).

Sorry, that was a really random tangent, but it's something that I found very intriguing.

* Apparently Blue Cross and Blue Shield was the place to be today for Sabre sightings. My father, who works there, called to inform me that Derek Roy and Patrick Kaleta were there signing hats for charity. Patty replaced Goose, who was still nursing a sore hand from last night.

I shall now digress again and mention that Goose was phenomenal in the 4-2 win over the Bolts last night. His hit and subsequent fight made me feel deep pride in knowing that my favorite mucker and grinder helped to spark the team to a win. It also led to the quote of the season (so far), when Ryan Miller referred to him as "a big animal." There are so many ways I could take that quote, but for today, I will say that he's like a Rottweiler, sweet and friendly if he likes you and ferocious if you get on his bad side:

Sick 'em, Goose!

* On Tuesday night, I attended Kissmas Bash at the arena (along with way too many screaming teenyboppers). The concert was decent (especially David Archuleta), except for the part where Flo Rida sprayed champagne on the girls in the front row like he was Pacman Jones in a strip club.

That is not my point, though. My point is that I went mainly to show my love for guest host Paul Posluszny. Let me tell you all, "guest host" apparently means big linebacker that you drag on the stage and speak to like a "special" kid before letting him say four words. He looked almost as awkward as JP Losman playing quarterback...

* Finally, Pommer has a new blog up on! It's also a "Mail Bag" blog, which is my favorite of his because I always hope that someone will ask him something which will allow him to talk for no reason about his nap buddy for three paragraphs, but that only happens on this blog.

Today, we learn that Hank and Toni rock at soccer (which Jason does not play before games), he didn't do much for his birthday (somewhere, Brian Campbell is severely disappointed), and he loves Christmas (which very much fits his sweet and innocent little demeanor). I can totally picture Pommer still writing letters to Santa. Also, he informs us that he likes to play Guitar Hero and Rock Band, which means that I'm sure Amy from SOTC was completely right about his birthday. He probably spent it playing Goose in Guitar Hero, and maybe letting his girlfriend in on the drums in Rock Band if she can get between the dynamic duo.

That's all I have for tonight. Now, it's off to study for my last final!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

20 For 26

This is the face of clutch...

...and it is a very nice face indeed.

Not only did Thomas Vanek take over sole possession of the league-lead in goals, he did it on a goal that his team needed in order to put away one of the Beasts of the East.

Vanek also had some great defensive plays last night that are making me wonder just how good he is going to be in this league. Yes, I just said "going to be." Sometimes we forget that he is only 24, and the best may still be yet to come for him. As of this point, I'll just stick to being glad that we're getting the best that he has right now because it's pretty fantastic stuff to watch.

Another thing I love about Vanek is that acts like he's been there before. He's never the showboat, always the professional. He'll accept praise when it's due, but he's more than willing to face the media and take the blame when he messes up on the ice. I think last year taught him a lot. He's a lot older than his years, with a wife and son to prove that observation. I think some of his teammates could learn a little from their younger Sabre-brother on how to act like grown-ups (yes, I am talking about Derek Roy).

Now I must return to studying for finals. Two more to go (both English writing finals - ugh!), and then I'll be done for the semester and ready for much more blogging!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Bolts

The Good:

* Winning! It didn't have to be pretty; it just had to be a win, and that's what it was. The offense was clicking for what felt like the first time in a long time. I know not to get too excited with this team, but I also know that it's nice to be happy after a hockey game for once.

* The fact that the Sabres were physical, winning battles and showing that they wouldn't get pushed around. Mair beating on Downie for his hit on Max was nice to see; I love it when guys defend their teammates.

* Goose's first fight of the season. I only got to hear it on the radio, and I know it wasn't much. However, it's still great to see him doing this again:

* Thomas Vanek scoring his 19th of the season. It's nice to see a star develop right before our eyes, and I especially like that he still seems to be flying under the radar. I'm fine with that; he's our little special secret.

* Seeing Nate Gerbe up with the big club. Besides his one penalty at the start, I thought he played to his strengths nicely. He used his feet and was surprisingly difficult to push off the puck for his size (or lack thereof). I wanted him to score so badly, but there will be plenty of time for that. I hope he gets a chance to make it hard for them to send him back to Portland.

No, he's not kneeling behind the net; he really is that much shorter than Drew, but that's why I love him.

* My Unsung Hero of the Game, Jochen Hecht. With a goal and a fight, he was an assist away from the Gordie Howe hat trick. I love when guys who don't normally fight do something to spark their team; it shows real leadership. Plus, he helped my fantasy team out a lot tonight in the goals and penalty minutes departments. Thanks, Jochen, and thanks for making Vinny Lecavalier a little less gorgeous by giving him a nice shiner.

The Bad:

* The fact that we were giving away leads like the Sabres were my dad when I was little and wanted everything to be tied so no one felt bad about themselves. Good teams go in for the kill after they score; they put the team away. We open the door back open for them right after we appeared to have slammed it shut. This is not kindergarten where everyone gets a chance to score; this is the NHL, even though the two may be interchangeable at times (see Avery, Sean).

* I have to admit, as much as I was sticking up to Ryan after Lindy called him out, I didn't love his play tonight. I didn't hate it, but it certainly wasn't the "lights out" approach Lindy was looking for. However, he did make stops in the the third when we needed him to.

* Stupid penalties. It's a good thing out PK unit is so hot right now.

The Ugly:

* Those Tampa jerseys. "Bolts"? Really?

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Championship (Finally) Comes to Buffalo

Thank you, UB.

For making sports fun to watch in Buffalo again, if only for one night.

For making me care about college football (which, if you know me, is quite a feat).

For proving that heart and determination can overcome any odds.

For being a team that we can be proud of, a team that is a true winner in every sense of the world.

Thank you, Turner Gill.

For your passion and emotion.

For being a phenomenal representation of the hard work that is everything good about this city.

For teaching this team that being a champion is all about belief.

For always believing in them.

For making me get misty-eyed in a good way for the first time in a long time while watching a sporting event and postgame interview.

Bring on the International Bowl!