Super big wieners.
super bigger huge wieners
God help me for bothering to do this today. Pretty sure it's that asshole Dan Sterlace's fault, but whatever. I'm in too deep now.
Today, unless you're a Sabres fan living under a rock that doesn't allow for decent wifi, you know there was a press conference with Ted Black and Darcy Regier. Awesome! I seem to remember they didn't have one of those last year! I bet those pros over at the Buffalo News were so excited and put on their nicest Burger King pants for the occasion. I bet they even decided not to be their usual turd burgling selves and act like adults for once.
Oh mannnnnnnn, was this a terrible shit show. Everyone walked away from this looking like a terrible human being - Darcy, Mike Harrington, Jerry Sullivan, Paul Hamilton (though to be fair he waddled away looking like a walrus with terrible grammar, as per usual), Ted Black, some asshole from Channel 2 named Scott Brown and one or two guys named John, one whom I can only assume was Jon Vogl and the other who I learned was John Wawrow. Of course, the key players of Rusty Tromboning were to be expected, but fuck. The dipshittery was flying from every direction. Pretty sure I've interviewed inmates on Rikers facing murder charges evince more of a commitment to civility than I saw on display.
Oh, and they also talked about the terrible hockey team we inexplicably love. Good times.
What's the solution? Oh, I'm going to FJM this motherfucker. It's the only way we get right again.
HERE WE GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
Let's be real here. That was fucking delightful.
The lockout is over, we've had top-level professional hockey for two straight days, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the piss out of the shitheads from Broad Street. What do we have to be sullen about?
/looks at rafters to see meaningless divisional banners and a slew of Bandits championships /kills self
There's certainly plenty of history to support a pessimistic tone today because, well, #becauseitsbuffalo, but sports are fun and yesterday was tons
of it. Is it a sign of things to come? Are we destined for the playoffs after a disappointing end to last season? I don't know and neither do you. Shit like games and goals and saves all still have to actually happen. Let's enjoy it, ok?
No? The Sabres are inevitably going to disappoint us and cause me to retreat to my son's nursery for a week's worth of tears? Well screw you man
For the time being we have the luxury of being all optimism all the time, at least until Yachtsman jumps on here with his "fuck all the things" tone, so join me after the jump for generally delusional and premature observations on Buffalo's early version of HOCKEYPUCKSTIME. (and a gracious tip of the hat to our buddy Frank
for that one)
The Defenseman“I think we have good players. There has to be a decision about what kind of game we’re going to play. Yeah we had our shortcomings. I think that there’s enough talent in that group of guys to be on a winning hockey club, but we didn’t get the job done and that takes some soul searching. I don’t want to waste seasons.”
“Goaltender reflects team, team reflects goaltender. You guys are writing for the fans who like to talk about hockey, and it’s always a chicken or the egg, you know whatever. It’s always about goaltending at such a high level, and a goaltender steals a game and the goaltender is the difference. Yeah, I understand that whole part of it. I also see the importance of being a complete team.”
“You have to prove you’re a good team over the course of a season. I don’t think we ever qualified and I don’t think we ever stepped up to that level we talked about.” - Ryan Miller
To listen to Ryan Miller’s end of the year press availability is to listen to the great question in Buffalo sports in the last fifteen years. How can someone so intelligent and compelling make you want to have Joe Pesci place your head in a vise? (NFSW due to Joe Pesci.)
Listening to Miller on the CBA, you can hear the articulation necessary from the players perspective to prevent getting raked over the coals again by the National Hockey League. Then you hear him talk about how the team may not have been up to the expectations of being a contender, all the while during the season claiming the team needed no change to succeed. It’s like, who are you man?
I happen to be a big fan of Ryan Miller. I believe in his competitiveness on a team that sorely lacks such emotions. Often, when things get dicey near the net, Miller is one of the first to jam a glove into someone’s craw. On the ice, his demeanor is at a minimum of a dyspeptic nature. I am also a fan of Thomas Vanek, but if Vanek were half as angry as Miller he would make the all-star team perennially and be a fixture on Coach’s Corner.
Miller’s intelligence when speaking about league-wide issues such as player safety and the labor relations between the league and its players is what that league needs more of. In a situation where you have the official dispenser of justice in the NHL giving a blank check to players to ignore rules during the playoff tournament, Miller and players like him have the ability to come to consensus and provide guidance to the league on how to avoid this crap down the road and turn the NHL from a garage league into a respected professional sport. With important players in the prime of their careers being sidelined or retired due to concussions, Miller speaks on these events wisely and with prudence (provided he isn’t the one getting hit.)
There are also negatives to Miller’s game. He has a tendency to give up weak goals at inopportune times. You don’t get the handle “Mr. Softee” without cause, and besides it being a really good derogatory nickname, he earned it. He also tends to go down too early in his stance when facing a shooter, allowing better ones to put the puck high glove side (regardless of the fact that an NHL goalie glove is the size of a sail off a yankee clipper.) His career numbers are, well, average.
The team has operated on a philosophy since the departure of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury of victory through goaltending. They could not or would not replace the scoring that left the team in their absence, or wrongly believed the team as constructed at the time could do so. Since that time, the team has had one spectacular year, one mediocre year, and three bad ones.
So as we sit here pulling our pork at teams that look way better than ours, let us ponder this enigmatic man (either after or during the pork-pulling. Your choice.) Where are we with this guy? He has played seven seasons as a Buffalo Sabre, so we should kinda know right?
Here are his rankings in each of his years as a starter in the NHL for shots against, games played, wins, save percentage, and goals against average. Minimum 1000 shots against for my convenience because it’s a nice round number. In order, it shows his statistic, the leaders in parenthesis, and Miller’s ranking in that stat. These are regular season numbers.
Miller is pretty consistent. If I had to guess right now, I’d say next year he’d have a GAA of 2.54 with a save percentage of .917. He’d get between 35 and 40 wins. He would be near, but not in, the top ten in these statistical categories.
And on average he’s playing between sixty to seventy games a year. At the end of this season there was a minor kerfuffle between internet jerkoffs (an expansive club of which we are all a member) over whether Miller should have been played every game on the way out, or if there should be a healthy rotation between Miller and Jhonas Enroth.
Games Played Versus Performance
I can’t see a correlation between games played and goals against. In fact the sample size we have shows really it doesn’t matter how many games he plays, his GAA will remain pretty close. The outlier is his Vezina year.
If he were terrible the more he played, the line would go from the top right to the bottom left. Instead you get a scatter around 2.60. Looks pretty consistent to me.
Fine I’ll do one for save percentage too.
If there was a correlation that the more games Miller played, the worse he got, the dots would appear to travel from the top left to the bottom right. Instead, you have a big scatter shot near .915.
So it looks like games it doesn’t matter with Miller. You know what you will get with the guy.
Standard Deviation In Save Percentage
Okay asshole, what about consistency game to game? How likely is it that Ryan Miller will stroke out and have a game where he ruins his team i.e. Mr. Softee style? Well that’s why the Good Lord invented mathematics. Standard deviation basically measures how varied things are between a set of data points, which in this case is save percentage. How many saves is a dude making game to game? This year Miller’s save percentage was .916. If you take every game he played and computed the standard deviation for him, it comes out to .070 percent. This means that any game he plays has a 68% chance of being either one standard deviation above or below his average percentage. On any given night, Miller might have a .980 save percentage or a .860 save percentage. That’s a wide fucking margin, kids. It’s also pretty much everyone elses.
By comparison, Henrik Lundqvist’s SD this year was .040. Mike Smith’s of Phoenix is .070. (D.E.C.I.M.A.L.S.) Seems like within a season, each player jumps around by their own tendencies. Some guys are more prone to explode in a ball of flame (Smith, Miller, Everyone) in a random game than others (Lundqvist). Tossed in, Ondrej Pavalec of the Jets, who although has a GAA at almost 3 and a save percentage below .910, still has a standard deviation of .070. There are few players who can hit that consistency within a year, let alone from year to year. Reliability in a goaltender is all relative, yo.
This is going somewhere.So Where Does This Leave Us?
The Sabres have two goaltenders. One had to play, the other didn’t. Why?
Well, what is Enroth’s SD? He has one of, you guessed it, .070. All of this math and all of these statistics tell you that Ryan Miller is average to above average, and that Enroth is more than capable of playing a good game for you, and often. With having a similar GAA and save percentage as Miller, and being just as likely to poop the bed as Miller, all fear of playing him should melt away.
Except it doesn’t.
And this is my problem: Do the Sabres know this? We seem to be in a perpetual holding pattern, waiting for Ryan Miller to repeat his performance in the 09-10 season. The Sabres certainly seem to expect these kind of results based upon how they both speak and act. By the end of the year, it seemed like the Sabres could not afford to take Miller out of a single game, as if he was the sole reason their comeback had begun.
It was partly true. Since February 19th, when the Sabre took off like a V-2 destined for London, until March 30, when the wheels came off against Pittsburgh, Miller had a .937 save percentage with a 1.77 GAA. Those are dumb numbers. In that stretch the Sabres as a team scored just over three goals a game. In all the games that came before that, the Sabres averaged 2.36 goals a game.
What’s all this crap mean? It means the team needs to score fucking goals to win. Only six teams in the East have missed the playoffs with a positive goal differential since the lockout, and thats common sense, right? IT’S ALL COMMON SENSE. Get. Players. Who. Score.
None of these stats (and why they don’t matter) take into account the psychology of sports and the role confidence plays in the action. The Sabres need to play Miller because they believe in Miller as their goaltender. It is preached from high up in the organization and from the bench that Miller is “our guy” and needs to be ridden to the end. You say it enough times, and pretty soon you believe it, even though it isn’t true.
You can make a case that this came back to bite the Sabres in the ass at the end of the year, with Miller putting up bad games against Pittsburgh and Toronto twice. As the pressure mounted, and the games became must win, there was little chance Enroth would see the ice. The team had to play Miller because they couldn’t unlock from the single goalie philosophy. And when Miller gave up the ghost in those games, the confidence must have taken a hit. They NEEDED Miller to win the game for them. They relied on him.
Can Ryan Miller be a key player in the locker room without making him into the most important player on the team? Perhaps, and by all indications the team looks to improve on the forward ranks. The trade for Hodgson and his replacement of Gaustad, along with Tyler Ennis being placed at center indicates as much. Hockey Rhetoric
hit this best when looking over the impact of injuries on the Sabres this year and the team’s reliance on puck moving defensemen to generate offense. The Sabres now have those defensemen on the roster, when healthy. However, at forward resides the flake department. We will discuss this at the next opportunity.
For now, Miller should be good enough to win with. Others certainly have with a goalie of his ilk, but the team should not be so married to the concept of his playing as a requirement for success. Stop building the psychology for a situation that does not exist. Ryan Miller is like a bunch of other guys in the league, but a bunch of other teams in the league keep winning. If Ryan Miller is better than I am giving him credit for, it only goes further to prove how badly the team has handled the past five years.
Turns out it’s more Darcy, Lindy, and us as fans that make me want Joe Pesci to place my head in a vise. The Defenseman is on Twitter @TheDefenseman. Give a follow and we’ll talk some tits.
O Captain, my Captain. You. Are. Filthy.
The Barrister and The Apologist
I won't dwell too much on a recap of the glorious evening that we had last night. The Sabres continued their great play and winning streak, and while Aps and I weren't able to meet up until the third period due to some office basketball playoff duty that I had to tend to (Championship game next week, baby!), we took the opportunity to wax poetic about how happy we are to be watching this team make their playoff push.
This episode is, unsurprisingly, ALL SABRES...and, also unsurprisingly, it's all overwhelmingly happy and positive. No basketball or baseball talk seeps in, apart from brief mentions at the end, and we actually avoid the Bills completely. Also, as opposed to other episodes where we've recorded in small segments over the course of a game, Episode 4 was recorded in one big chunk after the game was done. Not to short change you listeners of musical interludes (and with recognition that you very well may need a few breaks from our flawless stream of consciousness analysis), we cut up the segment with some Mos Def and Phoenix, and have Apologist's little Brother Doctor Ooo (@DrOooMD
) and his Buffalo-based project Kinda Like Dreamin
take us out when all is said and done. And, because I couldn't get over how great Jason Pominville's post-game interview was on the NHL Network last night, I threw in a couple of his better quotes over the Phoenix track for good measure. My editing skills may not be good yet (as you can hear from a couple of the rougher cuts towards the end, not to mention how quiet Pommers is), but they are improving. RIGHT? RIGHT?!?
Please love me.
Moving on.... This is turning real, Sabres fans, and there's plenty of room for everyone on this bandwagon. Aps is buying the beer.
Stream and download the .mp3 below, and throw a comment below with some constructive criticism and/or love poems. We love doing these, but also want to please YOU, dear listener, so feedback is always appreciated as we try to keep these going in a good way.
Let's Go Buffalo.
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WARPATH. God bless Google images for reminding me of this awful excuse for a video game.
After looking ahead to last Friday night's game with a certain sense of dread, only to see the Sabres pull out an absurdly uplifting victory over the East's best (well, best for now, at least), I'm yet again scratching my head in equal parts befuddlement, excitement and fear. Remember when I noted that the team's playoff chances were around 22% before Friday night? Well, now - after the glorious win at MSG on Friday, and then the solid 3-1 victory at the FN Center on Saturday - they're at 41%. And, with six games remaining, they only need to go 4-2-0 to kick that percentage up to 84%. (And, as @JeremyWGR tweeted this morning, tonight's outcome amounts to a 47% swing in probabilities for the team... not to freak out TOO much).
THIS SHIT IS FLYING OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST CRAZY BALLS. And, if you're curious, playing the role of Miss Ratched is Bucky Gleason, but only because he likes that sexy white uniform and I promised him I wouldn't give the role to Paul Hamilton.
Meeeeowwww! /worst photoshop job ever?
Nothing is as simple as statistics would have you believe, of course (hear that CV?), and until the team has clinched - a moment that will, in all likelihood, not come until the last game of the season - we'll all be sitting with bated breath, wondering if this team can keep this thing going. If you're like me, you've already looked at the schedule to see just how tough it will be these last two weeks.
We continue this Warpath adventure with Washington tonight in the biggest game of the season since the media and fan-manufactured rematch against the Bruins in the wake of the Lucic incident last fall. The Caps are coming off a convincing 3-0 win against the Wild Sunday, effectively eliminating Minnesota from playoff contention. Much like the Sabres, the Caps have failed to put anything close to consistent hockey together this season, ranging from frightening to pathetic. A couple weeks back, Washington seemed like it might have been dropping off the face of the playoff map, but the team has gone 6-2-2 since then, largely holding off the bottom teams of the conference and gaining some ground on the Southeast leading Florida Panthers. This leaves the Caps in a pretty similar spot to our Sabres, in that they've chosen to ramp up their play for this final playoff push, shaking off the reputation of a season of largely failed expectations.
Speaking of failing to meet expectations - AMERICA!
These similarities leave me and the rest of Sabreland at a complete and utter loss for predicting what kind of result we might see tonight. But, that certainly doesn't stop me from going all in with some classic poorly constructed analysis. HERE WE GOOOOOOOOO.... We need WAY more of this.
First, the negatives:
1. Thomas Vanek.
Conceding that the guy scored a goal on Saturday night (albeit one that relied on luck and hard work by Cody Hodgson), his all-too-frequent absence from the score sheet has been one of the more frustrating parts of the past three and a half months. Sure, the team is playing well despite this, but I tend to be skeptical that this is a good thing. Winning is great and all, but when you're winning even though your best forward is playing like hot garbage, you're still left with your best forward playing like hot garbage. Not. Good.
There are a lot of theories popping around the interwebs about his struggles lately. Some of the most asinine have speculated on his work ethic, aka the "Lazy Thomas" meme - always an absurd opinion lacking any basis in reality, I think - or him being a head case, aka the "Weepy Thomas" meme - again, something I tend to not give too much credence to. Personally, I think the guy is hurt, that Lindy is predictably keeping that information quiet and that TV is playing through a lot of pain during each game. Ribs? Shoulder? Your guess is as good as mine. Of course, my belief in this theory is, in part, dependent on my disbelief in the other possibilities of lazy and/or weepy Vanek, so take it with a grain of salt. But, for the punishment he takes in front of the net, and for his proven desire to bleed himself dry for the team, it certainly seems to be the most likely explanation.
If the Sabres have any real chance at taking this Warpath to the playoffs and beyond, this is a guy who has to get it going. OBVIOUS FACT. Tonight would be a great start. SECOND OBVIOUS FACT. I'm great at this.
2. Lindy's Ever-Baffling Line Shuffles
Has anyone figured out why Lindy seems hell bent on ruining each and every good line combination this year? I get that he's been swimming upstream against a team of underachievers in a season where he has been expected to push the franchise closer to a Stanley Cup, but I really wonder if there's a method to his madness. First we saw the Vanek-Adam-Pominville line deconstructed for the sake of getting other players going. All well and good, but we know how that experiment played out - Ville Leino still shitty and Luke Adam wallowing in the AHL. JACK ADAMS HE IS NOT.
When the team started tanking, the tendency to line shuffles was probably a necessary evil, but now that we're back in great form, the lingering question is whether Lindy will continue to tinker or whether he'll just allow the growing chemistry on these lines to continue that growth. Shit, even during the games this weekend, we saw glimpses of inexplicable line combinations. I'd cite them for you now, but I can't seem to find them on the google and Lord knows I was drunk as shit when I watched the games. No wonder my points are so unassailable. For now, the line of Ennis-Foligno-Stafford is still together and has been nothing sort of magical for the past couple weeks (more on that below). Will it continue with Gerbe's eventual return to the team, or will Lindy yet again sacrifice one of his greatest assets? Or what about the Tropp-Hodgson-Vanek line, which has also found some chemistry over the past week, allowing Hodgson and Vanek to each start making progress? If Kaleta comes back, is Tropp destined to leave that line in some grand reshuffle that makes room for Kaleta on the 3rd or 4th line while likely sending Tropp to play in the KHL? Kaleta ужасен в борющихся русских. Bank it.
In short: this is a team that is winning now, and winning in grand and unexpected fashion. DON'T FUCK IT UP, LINDY.
3. MORE LINDY HATE - WHY ARE OUR BEST PLAYERS PLAYING SHIT MINUTES?
This point is plagiarized from Yachtsman, but I suspect he'll likely (a) never even read this post, or (b) never post on this small issue, so I'm in the clear. Robyn Regehr averages 18:33 TOI for the year. This is less than Ehrhoff and Myers, our top D pairing, by more than 3 minutes. That wouldn't be insane if it weren't for Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber and Jordan Leopold also having more ice time than Regehr. This is monumentally stupid, and another example of how Lindy might not be the guy to lead this particular group of players into battle. Incidentally, if you need more evidence, Derek "Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, I'll Just Go To Chippewa in My Mandles" Roy averages almost 2 1/2 minutes more than Vanek. Nice tie, Lindy. You're doing it wrong.
There. I feel better. Now on to the good:
1. Ryan Miller
What can't be said about this guy? He turned around an epically bad season to re-find his All-World self, let the team ride his coattails as they finally remembered how to score, then gave a stellar interview to Pierre LeBrun wherein he got the media's and a not-insignifcant part of the fanbase's panties in a bunch when he yet again points out that his job is really hard and that the negativity bred by beat writers in the locker room is not necessarily appreciated. Translation: fat guys who don't no how to play sports should take it easy when tempted to take potshots at pro athletes for shitty performances. Duly noted, Ryan. I'll try to be mindful of that in the future. In the meantime, keep playing well so us fatties can keep our traps shut and enjoy watching your crooked eyebrows track down pucks. We love it when they do that.
With Miller playing better, suddenly anything seems possible for these Sabres (well... not ANYTHING. Baby steps). He's hit career numbers in shutouts this year, despite having a garbage squad in front of him on most nights and despite suffering two concussions this year. His overall averages are still mediocre (though, really at par with his sometimes mediocre career numbers, but that undercuts my general point so I throw it in a parenthetical), which is really an indication of how bad he was earlier this year and how lucky the team is to have survived to this point without imploding. Since the All Star break, his GAA is 1.87 and SV % is .937, with 5 shutouts. Make no mistake about it - the team's fortune is dependent on this guy, and for that we can actually all breathe a little easier about where this all might pan out within the next couple weeks. 2. Foligno-Ennis-Stafford
With all of the injuries this team has had to fight through this season, the most recent spat has brought about perhaps the luckiest bounce of the Sabres season. Marcus Foligno's call-up to the big club led to immediate success for him and the team. As if destiny was playing some part, his arrival coincided with Lindy's use of Tyler Ennis as a center. Add in Drew Stafford and his apparent revival as an actual contributor to the team - I know. WEIRD - and suddenly we have a line that is as explosive as the Vanek-Adam-Pominville that dazzled us at the beginning of the season. Apart from the fact that this suddenly makes me feel much better about this overzealous gem
I dropped about Stafford last summer, this is the line that is making up for the loss of production from Vanek lately (not to mention the continuing shit production from Ville Leino and Brad Boyes. Way to be consistent, lads).
Apart from their production, watching this line is fun as hell. They're buzzing every time they hit the ice, their goal celebrations are unadulterated moments of pure joy, and each of them bring their own unique slice of talent and skills, all of which compliment each other in a way that none of us could have predicted. Ennis suddenly seems like he could be the second line center to replace Roy whenever we're able to find the #1 center we've been looking for and can then ship his dead weight out of town. For this all Sabres fans can fervently rejoice. And finally...3. Two games left against the Leafs.
Listen. I get that the schedule looks rough for the last six - games against Caps, Pens, Flyers, Bruins - but it also includes two against hated rivals and perennial jokes, the Toronto Maple Leafs. For as frustrated as Sabres fans have been this year, we're yet again looking at a possible playoff berth and a Leaf team left holding their hats. Tim Connolly, fragile as ever, has proven all of us right (well, not ALL of us... I won't name names... but boy you look stupid, guy) with this season and his $4.75 million cap hit. He's missed about 15 games, which is actually on the low side, but has only scored 12 goals on the season. Which, incidentally, puts him five back of the aforementioned Drew Stafford and his $4 million cap hit. GLOATING IS FUN.
This may be tempting fate. Hell, having this blog at all may be tempting fate, so fuck it. These are two games that the team should win and has to win to make the playoffs. They are a gift from the hockey gods in the midst of an otherwise troubling last bit of games, and I am looking forward to a couple of nights where I don't sit down for the game with a deep and lingering sense of dread. The little things, folks.
Hoping like hell for a win tonight. Make it happen, boys.
Let's Go Buffalo.
Seven games left and here we are, back for another season's finish where our Buffalo Sabres have inexplicably put themselves back in the playoff hunt after having looked dead in the water not six weeks ago. We've been here before, all too recently, and while there's no shortage of frustration at the current state-of-things with this, at times, underachieving and, at times, overachieving hockey team, the fan in me knows this is better than some of the alternatives (see: Maple Leafs, Toronto; see also: Lightning, Tampa Bay).
Last year, the Sabres' late season inspired play was one of the things that got this blog going again, and certainly was a driving force in my own friendship with Scizz, Yachter and Aps, not to mention my interest in jumping along for the ride that is DGWU Sports. This season, the Sabres uninspired play through early February was one of the things that kept us away from our keyboards many nights, as we just couldn't stomach writing about a team that had promised so much and delivered so little. But now, here we are, faced with a team of many new faces playing the same script out and encouraging us all to dream big yet again. The lingering questions remain, though: Can this team pull off another miracle, despite having put themselves in an even bigger hole than they were in last year? And, more importantly, if they do, will that be the only miracle we see? Could there be another, perhaps one that pushes them past the first round for the first time since 2007? Will we actually start to see the promises of Pegula take shape, or will those promises be deferred another year as has been an annual Sabres custom?
For all the hope I have for this team, I certainly don't have any answers, and my recognition of these questions can just as easily be interpreted as "mailing it in" as genuine befuddlement at what this team is and could become. I may talk a lot about how great Ryan Miller is, for instance, but even I couldn't have predicted his stellar bounce back into form during the past 25 games or so. Even the most ardent of homer fans (pot calling kettle black, admittedly) would not have put money on the kind of progress this team has made up the standings over the past six weeks, so it makes absolutely no sense to start predicting where this all may lead. The statisticians say the team has a roughly 22% chance of making the final cut, a number that is encouraging only when compared to the absurdly low 5% chance the team had about four weeks ago. And while a lot of the fan base is encouraged by the team "controlling their own destiny" now that the Sabres are a mere 1 point behind the Capitals with a game against them next Tuesday, there's really no such thing as destiny control in the NHL. Sure, you can skate your tails off and control the amount of effort you put out onto the ice, but so much of the game is about luck and bounces and what kind of team effort you see on the other side - among thousands of other variables outside of a team's control. We're left then with a rather meaningless assurance that the team will make the playoffs if they win out, set against the reality that they will, in all likelihood, not win their last seven and that we all have a lot of hoping and praying to do as we depend on the rest of the pieces falling into place.
Translation: Things will happen that I can't predict, and until they happen I can't really say much about them beyond emotive ramblings that are equal parts hope and despair. Analysis.
Despairing game predictions aside, there is a lot to look for in this game, not the least of which is the possibility that this could very well be a preview of the Sabres' first round match-up if there's one to be had. The Sabres' poor results against New York this season came, in large part, during the utterly forgettable parts of the season, when Ryan Miller looked like a shell of his former self and the team couldn't string together back-to-back wins if their lives depended on it. Now that we're looking like a threat on most nights, with a goaltender showing reminiscent shades of his All-World talent, the one thing I'm looking for tonight is a glimmer of what this team might be able to do if they do manage to get in the playoffs. Are they going to be pushed around by a team that has dominated the conference all year, or are they going to fight tooth and nail for sixty minutes as they have been for the past several games? Again, they're likely to lose a couple of these last seven - we all need to accept this - and we can do little else than hope that neither of those losses is against Washington and that the Caps cooperate by losing a couple more of their own. Yet, assuming those pieces fall in our favor (knocking on wood SO HARD), I'm really looking for the team to show what that run might look like against the likely #1 seed tonight.
Bloviating, overstated opinions having been thoroughly exhausted, I can't forget to mention three quarters of the Deeg will be in attendance at MSG this evening (along with friend of the Deeg and star of CrapTastiCast #25
, The Pink Elephant), which means that, no matter the result, fun will be had and drinks will be poured down our overserved gullets, leaving us perhaps less (or more) inclined to despair should the final score tonight end up as I fear it will. This magical run of the past month and a half began, some might say, with the Sabres shootout victory at Nassau Coliseum, with the Deeg in attendance
, so we're looking to continue that good fortune even if good sense tells us otherwise. If memory serves me right, MSG can tend to be a black hole of cell phone reception, so our twitter feeds may not be as current as they might otherwise, but be sure to follow us @theycallmedubs
, not to mention @DGWUSports
, for potentially nonsensical, poorly worded and/or genius musings on the game. Let's Go Buffalo.
This stretch run, to the extent it arbitrarily starts with the timing of this post, begins tonight with a monumental task of beating the East's best team with perhaps the league's best goaltender in the World's Most Famous Arena (having been crowned as such because soccer stadiums aren't arenas and because New York City self-anoints itself the "center of all that is good in the world," despite the lingering smell of piss and vomit emanating from the streets. But I digress...). This Rangers team has owned the Sabres all year, having won every game thus far (including two that went to OT/SO) and, coming off solid efforts against the Devils and Red Wings this week, the Rags don't much look like they're letting up as they round out their season. I'm as heartened by the Sabres' recent effort and success as anyone - perhaps more than most - but I really don't have a whole lot of confidence heading into tonight's game. A point would be great. Two points seems like it might be too much to ask for, even if it is exactly what we need. "Must win" or not, this is one of those games on the schedule that just look like losses going in, meaning that there is still a lot that needs to go right elsewhere in the league for the Sabres to get into the playoffs.
Those of us at DGWU Sports have been ridiculously busy lately, hence not a whole lot of content. The Yachtsman has been juggling his time between organizing some potentially awesome possibilities at his real job and his obsession for Jeremy Lin and the New York Knickerbockers, all the while hedging his bets on a Sabres comeback and blowing them off almost entirely. The Barrister has spent this week preparing for, and taking the Massachuesetts Bar exam, with intermittent periods of heavy drinking and tweeting while intoxicated. His passion for the Sabres is a continuing fluctuation. The Apologist has promised us a post about Dracy's trade deadline moves all week, but last I heard he was kidnapped by a Columbian named Caesar, who is none too thrilled with Aps moving in on his territory, selling knock off Linsanity t-shirts in Stuyvesant Town. Me? Work has been brutal and I'll be tied up all weekend with my engagement party, but I felt the need to make a few quick comments about the Buffalo Sabres as of late. So you know what that means....IT'S MAIL IT IN TIME!!!!
Let me start by saying that I love what dear old Scizz wrote the other night
. I cued this piece of mine up by promising a rebuttal on Twitter
, but really the only thing that guaranteed was that I'd actually write something, and not that I'd sit down with the intention of tearing Scizzer a new asshole. Besides, it was I that started the heckles for Miller the other night; I who have relentlessly criticized similar behavior of other Sabres fans from time to time. Fact is, I was drunk, I had busted my ass to organize a trip out to the Island for this game, and I was pissed. Miller pulled it out in the end, and provided me with another reason to sit down and be honest, just like my compatriot.
Last week, as my body deteriorated as it reacted to little sleep combined with a stomach bug combined with an impromptu visit to Elmhurst Medical Center, I reached my lowest point. Last night, as Mike Weber and Jordan Leopold looked utterly confused as to their respective purposes in life, and Ryan Miller was yet again run out of the net by a vastly superior team of ice hockey players, the Sabres followed suit.
As if it weren't clear, neither professional hockey teams nor 29 year old bodies are supposed to behave like this.
And while I have adjusted my sleep patterns and imbibed more than my fair share of fluids to right my own ship, I wonder just how much is being done to right what is so very, very wrong with our Buffalo Sabres.
Frankly, I fear that "nothing" may be pretty close to the truth.
What is becoming clear is that this season is a bust - the Sabres need to win roughly 70% of their games to even have a shot at the playoffs... that will not happen - and the only questions are whether we'll actually get any watchable, palatable hockey in the meantime, and whether organizational shakeups will happen sooner rather than later.
As to the first question, your guess is as good as mine. The team we've seen these past couple months is a shadow of its former self - the self which dug deep for a 7 seed last year and then pushed one of the East's best to the brink. I don't know if I've seen this team dig that deep since November, even for just a period. For a town that prides itself in its support for hard-working hockey, and for an organization which has sold itself as purposed towards a Cup above all else, this lack of on-ice passion is staggering and disheartening. And for a fanbase that tends to support its teams so long as the games are watchable competitions of relatively even sides, it shouldn't be that hard for the team to put together some decent hockey and give us a continuing reason to overdrink on weeknights. But, while it shouldn't be that hard, it apparently is. Say what you will about the pieces still missing from the roster - and there are PLENTY to speak of - but we all thought, at the very least, that they'd step out onto the ice and compete. Instead, they've simply folded, leaving us with a shitty product with shitty prospects for the future.
As for the organizational shakeups that are sure to come given the team's failure to achieve even the most basic of goals, I do hope that they come sooner rather than later. The caveat being, of course, that this season is an unchangeable turd sandwich with absolutely no realistic hope of salvation, so any shakeups we see need to be purposed towards the long term. With the disastrous results on Long Island and in Detroit these past two games, no reasonably thinking Sabres fan is looking for a splash that might turn this season around. But, since it's all too likely that the on-ice product will remain garbage, the least the team can do is start actively trying to find ways to make the team better for next year so that we fans can at least have that to cheer for. Most fans will ultimately be ok with waiting on that Cup run - hell, its been over 40 years, we can be patient for a couple more. But, even with that general willingness to be patient, we will have a hard time stomaching the developing feeling that the team is spiraling downwards with no legitimate hope of recovery on the horizon.
Which is exactly what watching this Sabres squad of underachieving, overhyped nancies has felt like. Putrid, vomuit-inducing shit heading further and further down the drain. And, sadly, for those who've been able to stomach it, you all know that this is far from hyperbole.
So, dearest Terry Pegula, you humble man of such extensive means - IT'S YOUR SHOW. We're all in for your master plan for this Sabres team, and we know it will take a little bit of time, but in the meantime we need you to show us something. We need you need to show us that, as much as we all love Lindy, you are beginning to understand - as we have - that he might not be the guy to take us to the promised land. We need you need to show us that, as well as he's played in the past, you see - as we have - that Ryan Miller is showing himself to be not quite up to the task of the Sabres #1 goaltender and might need to find a home elsewhere. And we need you need to show us that, as locked in to its farm system as this team has been over the last decade, you appreciate - as we have - that there might be another, easier, quicker road to a Cup victory than sticking by our "core" through thick and thin, and that there's no shame in admitting that the philosophy of the franchise you took over might need some major tweaking.
The fragile sports psyche of the Buffalo fan, promised time and again that progress is coming, only to be served the same shit sandwich from its teams year after year, needs this all more than ever right now.
Terry, again - IT'S YOUR SHOW.
This is not going to be a happy post.
I'm fucking bitter. Right from the outset, dear readers, please understand that there is a LOT pissing me off these days. For the life of me, though, I can't stomach a full post where I take on one, cohesive topic of my rage. I'm exhausted from vacation (go figure), I'm already exhausted from work, and I'm exhausted by the dozen or so little corners of my sports world that make me want to find Jerry Sullivan's NYC doppleganger and strangle him to a long, slow death.
I am not in a good place, in other words.