So tonight MSG is airing Game Five of the 2006 Ottawa-Buffalo series. I didn't catch a lot of this game for reasons spelled out below and I since I doubt many of you have seen it since, being early in the DVR-era and all, I figured I would give a live blog the college try. Also, there's no other hockey to comment on and what am I going to do, take a crack at the Bills? Fuck that noise. If the live-blog has some hiccups, it will be up tomorrow as a retro-retro live blog. This game has nostalgic connotations for me and in order to keep myself from pontificating on them when I should be discussing the game itself, I'm getting them out of the way here beforehand.
That may seem trite, hyperbole, but I haven’t married or spawned so hear me out. Two nights earlier I stood in St. Bonaventure’s campus bar, clutching my apartment’s broom and sucking down an alarming amount of fifty cent drafts. It was Senior week, the campus barren except for the class of 2006, left with nothing much to do but drink, barbeque, attend various social functions (more drinking), and watch hockey. The night before, dozens of us crammed up against a bar watching the overtime of game three on a tiny corner television where JP Dumont scored, sending the Clubhouse at the campus golf course into euphoria. Could it happen? Could we really beat the Senators?
Not in game four, and that broom ended up broken in half (graduation was three days off, what the fuck would I need it for?). It would be back to Ottawa for Game five.
Why didn't I watch the game? Well for starters, my parents had come down and her cousins from just over the hill in Pennsylvania wanted to take us out to dinner (in 2006 Olean this meant Applebee’s). I tried as best I could to discern what was happening on the television some thirty feet away at the bar while at the same time being polite. My extended family gave my mom and I Penn State apparel in honor of starting law school in the fall and the first period ended in a tie. When we all parted at intermission, I promised we would be staying in town that night; it was cold, raining badly. Instead, my girlfriend and I headed to the hills near Ellicottville for a party with my high school friends.
I remember squeezing into a tiny antique bench that couldn’t have been meant for actual use because there were so many people in the living room. I remember the storm making the MSG feed cut out and someone having to pound on the cable box to get it to return. I remember playing asshole during the third intermission and into overtime, keeping an eye on the television and preparing myself to enjoy the rest of this final night in college with second consecutive loss.
I remember the play, the eruption of the house, the screaming, the hugging, the unbridled joy felt by everyone there. I remember the look of bemused excitement on the girl who had been introduced to this fanaticism throughout the highs and lows of the season.
I remember many of us heading out in our boxers in the rain and taking the slip and slide down the hill, hoping simply that we wouldn’t carom into the guest house or stones at the bottom. I remember pouring a funnel for a friend and saying “Eastern Conference Finals, man,” in disbelief.
I remember heading back to Allegany, to the house I spent a sizable amount of nights drinking and smoking that year. I remember standing in the backyard with those people that I shared the best years of my life with, classmates, roommates, teammates, basking in the bittersweetness of our ride together coming to a close and the sweetness of the team whose ride we felt was just beginning. I remember hugs and handshakes and my girlfriend saying to me “Matt, we have to go to bed- you graduate in like three hours.”
I remember no one had left.
Brian Duff talks about how Buffalo "always got things done" against OTT. I know they closed well against them, but my memories are the blowouts in the first half of the year. I remember watching a game in November and turning to the person next to me and saying "they are SO GOOD."
1st Period, 20:00 min left: We got Jeanneret's feed. This is good. Actually didn't remember if this was on OLN, CBC or something silly.
19:27 left: GOAL. Tallinder goes all game 1 with Buffalo scoring right away. Christ I miss him, even though he hasn't played twenty games in a row since like 2009. Also, we are reminded that Ray Emery is terrible.
19:00: Jeanneret calls a no-call on Chris Neil simply "stupid." Well done.
18:45: Who the fuck cheers when their team scores into an empty net that is empty simply because a penalty was called against you? Ottawa fans, of course.
17:47: Dumont, Campbell, Pominville, Briere, Drury out on the power play. My god, and now we pin our hopes to...well insert your own joke, I'm starting to forget our roster by this point in the lockout.
16:47: JIRI NOVOTNY WAS ON THIS TEAM, GUYS!!!!!
15:00: Tough thing about these replays are how they skip from the whistle to the faceoff. Also, the Sens fans busted out the "MILLER" chant despite trailing 1-0. This chant at inappropriate times is a huge pet peeve of mine.
14:24: Miller makes big save on a 2-on-1. So apparently this team DID know how to defend it under Lindy. Or it was dumb luck.
13:35: Mike Grier is an American hero. I hope he is drinking out of a chalice, wherever he is.
Commercial: I don't believe I had a playoff beard for this game- I had promised my family I would have it shaved for graduation so I'm fairly certain I either didn't grow one or had it taken care of before the night before. Or I shaved it drunk at 8 am the next day, a dangerous concept.
11:55: PUT DOWN THE THUNDERSTICKS. YOU AREN'T 2002 ANAHEIM ANGELS FANS
11:14: I see this is before the Lindy Ruff novelty tie era. Ugly, yet simple green tie.
10:43: So odd watching the defense clear the puck away near their own goal line, seems these days we get two guys standing around doing nothing. Kinda like Rory Fitzpatrick would be doing some two weeks later (sorry this is a joyous flashback time).
10:10: As Fitzy 1.0 takes a penalty and puts them down two men.
9:54: I loved the Dany Heatley car crash jokes during this series. Ruthless, effective in a conversation. You always knew you were in company of Sabres fans if you got laughs.
9:34: Goal, Ottawa on a long point shot from Alfredsson. Great play by Chara to get him the puck too.
8:09: WHOA. Chara off the crossbar, Heatley can't flip the rebound over Miller into the open net. These games really make you realize the chances that almost happened.
7:27: Chara gets in JP Dumont's face because he always picks on big brutes like himself. Oh yeah, that's why he gets booed in every NHL arena.
6:35: I would not mind having Havlat on my team.
6:01: Penalty on Pyatt, who was, by FAR my most hated player on this team. Hated because every proto-puck bunny talked about how hot he was when he was worthless hot garbage on the ice. Guess the names on the jerseys change but the god-awful puck bunnies do not. Who is the current team's equivalent? Gerbe? I'd say Gaustad if he were still on the team. I vote Gerbe. Even skanks know Leino is worthless.
Commercial: I miss all playoff games being drink-as-you-want events. The year after this was law school finals until the Ottawa series and 2010 and 2011 I was a working man. Luckily game 5 against Philly I didn't have to work the next day. I would have had to call in otherwise.
2:49: Even their lame PP unit isn't bad. Roy-Vanek-Afinogenov...of course Rory Fitz is out there so whatever. And please remember this is 2006 Roy and Max.
1:17: Why hello, ad on the boards for Playstation 2, in case you were wondering how long ago this was. As if the SD feed didn't do it.
End of the 1st: That period was more exciting than anything you see in 2012. Really gotta love how the league has made sure to eliminate anything meant to keep the game open. And this is with Lorentz saying they're ALLOWING too much at the moment. The idea of Bettman actively trying to kill the league is not exactly implausible.
Second Period, 17:44 left: I own a customized shirt with Mike Grier's face on it. FACT.
16:51: I also made a promise that if the Sabres were to win a cup with him on the roster, I would name my first-born "Briere."
15:45: Vanek as a non-first liner is just so strange. So is Pominville on the 4th line.
14:02: Miller with a great toe save on Spezza. Don't worry, I'm sure Lalime-Thiebeaut-Conklin-Enroth would have saved that.
13:22: Whoa Jeanneret lost his mind on a submarine hit by Numminen. I miss playoff Jeanneret. "April 5th Jeanneret" does not suffice for me.
13:15 Jesus Pominville looks young. Supposed we'd say the same about pictures of all of us.
12:04: GOAL: I'm laughing at how inept the Sens defense was on Drury's goal. He just moved closer, closer, closer, and no one did a thing, Phillips and Kelly should be embarrassed.
10:57: As Ottawa takes a penalty- note, Emery has made some very big saves- I realize I in no way miss Harry Neale. I miss Lorentz once a game these days.
You know, when there are games.
9:20: Remember when we all liked Ryan Miller this season? Even with Biron coming in and unloading 13 straight wins, we liked Miller. We're such a bunch of fucking hipsters.
8:44: I feel like I should be drinking Keystone in honor of this 2006 game. Too bad after some eight years of Keystone it now takes about two sips to make me sick to my stomach. I was funneling it after this game.
8:11: "Boy the Sabres want to end it tonight." No shit, I would not have been optimistic about Game six, but so close to the 2004 Red Sox comeback, even by game five I was starting to worry. And this is six years of disappointment ago.
7:15 Shitzpatrick with a great check, except he loses his stick and takes a tripping penalty six seconds later. MY GOD. His game seven miscue in Carolina is so prevalent but he was being stupid long before that. His teammates just made us all forget.
6:31: Chara takes penalty after Heatley fans on a shot with Miller leaving the net wide open. His playoff failures are always thoroughly enjoyable.
6:05: What a save by Miller on Havlat. We've seen it plenty now, where he falls forward toward the shot and smothers it, but in 2006 it was still sexy and new.
6:01: Oh, THAT'S why we don't remember, puck ends up in the back of the net as MSG gets back from the replay on Miller's save. Another point shot, from...Pothier? Po, Pothier? Like, sheep's wool?
4:35: If you're a Sabres fan right now, what are you thinking? I mean, I'd be thinking that Buffalo is easily the better team despite Miller needing to make a few big saves. They have more chances but are just missing passes while Ray Emery is playing, well, better than Ray Emery had business playing. I'd also worry that at any second Ottawa would drop the hammer and their chance to close down the series would be gone.
3:01: Penalty on Gaustad. By this point I'd likely be convinced the refs had it out for the Sabres because I'm an irrational human being who wasn't yet ready to realize sometimes players do shitty things. Except for Fitz and Pyatt, who I already identified as jackasses.
3:01: As we find out the penalty is on Pyatt. Yeesh.
2:36: Did Grier just trip up Smolinski two feet in front of Miller to no call? I believe so.
2:06: Wow, Roy doing work killing the penalty here. When did we start hating him? Was it his play or just the creepy, rapey, fratish sex rumors that fired through the region?
0:54: For that matter, when did we start hating Hecht? I say 2009-10. I was always never warm about him but he was just a body out there, albeit one that rarely did anything good. Sometimes being invisible is good. An example of this is Steve Montador- if you noticed him, it was because he did something awful.
SECOND INTERMISSION: Shots 26-15, Ottawa? So much for what I was noticing. Seemed the Sabres spent much more time attacking but then again Ottawa racked up plenty of PP time there. Miller simply looks great, and aside from my enemies wearing 8 and 24, so is everyone else.
3rd Period, 19:41 left: Drury starts out nearly scoring on a wrister on their first foray into Ottawa territory. Another similarity to Game One.
18:17: Penalty on Phillips for grabbing Hecht. Holding, they call it. Based on the previous several years, I can only presume this has been expunged from the rule book and the person who drafted it locked in a room with poisonous berries, Hunger Games-style.
17:01: Briere playing without a helmet. Male swoon.
16:12: Rare PP where the Sabres fail to get the puck in. Rare for 2006, that is.
15:40: Lydman DEFINITELY just interfered with someone, to no call. Knocked him on his ass as the puck was coming to him breaking to the net.
8:56 Good thing MSG just cut ahead. I know we're all eagerly waiting for the show on Steve Novak that follows Sabres Classic games.
8:20: Do you miss Brian Campbell? Yeah, me too.
6:29: If I was trying to put how long ago this was, I would make a list of events and ask you to put them in order. Off the top of my head, Dick Cheney shooting that guy in the face, the short-haired chick with a huge overbite winning American Idol and Ben Roethlisberger eating car windshield would be on that list. And apparently PS2 no longer being worth ads at professional hockey games.
5:54: Havlat hits the post short side on Miller, and the puck ricochets all the way to the other side. That is your "Sanderson off the crossbar in overtime" moment.
3:54: Afinogenov comes close on a backhand. I'm starting to remember how frustrating he was to watch come playoff time actually.
2:58: MY GOD. Heatley fires over the net and the puck comes right back to the goal crease, where it almost bounces off Tallinder and in. Smart move not to fall on it like I feel some douche like Chris Butler would have done.
1:51: I'm starting to remember the panic I felt when the picture would cut out. With the back and forth nature of this game, there was a real feeling that if you missed five consecutive seconds of play, the puck could be in the back of the net. Now, I can have a cigarette and be confident nothing will be missed.
0:33.7: Chara worries about hitting Pyatt more than controlling the puck in his zone. What an asshole.
THIRD INTERMISSION: Playoff hockey! AKA everyone grab a cigarette or a beer and calm their nerves. A quick reminder that there is nothing like it and I don't care if there's a thirteen game season, if I can experience it in April, I'm IN.
Overtime , 19:48 left: Drury and Grier try to make something happen right after faceoff, icing. Tallinder follows up with another icing to Grier that misses. God love these guys and trying to hit the Mike Grier home run every game.
19:23: Sabres playing like a bunch of boners to start OT. Kotalik makes a terrible pass, Lydman falls over, "MILLER" chants start again.
18:16: Mckee may have taken the shitty penalty, but at least he blocks the shot when Ottawa tries bringing out the extra attacker. Still, what a stupid penalty. But...
17:58: Ottawa was 1 for 6 on the PP this night with plenty of chances, and the momentum. I remember preparing myself for a loss, and I have to imagine most Sabres fans were doing the same thing. Ottawa was just due, our luck was supposed to run out.
17:51: There's that high shot that they got two goals on in the game. Eaves. Ottawa pressuring.
17:51: "Buffalo leading the playoffs with four shorthanded goals."
17:40: Pominville heads into the neutral zone. 1-on-2 with two Sabres trailing right behind...
17:37: Pominville turns around Alfredson but it still looks like the other man back in the middle should be able to stop him if need-be.
17:35: It definitely happened. Emery still didn't stick check, the second man back STILL didn't do anything (something that gets overshadowed with Alfredson and Emery getting the most shit), and Pominville gets a goal eerily similar to Drury's earlier goal.
POSTGAME: Like nearly every game of this series, game five was a very exciting game with big plays by players on both teams, not to mention both goalies. It might not be the same, six years later how could it be? But watching Pominville swing the puck around the goalie, listening to Jeanneret's call, I cannot help but smile. Sometimes, once in a great while, sports doesn't break your heart- it marks it.