It's been a tough, weird and frustrating couple of weeks, both in life and in sport - and, even more so perhaps, in the overlap between life and sport - and as for our Buffalo Sabres, I'm having a hard time knowing what to say about this frustrating yet heartening group of players upon whom we have collectively placed so much of our hope and expectation.
The upside, as I am finding more and more as I try to wrap my head around this Sabres team (and, of course, the Bills and the US Men's Soccer Team and Liverpool Football Club) is that there is still much to be decided about each and every one of those teams and their potential for success. No matter how cynical I am about the chances of watching any one of my teams raise a trophy anytime soon, there is a comfort in knowing that I - myself - have no effect on these futures yet to come, and that the only thing required of me is that I sit and wait.
/hating job & life & responsibility & civics and loving drinking & cheering & musing on the volume of toughness in Nathan Gerbe's heart/
So, because I must and because DGWUSports has been in a sort of bizarre stasis of content for the past week as we have all, I think, struggled with life/work/Deeg balance, here are some Sabre-related thoughts that have sprung from moments of patience as I wait on what this team could become.
No Suspension for Lucic
Nearly a week removed from the rage storm I unleashed following the Lucic hit on Ryan Miller, I'm surprisingly fine with the fact that the league didn't punish Lucic with anything beyond the 2 minute minor he served in the game. I don't need to dwell too much on the disciplinary system of a league that allows fighting; it's going to be riddled with absurdities. Needless to say, I am having more trouble coming to terms with what the Sabres' response should be moving forward - whether I want them to make some sort of aggressive statement against the Bruins (and maybe all teams) to try and shift the pendulum back towards teams actually in any way fearing the Sabres, or whether I want them to retain that "system"-oriented, narrow focus on playing to win regardless of whether they look like Nancies doing it.
I still don't have an answer really, because - again with the need for patience - it really all depends on what kind of Bruins team we see when we play them next week, and what kind of potential goonery we see from any other teams during this long and arduous journey for a Cup. (word painting FTW). I was discussing this with Yachtsman earlier in the week via Twitter, and he brazenly chastised me for endorsing anything short of swift and immediate retribution against the Bruins next week. Now that I am largely immune to Yachter's sometimes hasty yet very well-worded rebukes of opinions existing out of his own head, I feel still pretty sure that I'm right. The Bruins game may present an opportunity for the Sabres to have some sort of "statement game," but the real opportunity will be the next time - whether against the Bruins or anyone else - that our goalie gets run or that Nathan Gerbe gets boarded or that Robyn Regehr gets his enormous ears pulled off. Let's see what the team does then and then we start making an actual judgment about whether their vaginafied response to the Lucic hit taught them anything.
Sabres v. Montreal, Monday, November 14th
I enjoyed Monday night's game against the Canadiens immensely, despite the fact that we were all forced to struggle through the game with pre-K level commentary from the Versus crew. More asides: The stupidity of some pockets of hockey media is still astounding to me, though perhaps it shouldn't be at this point. When I wonder about whether the legal profession is truly the place for me, in my moments of absurd fantasizing about my career path, I consider things like hockey broadcasters and other entrenched members of sports media generally, and I always come back to the conclusion that I could surely do it better. This is not bragging, this is fucking fact. Which isn't to say that I'm actually deserving of a job like that, but just that these Turd Fergusons are better suited for hosting Queens cable access shows about problems with sewer mains in Flushing, Queens. Or suicide. OR BOTH.
Happily, the game was also a reminder that the Habs are not a great hockey team and how much facts like that make us feel better about the universe. While the Northeast table remains tight, it is nice to see those smug fuckers at the bottom looking up.
Sabres v. New Jersey, Monday, November 16th
I like New Jersey, so while I didn't love the result, I didn't get all that worked up about the 5-3 loss on Wednesday.
Happily for me, there was some great silver lining with the loss. While I have loved Jhonas Enroth's play this year, his success was creating a growing tide of shit-for-brains opinions within Sabreland as it seemed, inexplicably, that he was getting the best version of the Sabres playing in front of him night after night. Enroth being pasted for 5 goals on 19 shots proved, at least for the night, that he is not the panacea to the Sabres problems on the back end, even if you choose to think that he's given us a better chance to win than Miller lately. Bad defense is bad defense, and it was actually pretty great to see a shitty performance from our blueline so that the fan base could get a little dose of reality. Sure, I prefer wins, but - as stupid as it may seem - I also prefer some clarity of thought amongst my fellow Sabres fans, and I'll take an ugly loss here and there if it helps me prove a point.
Oh, and if you didn't happen to watch the game, it bears mentioning that Marty Brodeur is still good at the hockey. Sure, the Sabres allowed themselves to start slowly again and that probably cost them the game, but Brodeur looked like his old self out there as he kept his team ahead. With Parise back, and the team looking more like a playoff contender than it did at any point last year, the last thing the Eastern Conference needs is a resurgent Marty Brodeur. Throw in Johan Hedberg's good play, and I think you have a team that may surprise a lot of people over the next few months. Too bad no one will see it in that empty ass arena.
I probably shouldn't be too surprised, but Wednesday's apparent assurances about Enroth being a mere human between the pipes were quickly replaced by a shutout victory which again suggested that he may just be a supernatural creature sent to Earth to dominate mere mortals... a DEMON SWEDE if you will. Capping off a week fraught with emotion and anger and disappointment, Enroth's steady performance on Friday night was nothing short of stellar. Despite the need for 34 saves, it was apparent that the team was focusing their efforts on defense - I KNOW! WEIRD... - and seemed to be content with Pominville's early PP goal. That this stingy effort took place at the RBC Center, an arena Buffalo fans invade en masse twice a year for these roadies, was also pretty nice, as were the six Mama's Little Pils I drank while watching the game on my phone, silently cursing my netbook for living up to its $250 pricetag.
For those wondering, Enroth is really tiny on an iPhone. And Kevin Sylvester is really annoying.
Aaaand, tonight's game - Sabres v. Phoenix
The Sabres finish up the 4 games in 6 days (or 6 in 9, if you want it that way) stint with a return to the F'N Center for a game against the Coyotes. I am guaranteed to miss this game with my father-in-law in town for the night, but at this point I'm happy to take a night off since I really have no clue what to expect from Buffalo anymore. Mike Smith, the Coyotes new goalie in the post-Bryzgalov era, has actually been putting together some decent starts this year (2.17 GAA, .934 SV%). Even so, out of some perhaps foolish optimism, I'm benching him in fantasy hockey tonight because I have a feeling that this game sees the Sabres finding a little bit of its scoring touch after being largely contained by the Canes last night. I'm also going to go out on a limb and say that I think the line of Boyes-Stafford-Leino, which was super impressive last night, will score at least one against the Coyotes.
Of course, these predictions having been made, the Sabres will lose 5-1 and Jhonas will bench himself en route to a trip to Mints. Strippers love little guys with accents.