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I don’t know, stop asking me January 31, 2010

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Every single day for the last 2-3 weeks some variation of the search phrase “steve montador girlfriend” has shown up in the search strings used to find this blog. Let me clear something up:

I DON’T KNOW.

Back with more later.

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It’s Hockey Day! January 30, 2010

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It’s Hockey Day! *throws confetti*

I think I like Hockey Day more than Christmas. Canada does Hockey Day right. I’ve been watching coverage of Hockey Day for a few years now, and my favorite part is seeing just how ingrained hockey is into the fabric of Canada. Usually I watch CBC, but I have FiOS now and I don’t think I get it anymore. Boooo…..

So I know Minnesota is doing a big thing for Hockey Day, but what about the rest of the US teams? I heard a rumbling about the Sabres doing something, but can’t find anything about it on their website. It seems to me that expanding Hockey Day in Canada to Hockey Day in North America would be a smart move. After all, if you’re the NHL, Hockey Canada, or USA Hockey, shouldn’t you take every opportunity you can to get hockey out there?

EDIT: I see on the USA Hockey website that Reebok, with help from USA Hockey, the NHL, and for some reason, Liberty Mutual, is sponsoring a Hockey Weekend Across America. Here are the highlights:

  • Total of 135 rinks in 33 states will participate in USA Hockey’s Try Hockey for Free initiative on Saturday (Jan. 30) as part of Hockey Weekend Across America. The 135 rinks will provide those new to hockey an opportunity to try it without cost
  • Media conference calls w/reps from the 1980 Miracle on Ice team, etc.
  • Teams for disabled players – think sled leagues, etc will visit every rink in NJ to publicize their programs.
  • 2010 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team will take part in four Try Hockey for Free clinics.
  • The Phoenix Coyotes are sponsoring “24 Hours of Hockey” as part of Hockey Weekend Across America. The event continues throughout the night and into Sunday with a total of 15 consecutive youth and adult hockey games. All age groups will be represented at the event, which will end with a game featuring Coyotes and NHL alumni at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

That’s all great, but eesh – totally small potatoes compared to Hockey Day in Canada.

Let’s face it – as much as we all love hockey, it’s not a mainstream sport. It seems to straddle being a major sport and a niche sport. The NHL does not do a great job with publicity, so let’s embrace Hockey Day and have every team, no matter what location, do SOMETHING. It’s not that hard, NHL. I’ll even help you if you want.

Sabres vs Bruins 1/29/10 Postmortem January 29, 2010

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I’m of two minds about playing teams in slumps: 1 – Yay! Let’s pile on! 2 – Oh crap, they’re going to be desperate. Let’s hope tonight is the former.

I’ll be watching the game, of course, but also obsessively checking the blog of a literary agent who held a “pitchfest” yesterday. I pitched my novel, and she’s responding to each pitch via the blog. She mentioned she doesn’t like sports-related romances, so I’m guessing she’s going to pass on mine. Poo. EDIT: Aaanddd she did. Double poo.

On to the show…

Liked:

  • The defense is moving up more, and I like it. They’re shooting more, and I like it.
  • Pominville is going to put one in if he keeps playing like this.
  • I believe the Sabres are skating faster than the Bruins. Yes, I do believe they are.
  • Good job neutralizing Milan Lucic during that scrum, Tyler Myers. You are one of the only guys who could’ve, especially with Goose being challenged by Savard, who apparently has lost his freeging mind.
  • Drew Stafford, you are a punk. Fortunately, we love you for it. Well, most of the time.
  • No Sabres penalties through the first half of the game? I’m a fan. If there was a “Like” button for this bullet I would click it.
  • Chris Butler is getting a lot of ice time. Let’s hope he makes the most of it.
  • Man, the Bruins are taking DUMB DUMB DUMB penalties. Are the wheels coming off the bus?
  • I think Thomas Vanek might be stronger than I thought he was. I also think his hot streak is starting and I hope fervently it won’t be affected by the Olympic break.
  • Rob Ray thinks Harry Neale is an idiot. You can just see it.
  • You know, I don’t really care whether or not the Sabres outshoot their opponents. I’m more concerned with their shooting percentage than the number of shots.
  • Does Tyler Myers remind anyone else of the Energizer Bunny? He keeps going… and going…
  • The Sabres are now all over 54% on faceoffs with the exception of Matt Ellis, who I’ll excuse. Puck control is much easier when you, you know, actually have the puck.

Didn’t like:

  • Uhhhh, Toni? Could I have a word? “Lindy BENCHED YOU in the last game, remember? Getting rambunctious and causing a two-on-one only a few minutes into the game is not going to put you back in his good graces.”
  • Apparently sitting on a guy in front of the net is A-OK. Good to know, good to know… apparently slew-footing an opponent and throwing them into the boards is also acceptable.
  • Oh look, halfway through the game and I just noticed Clarke MacArthur was playing.
  • According to ESPN.com, the Sabres have had 20 giveaways halfway through the game. I think someone is trying to earn their money in the stats booth… EDIT: Harry just mentioned the number of giveaways. I may have to bleach my brain so I never say the same thing as Harry again.
  • I know I’m no coach, but I’m pretty sure a power play is more effective when you actually spend time in the opponent’s zone.
  • Some of the Sabres obviously need glasses. They’re missing the net by 10 feet. Don’t they play this game for a living? Just sayin’.
  • It’s 2-1 with 10 minutes to go in the third. I’d feel better if they could chip another one in.
  • And Derek Roy takes his nightly dumb penalty…
  • Mark Recchi is one of those players I’ve just never liked. When is he going to retire, anyway?

Sabres vs Devils 1/27/10 Postmortem January 27, 2010

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I have a killer headache, so I’m not going to do the regular postmortem. I apologize, but I am barely staying upright to watch the game, much less do any analysis. And yes, I’m aware what I do is a very loose interpretation of “analysis”.

Just like RJ, I hope to return to regular duties on Friday.

Olympics Men’s Hockey Preview, my way January 26, 2010

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Here are the major teams, in the order I think they’ll finish in. Feel free to argue in the comments…

RUSSIA – Gold Medal Winner

Why they’ll win: What was it I said about Canada being stacked? Yeah… the same thing can be said for Russia. Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Kovalev, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Gonchar, Andrei Markov… Their goaltending situation is pretty solid too: Evgeni Nabokov, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Semyon Varlamov.

The roster is more of an all-star team from top to bottom, and I think they’ll overwhelm most everyone.

Why they won’t: I don’t think they’re going to beat themselves; I think someone is going to have to beat them. That being said, there’s a lot of pressure on these guys, based on what we’ve seen in the past.

CANADA – Silver Medal Winner

Why they’ll win: Have you seen this roster? It is STACKED! Sidney Crosby, Martin Brodeur, Rick Nash, Roberto Luongo, Chris Pronger, Ryan Getzlaf – the list goes on and on.

Why they won’t: Pretty much every prognosticator has identified Russia and Canada as the teams to beat. Yes, Sweden, the US, Finland, and even Slovakia have competitive squads. Despite that, Russia and Canada seem to be the odds-on favorites. That’s a lot of pressure; a lot to live up to, especially in your own country. Can you imagine the looting in Montreal if the team doesn’t finish in the medals? I shudder at the thought. A gold medal isn’t even just expected – it’s demanded. Canada invented hockey – if they don’t win, it will be a huge blow to the collective ego of Canada.

Also, this team could go the way of some recent Team USA basketball “Dream Teams”. The chemistry just may not come together.

UNITED STATES – Bronze Medal Winner

Why they’ll win: This is a YOUNG roster – perhaps the youngest in the tournament. Why do I think this is a good thing? Because of the larger ice surface. Sure, there are good skaters on other teams, but the US team is known for its skating. Even the older guys like Brian Rafalski and Jamie Langenbrunner are good skaters, and when you add younger players like Zach Parise, Jack Johnson, and Bobby Ryan, this becomes a formidable team to chase around the ice.

Their overall size on defense might help them too. Guys like Brooks Orpik, Ron Hainsey, Ryan Suter, and Mike Komisarek will be physically intimidating, especially against smaller offensive players. Phil Kessel and Ryan Malone, among others, bring grit to the forward position as well.

It can’t be overlooked that the US carries the best goaltender into the Olympics: Ryan Miller. Yes, I know this is a Sabres blog and I could be accused of being bias, but even non-Sabres fans can appreciate the season he’s having. Tim Thomas, who was thrilled to be named, and Jonathan Quick are both very capable goaltenders too – it’s not like the quality drops off right after Miller.

One last reason they’ll win: they don’t have the same pressure some of the other teams are facing. Yes, these guys all play in the NHL, and some of them have gone to the Stanley Cup finals, or at least been in the playoffs. Yes, most of them have international experience. But that doesn’t mean they’re expected to win.

Why they won’t: Only three of the players on the roster have been to the Olympics before. As I mentioned above, these guys aren’t exactly green, but they haven’t experienced the grind of an NHL season AND the Olympics. Their inexperience will be their greatest hurdle.

SWEDEN – Fourth Place

Why they’ll win: Another good, but not great, roster. The team is led by Daniel Alfredsson, the Sedin twins, Nicklas Backstrom (the other one), Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, and Nicklas Lidstrom. Goaltending will be a strong point for them if Henrik Lundqvist plays like he can. And he’d better, because goaltending falls off after him.

This team has a lot of experience, and much of it is at a high level. That will help them overcome adversity.

Why they won’t: Because they’re old. Top to bottom I don’t think they can keep up with the likes of Canada, Russia, and the US.

FINLAND – Fifth Place

Why they’ll win: I hate to say it, but they won’t win unless some of the stronger teams basically beat themselves. Their roster highlights include Teemu Selanne, who is still hurt as far as I know. Joining him are Joni Pitkanen, Sami Salo, Kimmo Timonen, Olli Jokinen, Mikko/Saku Koivu, and Jere Lehtinen, among others.  Goaltenders are Nicklas Backstrom, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Antero Niitimakki.

Why they won’t: Good goaltenders, but not as strong as the Russian, Canadian, and US goaltending corps are. The rest of the roster is also not as competitive as their opponents. They could sneak into the medals, but I doubt they’ll win.

SLOVAKIA – Sixth Place

Why they’ll win: You can’t count the Slovaks out, and any team that does is taking them too lightly. Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik, Zdeno Chara, and others could burn unaware teams.

Why they won’t: Overall, the Slovakian team doesn’t have enough talent, and what talent they have is aging. Their goaltending is significantly downgraded in comparison to their opponents – it appears to be a dead heat to see if Jaroslav Halak or Peter Budaj will start.

CZECH REPUBLIC – Seventh Place

Why they’ll win: They won’t. Not enough talent on the roster. Their starting goaltender is Tomas Vokoun, who can’t hold up the team by themselves. Their roster highlights are Tomas Kaberle, Milan Hedjuk, Jaromir Jagr, Milan Michalek, Tomas Plekanec, and Martin Havlat.

Why they won’t: Good players all (above), but not good enough to dominate in this tournament.

So what do you all think? Am I totally batty? Let me know!

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