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What went wrong? June 12, 2010

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
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I was going to wait until sometime in the summer to post this, but I figured – what the hell – might as well throw it up. Don’t get alarmed – it’s another serious post.

Today’s topic is: what went wrong?

That’s such an open question, I know… but I’m specifically referring to the past three seasons of Sabres hockey in relation to the two years prior. If you look at the rosters for the ’05-’06 and ’06-’07 Sabres compared to the past three years, here are the subtractions:

Dumont
Grier
Kalinin
McKee
Pyatt
Fitzpatrick
Biron
Briere
Drury

IMO there haven’t been enough notable additions to make them part of the discussion, so we’ll ignore them for now (see Moore, Dominic and Torres, Raffi, listed under Busts, Total).

I’m not going to argue that the team hasn’t missed Briere and Drury – they have. And I know they came close to making the playoffs in both ’07-’08 and ’08-’09, but let’s face it – this team has been a shadow of itself since ’06-’07, when they ran the season and won the President’s Trophy.

This past year, they did well in the regular season, but imploded in the playoffs, with much the same roster that took them to the Eastern Conference Finals twice only a few seasons before that.

So what’s gone wrong? What’s the difference?

Did they miss other players more than they admitted? Was Mike Grier really that big a loss? JP Dumont? Martin Biron? Jay McKee? Or was it a combination of losing those veterans, along with Briere and Drury, and thinking the guys who stepped up during the ’05-’06 and ’06-’07 could it without them?

I’ve heard time and time again that what this team (and the teams in the two playoffs-less seasons before that) was lacking was mental toughness. Resilience. Focus. Call it whatever you want. But is that really the problem?

I bet you thought I was going to tell you what I think the problem is, didn’t you? Nope. I want to hear what you think.

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Sabres vs Bruins 4/23/10 Postmortem April 23, 2010

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First of all, let me say this: I have not seen a second of this game. I’m in Connecticut for a writers’ conference. I got back from dinner with a few minutes left in the first, and we’ve (my mom is with me) been listening to the game online. Because of that, I’m not going to do the Liked/Didn’t like lists – frankly, I can’t pick out specific enough stuff to do so. However, I will offer up what I can…

  • Adam Mair bugs me. Why? Because sometimes it seems like he’s got talent (and obviously he does – he’s in the NHL), and he scores a goal, and you think – why doesn’t Lindy Ruff give him more ice time? Then he takes a dumb penalty in the final two minutes of the game, and you know why he rides the pine.
  • Paul Hamilton just said Tyler Ennis is the leading scorer for the Sabres in the playoffs. While I’m happy for the little guy, am I the only one who thinks there’s something very, very wrong with this?
  • Most invisible players in this series: Gaustad and Stafford. They’re both in Amanda’s dog house. Oh, and Torres, but I don’t have to put him in my dog house, Lindy put him in his.
  • Have I mentioned my disdain for Mark Recchi? Yes? Oh well, it bears mentioning again.
  • Kaleta just blocked a shot, and my first thought was “Oh no, he’s going to get hurt again!” And sure enough, Harry mentions how Kaleta is on the bench wincing in pain.
  • I totally want to go drinking with Toni Lydman. I think that would be a laugh and a half.
  • Mike Grier takes a slap shot to the head. Gives me a headache to even think about it… glad he appears to be ok.
  • I really, really, really don’t like this Boychuk fellow. He just hit Pominville. He just tried to hit Ennis. He took out Vanek AND Ellis. He needs to be… neutralized. AND THEN HE SCORES. Grrrrrr…
  • Tim Connolly: a man of many chances and few actual goals.
  • Will the real Buffalo Sabres please stand up?

And the Sabres live to fight another day…

Wish me luck selling my book! Talk to y’all Sunday night or Monday morning.

Sabres vs Bruins 4/19/10 Postmortem April 19, 2010

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Well, here it is. Game Three. Staffy’s back, Vanek is not. Let’s do this!

Liked:

  • Nice move by Torres and Grier actually finishes for once. That quieted the crowd down a little (for now).
  • Kennedy challenges Chara. Probably not smart, but the kid’s got cojones.
  • Getting shots through is good. Nice job, Myers.
  • Pucks are sticking to Miller. Let’s continue that trend.
  • I like few things better than Miroslav Satan looking sad. Well, not entirely true – I really enjoy it when Chris Neil, Sean Avery, or Dan Carcillo is sad.
  • Let’s hope the scrum here with six minutes left in the third wakes the Sabres up. No big loss to have Rivet and Sekera in the box…

Didn’t like:

  • Too many shots getting through. We all knew Boston was going to come out flying, but really guys, blocking or preventing a shot or two would be lovely.
  • Not a good mistake to make, Sekera. Aaannnnddddd it’s in our net.
  • Hey, Tim Connolly, maybe if you hold onto that puck a little longer EVERYONE will know your plans for it.
  • Does anyone remember the TV show “Beauty and the Beast”? Shawn Thornton totally looks like the Beast from that show.
  • I do believe I may have to lie down for the remainder of the game. Stupid cold. So much harder to type when horizontal.
  • Ok, guys, seriously. How many of your teammates are going to get maimed before Boychuk is very, very sorry?
  • Know how I sent during the last live blog that the power play was mud? Guess what? Still is.
  • Lots of penalties do not a win make, just so you know, guys.
  • Tim Connolly – you are not an island. You have teammates. Use them.
  • That must’ve been an awfully high “high stick” to catch Tyler Myers.
  • The Sabres puckhandling tonight reminds me of those clown cars when they do Chinese fire drills.
  • And in a surprise to no one, the Bruins score the go-ahead goal. The Sabres look – intimidated… disinterested. I don’t even know how to describe it.

Ok then. I’m still not panicking but I am annoyed. Let’s try to TRY next time, boys.

Sabres vs Bruins 4/15/10 Postmortem April 15, 2010

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It’s on, baby! It’s sooooooooooo on!

Liked:

  • Oh, Thomas Vanek – we would adore you for all eternity if you put the team on your back and carried them to success.
  • Happy to see Adam Mair is back. I was afraid we’d already lost a forward.
  • I absolutely ADORE a playoffs-loud HSBC Arena.
  • Kaleta just went around Chara like a hoop around a barrel. Aaaannnnddddd he draws a penalty and a melee ensues! Let’s get the hate on!
  • Toni Lydman, I love how crazy, and yet not, you are.
  • Awww, Derek Roy. How cute that you defended Toni Lydman. My thought was that you should just kinda stand there holding Bergeron’s jersey, but you wanted no part of that!
  • Raffi Torres – playoff beast? I like it so far! Whoever gave Torres the cranky juice should keep doing it.
  • And Tyler Ennis goes around Chara like a hoop around a barrel. A trend? Man, I hope so…
  • Toni Lydman should get far more credit for his shot-blocking skills.
  • Wooooo! Craig Rivet! Did he score a goal in the regular season? The guys were all so happy for him!
  • Pat Kaleta is bloody. Yes, the playoffs have officially started.
  • Roy’s hustle draws a penalty. Yay!
  • Heh. Buh-bye Miro! Let’s score on the power play!
  • Chara takes the late penalty. This gives me the warm and fuzzies.

Didn’t like:

  • Hey – don’t hurt Vanek, Chara, or you and me are gonna have a liiiiitle talk. And I know people. I married an Italian.
  • So far the power play has been mud.
  • Tim Kennedy just blew a tire. Why is that important? The Sabres couldn’t get the puck out of their zone and took a penalty.
  • I’m not sure I can properly express the level of my hatred for Mark Recchi.
  • 20 shots in 13 minutes in the second period? Note to the Sabres: That’s not good. Just so you know.
  • Also, 30% on faceoffs is not good. Just so you know.
  • Uhhh, Pominville? When your teammates are dead tired and you need to get the puck into the offensive zone, do it a little harder, k?

Game One is in the books! Game Two is going to happen while I’m at a Novelist Boot Camp. I’ll DVR it and watch it when I get home. Go Sabres!

Who will be the hero? April 14, 2010

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
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Each year, there’s a different player, or players, who are heroes in the playoffs. We’ve all seen footage (or the game live) of May Day in ’92-93, and many of us remember Jason Wooley’s overtime goal on the road to win the first game of the ’99 Stanley Cup Finals. And of course who can forget Jason Pominville’s shorthanded goal to send the Senators packing in ’05-06?

So… who will be the hero this year?

Let’s go through the lineup. I’m excluding goalies from this and making my assumptions based on who will score a goal to tie or win a crucial game. It’s my blog, and I can do what I want. 😉

I’m going to put my own purely unscientific odds on each player. Feel free to agree or disagree:

Tim Connolly: He’s done it before (tying Game 1 against the Senators in ’05-06 with only 11 seconds left in regulation), but can he do it again? Let’s face it – there’s little chance his foot is 100%, but this is the playoffs, and he’ll play. 5-to-1 *NOTE: Without the foot injury I’d probably put him at 4-to-1.

Matt Ellis: Possible, but very unlikely. Fourth-liners don’t get much ice time in the playoffs, for one thing. 20-to-1

Tyler Ennis: It’s hard to say what Ennis can or will do. This is his first NHL playoffs, and he might be intimidated. Conversely, he may handle the pressure well (he has so far from what I can see) and perform admirably. 8-to-1

Paul Gaustad: Gaustad has it in him to be a game-changer. However, the playoffs are often so tightly contested they come down to things like lucky bounces, and lucky bounces tend to go better for players with hands and scoring instincts, neither of which Gaustad has. Before you all tar and feather me, let me say this: I like Paul Gaustad a lot. But he’s not as likely to score that timely goal as some of his teammates are. 8-to-1

Nathan Gerbe: Gerbe is another wild card. I don’t think he’ll be as much of a factor in the playoffs as Ennis will (provided either of them remain with the team, of course), but he has played in big games before and performed admirably. 12-to-1

Mike Grier: Grier doesn’t strike me as the guy who will make the big play. It’s more likely he’ll make the pass that gets the big play started. 10-to-1

Jochen Hecht: I’ve never seen Hecht as a game-changer. He chips in his 20 or so goals and isn’t a defensive liability. The fact he plays with Connolly and Pominville a lot will help his chances of heroism but I don’t expect him to be “the guy”. 6-to-1

Pat Kaleta: Strangely enough, I have more faith that he could be a hero than I do in a lot of the other grinders. Unlike some of them, he can be a game-changer, whether it’s because he draws a timely penalty or scores a goal at an unlikely time. I’ll put him at 7-to-1.

Tim Kennedy: I think Kennedy is wearing down. The rigors of a full season of NHL hockey is taking its toll. That being said, he may find another gear in the playoffs. 8-to-1

Adam Mair: With Mair’s propensity for taking stupid penalties at awful times, if I was Ruff I’d nail his butt to the bench with the exception of a shift or two a period. With so little ice time he probably won’t be the one to make a difference (in a good way). 20-to-1

Jason Pominville: Pominville’s done it before and can do it again. He’ll get plenty of time and opportunities to be the difference-maker. 3-to-1

Derek Roy: Roy was the top points-getter in the regular season and scored some timely goals. Like Pominville, he will eat up a lot of ice time and have many chances to be the hero. 3-to-1

Drew Stafford: IF Stafford plays, he won’t be 100%. That fact, coupled with the fact his ice time hasn’t been consistent this season, will make it harder for him to score the important goals. 7-to-1

Raffi Torres: Theoretically, Torres should have a good shot at being the hero. Realistically, though, I think the mental fatigue brought on by not scoring during his time with the Sabres so far will hinder his chances. 9-to-1

Thomas Vanek: Vanek can be a game-changer, and if he continues to play like he has since he came back from injury there’s an excellent chance he’ll put the biscuit in the basket at the right time. 2-to-1

Chris Butler: Both he and Andrej Sekera seem to be in Ruff’s doghouse, but he’ll still get ice time when he dresses. He’s got an offensive touch and may play on the point during the power play. 10-to-1

Toni Lydman: Lydman’s job isn’t to score goals, it’s to prevent them, but he chips in some offense when he can. I think he’ll be too busy, you know, defending, to help out much at the other end, though. 15-to-1

Steve Montador: Montador has shown more of an offensive upside than I had anticipated. Despite that, the guy doesn’t exactly have soft hands. 12-to-1

Tyler Myers: When a player gets as much ice time as Myers does, and in every situation, there’s a good chance he’ll become your playoff hero. He’s got the best shot of all the defensemen. 6-to-1

Craig Rivet: Unless I’m missing something, Rivet is running on fumes. Veterans sometimes find another gear in the playoffs. If he doesn’t, though, his chances of being the hero are not good. 16-to-1

Andrej Sekera: Read the above commentary about Butler. Ditto. 10-to-1

Henrik Tallinder: Playing with Myers and getting so much ice time probably make him the second most-likely defenseman to get the big goal. He’s more likely to shovel the outlet pass to the hero, though. 9-to-1

What do y’all think? Who will be the hero?

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