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What went wrong? April 29, 2010

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We’re all disappointed about how the season ended for the Sabres. And many journalists and bloggers are asking the same question I am: what went wrong? Some of my ideas:

  • The will to compete simply wasn’t there. Boston wanted it more than the Sabres did. This is a disturbing trend which has reared its ugly head for the past three seasons. Let’s look at the constants over those seasons – some player personnel, including Vanek, Connolly, Roy, Pominville, Gaustad, Hecht, Mair, Stafford, Tallinder, and Lydman; coaching and management – Ruff, Regier, Quinn, and Golisano; and playing style, which could be a part of coaching/management, but I’m making it a separate piece. Because I can. (By the way, I’m not lumping Miller in with the player personnel. I think that boy would compete with an old lady to cross the street, and might strongly consider taking her out at the knees to win if he had to.)
  • Injuries. I’m not comparing our injuries to Boston’s injuries – both teams had players out. But no matter what Tim Connolly says, there’s no way his foot was 100%, Craig Rivet was apparently hindered by a straightjacket (insert your own joke here), and Thomas Vanek was limping like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Jochen Hecht was totally out of the series, and Patrick Kaleta played with only four fingers able to hold his stick in his injured hand. Then there are the players who are injured who we’ll never hear about – Stafford? Roy? My point is this – injuries to key players didn’t help matters.
  • “The System”. Lindy, I hate to break it to you, but “the system” doesn’t seem to be working. How ’bout you spend the summer figuring out a new “the system”?
  • Players tuning out the coaches. Let’s face it – Derek Roy says he has no problem with Lindy, but I was surprised when his nose didn’t actually grow as he was talking. He can’t be the only one. Derek Roy and several other players have been playing for Ruff & Co for their entire professional hockey careers. Even when you work for a boss you love, after a while you start to get comfortable and do your own thing, and there’s no evidence to support the assertion all the players love the coaching staff.
  • Ownership/management not doing what it takes. Raise your hand if you have begged Golisano, Quinn, and Regier to get Thomas Vanek a center who can get him the puck or another winger to complement him. Raise your hand if you watch Patrick Kaleta barrel his way around the ice and a proud tear forms in the corner of your eye, then you watch Drew Stafford lollygag through his shift and you want to put your fist through a wall. Just me? Didn’t think so. The team needs more guys who consistently TRY. It goes back to that whole “compete” concept, but only part of the “compete” factor is the players’ fault. Owners and management have to take some of the blame too.

I may come up with other reasons why they didn’t make it further. Until then, if you have your own reason, let me know in the comments section. I’m starting to think you people don’t love me anymore. *sniff, sniff*


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 4/15/10 Postmortem April 15, 2010

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It’s on, baby! It’s sooooooooooo on!


  • 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

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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?

Sabres vs Rangers 4/6/10 Postmortem April 6, 2010

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Full disclosure: I’m starting this post with four minutes left in the first period. I’ve watched most of the period, but I’ve got a killer headache and I’m not sure how much I will comment on tonight’s game. That being said…


  • Derek Roy, earning his “A” with his 24th on the power play. Yay Roy! Yay power play!
  • Derek Roy, earning his… oh, wait, I already said that. Oh well, good job defending the jolly blond giant. And WOW, later in the game he pulled Shelley off of Miller. Roy might be my new Clarke MacArthur – I can’t quit him.
  • And the monkey has left the building… Drew Stafford scores his first since February 5th.
  • Have I mentioned I LOVE the chemistry between Ennis and Pominville?
  • So Jochen Hecht has over 20 goals on the season… I know he makes a fair amount of money but considering everything I’m pretty happy to see him score that many (in addition to the fact he’s not a defensive liability, he can play in any situation, etc).
  • The Sabres now have four players with 20 goals or more. Watch tomorrow for a post on why I think Ryan Miller is not the be-all-end-all of the Sabres.
  • That being said, Ryan Miller, cool as a cucumber on a 4-on-1. Nice.
  • Toni Lydman – where has THAT shot been your whole Sabres career? Oy.
  • Tyler Myers has a really nice roster picture, which doesn’t happen a lot, especially with the younger guys.
  • Wow, Harry Neale actually did something funny! I give props where they’re due.
  • What a goal by Ennis! What a pass by Montador!
  • Tallinder is such a smooth skater. He just glides along the ice…

Didn’t like:

  • What’s with the dumb penalties, boys? What say we cut that out?
  • And those dumb penalties cost them. Dummies. Bad Staffy, bad!
  • That wasn’t control of the puck! Stupid refs. I think Ruff might have kittens soon between the penalties and the refs.
  • I seriously only noticed Gaustad was in the lineup about halfway through the game. I didn’t notice Rivet wasn’t in the lineup until it was mentioned. I did notice there seemed to be an awful lot of “A” on Sabre sweaters. You’d think that would’ve been a tip-off, but like I said, I’ve got a headache and my powers of observation are muddled.
  • Memo to Jody Shelley: If you have injured my main man Pominville you’re dead. You hear me? Dead.
  • Awww, poor Gerbe. Don’t hurt him! He’s only ‘ittle!

AAAANNNNDDDD they finally clinch the division. Take THAT, Ottawa! Phhhppppt. (Yes, I’m 12.)

I am having a get-together (Tastefully Simple party – deeeelicious food & drink) on Thursday, so I’ll be watching late. Don’t hold your breath waiting for my witty commentary; you will turn blue and die.

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