Archive for October, 2011:

What We Can Learn From Blackhawks Fans and the United Center

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So the missus and I took a trip to Chicago last weekend. For her birthday she wanted to see a Blackhawks game. I know, I know, I have a keeper. Any of you single guys out there, if you find a woman who lists seeing a hockey game as the top priority for her birthday, you put a ring on her.

The Boston Bruins were in town and it was a matchup of the two most recent Stanley Cup champions. In a way it felt like I was scouting both the teams and the crowd to see if there was anything I could glean for how we can help bring the Cup to Buffalo.

First off, I have to say that Chicago is a very friendly city. Everyone from the parking lot attendants to the scalpers to the panhandlers were all very nice. (The panhandlers reminded everyone to buckle up and be safe on the way out.)

Somehow I thought the United Center was much older, but it only opened in 1994. It’s a gorgeous place and seems state-of-the-art with huge displays everywhere on the concourse.

Sitting down, we saw all the banners of Blackhawks Norris and Smythe division titles and their 4 Stanley Cup championships. I had somehow forgotten that this is where the Bulls play and earned all their championships of the 1990s – six championships in seven years! Amazing history in this building.

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That's a lot of banners. Four Cup wins in 86 years. The Sabres have a late start but hopefully they can have more than that when the franchise is that old. If Pegula is the owner throughout that time, we have a shot at it.

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Sabres/Habs Twitter Game Chat BINGO!

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It’s gamenite!

It’s the inaugural meeting between the Habs and Sabres for the 2011-12 season, so we’ve put together a new edition of Sabres Twitter BINGO! to supply fans with a hearty dose of enjoyment half-smirks and meh shrugs.

Hey! It’s the Habs! Let’s join together tonight and really savor the deep and unsettling hatred we have for this team. Oh, and remember – these guys dive, which segways us from reasons to hate the Habs to today’s BINGO! prize:

Today’s winner receives a dozen Montreal Canadien pillows, which he or she is to directly mail to the Bell Centre.

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New team mascot?

Hit the :25 second mark of the video.

Don’t worry Jack, we’ll see that your message is delivered.

(As always, click on the card for a larger, eye-friendly version.)

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Wordy? Yes. Funny as all get out? Ehhhhh... maybe.

Go Sabres.

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Just How Good is Ryan Miller? DIGR Stats Have Him on Top of NHL… Sort of

Get your calculators out. The scientific ones.

DIGR, or “Defense Independent Goalie Rating” is a statistical mechanism devised by Micheal Schuckers of St. Lawrence University. In a nutshell, it strips away the old reliance on save percentage to define just how good a goaltender is, and instead takes into account the difficulty of shots each netminder faces.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Schuckers mapped every shot each goalie faced last season, allowing him to isolate a goalie’s save percentage against shots from every location on the ice. He put those findings against a plot of every shot taken in the NHL in order to estimate how each goalie would fare not just against the shots he faced, but against the shots all the goalies faced—therefore putting them all up against the same shots. (Empty-net, penalty and shootout shots were eliminated.)

So which goalie fared the best when the statistical field was leveled out? Tim Thomas, whose DIGR was .931, was atop the list over Roberto Luongo (.927), Jonas Hiller (.927), Ilya Bryzgalov (.923) and Cam Ward (.923).  The bottom five listed were Nikolai Khabibulin (.900), Brian Elliot (.900), Peter Budaj (.902), Miika Kiprusoff (.902) and Dan Ellis (.904).

But what of Ryan Miller? Miller failed to make the grade for the top or the bottom five, and that is where this stat might falter – it does not take into account multiple seasons.

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Miller ranked first overall in this measure for the 2009-10 season.

From a slideshow detailing the 2009-10 season, all the math is laid out and presents the winner of that season’s DIGR Trophy to Ryan Miller.

It’s an interesting angle – any savvy hockey fan will tell you that a goalie will have a great game if all the shots are kept at the periphery. And there’s the problem.

What this stat really does is that it simply reminds us of the fact that, season by season, a goalie isn’t defined by himself in this team sport. Part of protecting the net, after all, is the work of the defenders and forwards in front of the man in the kevlar mask.

What makes a great goalie great is so much more than save percentages and DIGRs. It’s always fun to have a new way to analyze just how good our goalies are, but in the end, math always fails to take into account every human factor on and off the ice.

I guess that’s why we play the game on the ice instead of in a classroom. Class: dismissed!

Go Sabres.

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German Fans Show Buffalo how to be Loud

Well, we have “clappers” now.

The Sabres introduced the foldable thick paper schedules on Friday for the home opener, in order to put some more noise into the FNC. I’m not sure they will catch on, but I sure hope that something catches on in the stands.

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Available in soccer magazines for about 8 bucks. Your voice, on the other hand, is free to use.

Perhaps dulled by a series of bludgeoning disappointments from the Golisano era, or perhaps not yet ready to embrace or understand how to cheer on a top contender, Buffalo fans are not a bunch known to be noisy or raucous.

We’re not exactly a lionizing group for the boys in the Blue and Gold.

I’m not saying that we need cowbells or vuvuzelas. Or even clappers. But heck, can’t we do better? Fans in Germany showed how fans and a team can connect, and positive energy is always a good thing for sports teams. And it sure looked like a lot of fun.

I know, I know. We’re not Europeans. We don’t sing – we chant, sometimes, (often the loudest when the scoreboard prompts us to cheer after commercial breaks) and we… do the wave.

You’d think, with all the pre-game and all the arena beers that we intake, that we wouldn’t be so tame.

Pegula’s 3 year quest for nothing short of Lord Stanley is underway. It’s time we made that journey a loud one, and made the FNC an intimidating place to play.

Go Sabres.

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Perfect Season Ruined With Sabres Home Opener Loss

To quote an old SNL skit with Cheri O’Teri, “Simmah down nah.

Yeah, yeah I know it’s the home opener. And, I know that the Sabres are supposed to be world-beaters – an awesome, stacked team that is going to rampage over the NHL and forcibly take the cup from all other contenders. Maybe I’m overdoing it a bit and that’s not what most people think.

Point is, many in Sabres Nation think that this is going to be easy. That the Sabres will vie for the President’s Trophy once again. That they’ll cruise into the playoffs easily with one of the top seeds and get to at least the Conference Finals.

Well, maybe, maybe not. Perhaps we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves.  Perhaps we need to take a step back and slow our roll. After all, the whirlwind of the 2011 Sabres European Tour had us in quite the tizzy.

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Apropos of nothing, but I thought it was so cool I had to share. More info on these sweet Labatt cans here.

Then the Sabres came back to an upgraded facility, and that’s an understatement. Have you SEEN the place?  Excellence is everywhere in the organization now. The players are reminded of their purpose and how to achieve it with every step they take towards the ice.

Perhaps the reality of that combined with the fact that it was the home opener had them a little off their game against the Carolina Whalercanes Hurricanes. Even with the additions via free agency, the Sabres are still a relatively young team. You can’t expect to throw all this at them and not take a little time to come together, to gel, and to cope with the fact that they are now EXPECTED to be great.

Expectations are a bitch. Maybe it was a little easier last year when they weren’t expected to make the playoffs. They could play their best hockey because no one would give them grief if they made a mistake or took some chances that might not pay off.

Maybe I’m reading into this too much, as this isn’t Detroit or Montreal where every players actions are scrutinized in detail, but there may be something to it.

In any case, it’s one game. There will be stretches (hopefully not too long) where the Sabres play like crap. We’ve got to take the bad with the good and enjoy every moment of this Pegula era. I for one remember all too vividly just how close we came to losing this team. Let’s  appreciate the wins AND the losses and be thankful for the new ownership that will do whatever it takes to make this a championship team.

Let’s go, Buffalo!

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