Archive for March, 2012:

Sabres Move from the Basement, to the Bubble, to… 7th? That, and the Death of Memes.


#SeedsOfGreatness, and the #Crapshoot: it’s been fun.

But the 2011-12 NHL regular season is winding down, and there is no time left for silly memes.

As the schedules wind down in this league, everything else gets cranked up. Season slumps, lulls, injury bug woes, and trade rumors all get tossed aside as teams fight tooth and nail to scrape their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs. For teams out of the playoff picture, the fight is just as rabid: players that aren’t fighting for their playoff lives are fighting for their lives on the roster.

There ain’t no meme that can downplay the desperation of what is at stake here now.

Indeed, with less than 10 games left to go, there isn’t much time for teams and players to make an impact statement. The Sabres have made a huge statement lately – going 16-5-5 since January 24, reminiscent of the 16-4-4 run that they went on after February 2nd of last season. That February “Pegula Day” surge got them into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 150w, 501w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

Time to drink up some pure adrenaline, folks. Try to stay calm while you're at the edge of your seats. Breathe with your bellies. We can do this.


Here on BSN I’ve been talking up the #SeedsOfGreatness and the #Crapshoot memes a great deal since the mid-season doldrums pulled our wayward Blue and Gold hopes to the basement of the Eastern Conference. All looked certainly lost, so I resorted to these memes for the sake of countering all that misery with a little levity. After all, watching the team lose player after player, and game after game, had become a little unbearable to watch. Nothing like a little meme (or a Sabres BINGO) to lighten the nerves.

Meanwhile, the Sabres started winning.

And winning.

They crawled up out from the cellar, and now sit on the precipice of a playoff berth. The roster is healthy. Players like Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Drew Stafford, Derek Roy, and Ryan Miller have found their A-games again. The newly-acquired Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer are thriving. The lines are rolling. 536w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

Remember those mid-season "Sabres hangovers?" Yea, I don't miss those either.

#SeedsOfGreatness has been fun, but it’s over now. The long since planted seeds have bloomed, and now the hustling Sabres just have to keep pace with themselves.

The #Crapshoot was fun, but that’s done too. No matter how terrible Washington, Winnipeg, or Buffalo have been this season, each is in position to snag 8th – or even 7th place – before the final whistle is blown on the regular season.

7th place? Absolutely. The Senators have been rolling after a head-scratcher start to their season, but have sputtered and stalled down the stretch. They, and their hold on 7th place, have become vulnerable. They’ve dropped their last 2, and are just 4-4-2 in their last 10. With just 84 points, they are ripe for the picking for Washington and Buffalo (who sit at 80), and could even be threatened by Winnipeg. 155w" sizes="(max-width: 161px) 100vw, 161px" />7/8’s of the season are done, and this is where the teams of the Eastern Conference sit.

Teams have just a bit less than 1/8 of the season left – really, just 7 or 8 games – to settle who is going in and who is going to be left out. It’s going to be one hell of a ride. There is no need for levity, no need for memes anymore. The entire conversation from here on out is Lord Stanley, and who earns the right to fight for it.

On behalf of all Washington, Winnipeg, and Buffalo blogs, I’m proud to welcome Ottawa to that conversation.


The Sabres have dragged us to the basement. They’ve brought us to the bubble. There is no way to say where we go from here. Heck, it’s an amazing feeling actually being here. A month ago, none of us saw this coming. Now, anything is possible.

Anything. 473w" sizes="(max-width: 294px) 100vw, 294px" />

Hold on tight.

Go Sabres.

(And don’t worry BINGO fans – I’ll be sure to sneak in a board or two before this is all over.)


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Makeup Calls In The NHL Are Real! Well, Maybe.

Do you believe in makeup penalties? My woman laughs at me when I yell at the refs that it’s time to even things up and give the Sabres a power play.

But the phenomenon of makeup calls seems to be real to me. If the number of penalties is really lopsided to one team, more often than not the refs will start to even it up, sometimes on calls that appear to be really questionable.

Of course, this is all just conjecture and it might just be in our minds. The only way we can really tell if makeup calls happen is by looking at statistics. Luckily someone has dug into some stats on this and can tell us whether or not it really does go on.

I happened upon a blog called Sabermetric Research – and no they didn’t just spell Sabres wrong. Sabremetrics is apparently, “the specialized analysis of baseball through objective evidence, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity”. Oof, what? Couldn’t you just say nerd stats for sports? (Also, this statistic analysis isn’t just for baseball.)

In any case, the blog has a post about referees and makeup penalties.  This guy grabbed some stats from the Hockey Summary Project (a place where you can get tons of raw data from hockey games) and looked at all the penalties called from the 1953-54 to 1984-85 seasons.

He chucked data where both teams got penalties at the same time with the goal of seeing whether the currently penalized team would be more or less likely to get the next penalty.

Amazingly, he found that there was roughly a 60% chance that the other team would get the next penalty.

Is this incontrovertible proof of the makeup call? Well, not necessarily. We don’t know for sure that it was referee bias that led to the “makeup call”. Perhaps it was the penalized team playing it safe, or the team on the power play playing more aggressively even after the power play.

It gets better though. The longer that time has elapsed since the last penalty, the less likely it is that a “makeup call” will happen.

That’s consistent with many theories. The “referees are biased” theory would say that referees “forget” to even things up as the game goes on. The “other team wants revenge and plays aggressively” theory would say that if they don’t get revenge early, they don’t need it as much later. And the “penalized team takes fewer chances” theory would say that as time goes on, the players “forget” that they have to be more careful.

You can wade way deep into more stats and discussion about this if you really want to. There are two followup posts at the Sabremetrics Research blog and tons of comments, but that post itself is enough to make one’s head spin.

So we still don’t know conclusively if makeup calls are referee bias and probably never will. But I’m going with my gut on this one, and like most things, all we need sometimes is a vague stat to backup what we think is already true. 60% chance that the other team gets the next penalty? Damn those refs, they’re biased! Now give us a makeup call!

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Sabres GIFs: Foligno Emerges as the next… Foligno


The resemblance is uncanny.

But hey, like father like son, so they say. Still, it is uncanny how these two clips resemble each other. Hard to the net, own the slot, score on the way to the ice, get up, leap. For older(-ish) fans like myself, watching Marcus is like going back in time to watching Mike.

And it’s wonderful.




What’s even more uncanny is the resemblance. I mean, again, “like father like son,” but check out this picture shared by BSN writer Tamara on the Twitter last night: 498w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

OK, it's just the jaw and the chin. And the cheekbones. And the brow. And of course, the guts per pound ratio. Marcus' nose, so far, is straight.

Talk about #SeedsOfGreatness. Mike sure helped raise a winner, and Marcus is in full bloom now as his own man, as his own NHL hockey player.

All father/son references aside, Marcus is really emerging unto his own as late – his 5 goals and 2 assists (+5) in 6 games puts him in some elite company. As pointed out in the post-game interviews last night, only two Sabres have had a better start than #82 – Phil Housley and Ray Sheppard. We won’t go as far to say that Foligno can keep up that kind of pace, but wowee-Housley, the future is bright for the youngest Foligno.

Oh yea, he also has 15 hits.

I’ve said it before in the social medias, but I’ll record it here too for the sake of Public Record – the real winner of the Kassian/Hodgson deal isn’t any of the guys who changed zip codes. Well, actually, it is – but it’s the one who changed his from 14621 to 14226.

Many Sabres fans had grave concerns about losing the toughness and upside of Kassian. Still, questions regarding his maturity, consistency, and development are dogging him. I was worried about Kass since he was drafted. I’ve never been worried about Foligno. Just continually more and more impressed.

Keep up the good work, #82.

Go Sabres.


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The #Crapshoot: 10 Games Left (And a Horsehead Guy Update!)

May the best team not lose.

That quote is of myself, from my last post, wherein I lamented the Sabres and Panthers’ inability to muster up a playoff dogfight (or many shots for that matter) in a critical game.

Who wants 8th place? The Capitals and the Jets had a chance last night to gain some serious leverage over the Sabres, but things didn’t go to well for the both of them. Washington dropped its game to the Chicago Blackhawks rookie Andrew Shaw, whose 2 goals on the night – both with Ovechkin on the ice – earned the Hawks the win. Wow.

“I’ve never been a pretty goal guy,” Shaw said. “I work hard and go to the net. They don’t ask how, they ask how many? Just get under the skin of the opponent, go to the dirty areas and good things will happen. I was in his (Ovechkin’s) ear all game and kind of shut him up when I put my second one in.”

Again, wow. This is the glorious stuff that can only come out of a #Crapshoot like this.

Meanwhile, Winnipeg lost at home to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Jets, seemingly unbeatable at home this year, (23-10-4 before last night’s disaster) revealed themselves to be just as beatable as anyone else in this #Crapshoot:

The Jets were leading 3-2 after two periods, but Carolina put on the pressure in the third, firing 19 shots at Ondrej Pavelec in the game’s final 20 minutes to win it 4-3.

Eric Staal scored his second of the night to tie it at 10:24, and Chad LaRose had the winner with 1:22 left.

“This one will stick in there for a long time,” coach Claude Noel said. “To me, the bottom line with this game is that if we don’t make the playoffs, we don’t deserve to make the playoffs. That’s the bottom line. We don’t deserve it.

Coach, “deserve” ain’t got nothin’ to do with it, in a #Crapshoot.

So, before we move on to look at the remaining two teams stumbling over each other for their playoff lives, here’s a gander at the current standings: 147w" sizes="(max-width: 162px) 100vw, 162px" />

The Sabres have looked strong lately, but they still have to score at least ten goals to match their worst offensive output of all time (190, back in 02-03). My money is on them beating that mark, but in either case, it’s not a good sign when your team can’t score goals.

The Panthers sit atop the pile on in 3rd place, leading the Southeast Division (and thereby the Caps and Jets) by a healthy margin, so it looks like they should be safe. Should be. Even with a game in hand over their SE Div #Crapshoot rivals, they haven’t convinced anyone that they will simply win this thing outright. They can go on a five game slide as easy as any of the other teams in this thing.

Ten games left!

Here’s our records over the last ten:

  • Florida – 6-3-1
  • Washington – 5-4-1
  • Winnipeg – 5-4-1
  • Buffalo – 6-2-2


Again, may the best team not lose.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… 600w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

The Horse of hockey legend.

We first saw our television screens blessed with this image of literal fan idolatry during the game against the Panthers. Now, according to sources, we might be seeing his return tonight. Bear in mind my source is Twitter, so this news may very easily be completely unlegit. But please, please let it be legit. 300w" sizes="(max-width: 521px) 100vw, 521px" />

I put my Twitter "reputation" on the line for you, Horsehead Guy. 300w" sizes="(max-width: 521px) 100vw, 521px" />

So you better show your long face.

Love it. What better animal to channel the power of the #Crapshoot? Get your playoff shovels ready!

As for me, I need to go see a man about a horse.

Go Sabres.

 Update: 300w" sizes="(max-width: 519px) 100vw, 519px" />

Sounds like wise, practical judgement to me. Hey, that’s the very definition of “horse sense!” Go fig.

Updated Update: 300w" sizes="(max-width: 519px) 100vw, 519px" />

Uh oh. Try neighing? 273w" sizes="(max-width: 384px) 100vw, 384px" />


Good luck to our equestrian fan friend as he tries to get himself  through the gate tonight. Let’s hope the good folks at the St. Pete Times Forum don’t get all barn sour on this guy.

(Also, nice work updating the distance figures on that sign.)

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Sabres Lose in a Slushy Excuse Fest, Remain Rightfully Mired in 10th Place

We must all be a bunch of suckers.

In his post game interview, Derek Roy was quick to point out a couple big reasons for the Sabres’ shootout loss to the Florida Panthers last night:

  1. The ice was “chippy”
  2. Brad Boyes hit some posts in the shootout



The ice might have been a bit slushy in Sunrise, Florida, at this time of the year. And I am not sure anyone can calculate the odds of Boyes hitting the post and the crossbar in the shootout, on a shot that would have won the game. I’m pretty sure those odds are double-infinitesimal.

Still, neither of these things accounts for taking only 5 shots in the 3rd period. Make that 4 shots for Buffalo, and 1 for Florida. It also doesn’t account for 0 shots in overtime. Make that 0 shots for Buffalo, and 0 shots for Florida. 600w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

The Sabres' effort was there. In the stands.

Both teams seemed content to play it safe and earn the gimme point for this one. Instead of a playoff dogfight, fans were treated to hockey played as if it were out in the open air Everglades. The game was mush. The ice was a swamp.

Maybe Roy did have a point about the ice after all. But in hindsight, it wasn’t the ice that made this game what it was. The Sabres joined the Panthers in a contest featuring two teams playing too careful for fear of a loss in a tightly wound playoff race. Fear, or just playing too damn careful, turned the playing surface into a woeful retreat from the front of the net, from the offensive zone, and turned the neutral zone into slush (go figure if the neutral zone was sloppy, since that’s where most of this game was played).

The Sabres skated out like it would seem with what they wanted. They played not to win, but not to lose, and moved on to Tampa Bay after drawing the 50/50 loser point. Lindy Ruff wasn’t happy over the game shootout either in his post game interview:

“Any point you lose right now is a lot. If it was a half a point it would be a lot. It’s disappointing. The points in the shootout are big points. I picked one good shooter and six bad ones tonight.”

Yea. It was those six bad shooters in the shootout. We’ll just forget about the 18+ guys who couldn’t even put a shot on net during the actual game itself.


We must all be a bunch of suckers.

Epilogue: Of course, it’s not all bad news. The Sabres are now just 2 points out of 8th, tied with Winnipeg at 76 points. The Caps sit in eighth, with both the Caps and Jets having one game in hand over the Sabres. Ten games left.

May the best team not lose.

Go Sabres.

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