0Posted by Scott Michalak on October 7, 2011 at 8:02 am
It’s opening night (day)!
This means the return of hockey, and the glorious return of our Sabres BINGO! series. Today’s snark features the Anaheim Ducks in a special Finland edition.
It’s been a long offseason (as possibly evidenced by the quality level of puns in our BINGO! squares today) but it is finally time to sit back and enjoy the good ol’ hockey game, and a Buffalo afternoon beer or three six. Unless you’re at work, then you possibly get to enjoy none of this.
Today’s prize is a autographed Tim Connolly sweater, so keep your dabbers close at hand! Seriously. I’d hate to try to sell this thing on Ebay.
*Disclaimer: the autographed Tim Connolly sweater is covered in rips, bloodstains, medical tape, fan-spit, and somehow under his signature Jerry Sullivan and Bucky Gleason managed to pen a small article about how much he sucks.
*Disclaimer #2: the autographed Tim Connolly sweater does not exist. The prize is actually being a member of Pegulaville, Pominville City, and Hockey Heaven. So we all win.
(Remember to click on the pic for larger eye-friendly versions.)
0Posted by John Monahan on October 6, 2011 at 10:14 am
A new day is upon us. Apple’s driving force has passed on, the Bills are good, and the Sabres are big spenders in free agency. Change is the only constant, but change be a good thing.
Tomorrow is the day that Sabres fans start to see if all the offseason work and hype will translate into real success on the ice. So far, the preseason offers optimistic portents.
The Sabres preseason record (against NHL teams) stands at 4-1-1, with the loss to the Bluejackets being the 3rd game played in as many days. The Sabres also had another win against the Adler Mannheim (or Mannheim Eagles), allowing sports writers covering the Sabres to giddily use some version of “Mannheim Steamroller” in a headline.
John Vogl of The Buffalo News was one to not take advantage of such an easy title, instead going for “Sabres make them shout in Mannheim“. In his writeup he talks about how raucous the crowd was: they started dumming, chanting and singing just minutes into the pregame warmup. Jochen Hecht, a former Mannheim Steamroller, er Adler, led the crowd in a cheer. And, showing their class later in the game, the fans cheered “Let’s go, Buffalo!”.
Amazing, and perhaps we Sabres fans can take a few plays from their playbook. Are drums or vuvuzelas allowed in the First Niagara Center?
That aside, it’s been a very successful Eurotrip for the Sabres and hopefully they can cap it off with a win in the first game that matters against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks tomorrow. For those of you taking the day (or part of the day) off to enjoy the 1:00PM start, enjoy! For everyone else that has to work, hopefully you don’t hear the score before you get to your DVR or NHL Gamecenter.
0Posted by Scott Michalak on October 6, 2011 at 8:59 am
Tonight, the Sabres’ captaincy is the main course.
As the Sabres gather for a more formal dinner tonight in Helsinki, coach Lindy Ruff will announce – finally – who will be the bearer of the captaincy for the 2011-12 season. It should be quite a party, and no doubt will kick off some great debate between fans when the news breaks (sometime around 1pm EST here).
It will be a relief to finally have one name to rally behind as the Sabres enter their first full season under the Terry Pegula Stanley Cup charge. (Unless, of course, Ruff does something wildly innovative like slapping a C on everyone’s jersey, as if to say the adage “We are all leaders on this team. There are no followers.”)
"C" is for "Captain," finally.
Meanwhile, fans can look forward to a couple parties of their own.
On Saturday, it’s “Pucktoberfest” time. From Sabres.com:
On Oct. 8. fans are invited to First Niagara Center to enjoy a plaza party with European flair and watch the team take on Los Angeles in Berlin on the HD video board in the arena. The event will give fans a chance to watch the team as it plays in Europe to open the 2011-12 regular season.
The festivities begin at 11:30 a.m. in the plaza outside First Niagara Center as the Auslanders, Buffalo’s premier German band, take the stage to perform traditional authentic German music as well as popular cover songs. Dancing to the Bavarian sounds will be the Schuhplattlers, a traditional German dance group from Western New York.
At 2 p.m., fans can head into the arena to watch the Sabres play the Los Angeles Kings in Berlin on the HD video board. The game is part of the NHL Premiere Series and is the second of two games the team is playing during its nine-day trip to Europe.
European-themed food and beverages will be available for purchase on the plaza and throughout the arena during the event. The Sabres Store will also be open so fans can purchase Sabres NHL Premiere Series merchandise.
Admission to the event is free, as is parking in the First Niagara Center parking ramp attached to the arena.
Goodtimes! On Monday, fans will be given a bit of a chance to join in the Stanley Cup Charge. Again, from Sabres.com:
The Buffalo Sabres are encouraging fans to volunteer for an organized video shoot on Washington Street, outside of First Niagara Center on Monday, October 10 at 2:45 p.m.
Washington Street will be closed to traffic between Scott Street and Perry Street at that time and fans can assemble at that location. The fans participating will march in a group down Washington Street towards the arena. The march, and participating fans, will be videotaped and the footage will be utilized for a Sabres video to be shown during a Sabres game at a later date.
Fans are asked to wear their blue and gold Sabres apparel, preferably with the new logo. Participants will be permitted to park for free in the First Niagara Center parking ramp and should assemble on the corner of Washington Street and Scott Street at 2:45 p.m.
For more information, please contact Sabres Game Presentation Coordinator Tara Myers via email at email@example.com.
0Posted by Scott Michalak on October 6, 2011 at 7:27 am
It’s sobering news on opening night for the NHL.
But it’s perhaps the most important news we’ll get about hockey all season. Yesterday, news broke out that Rick Martin had suffered from CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy – a degenerative brain disease normally linked to those who have suffered multiple concussions.
The problem is, Martin wasn’t a fighter. He only had one (recorded) concussion.
Rick Martin is taken off on a stretcher after his head struck the ice during a game against the New York Rangers in February 1978. Mickey Osterreicher/Buffalo Courier Express/Associated Press
Neurosurgeon Robert Cantu, who co-founded the institute and is co-director of the CTE centre, told CBC News the findings in Martin’s case are alarming because he only suffered perhaps one concussion in his career, unrelated to fighting.
“What I can tell you bothers me: The first two cases in the National Hockey League, Reggie Fleming and Bob Probert [were] renowned fighters, 400 recognized fights during their ice hockey career, God knows how many in bars,” Cantu told CBC’s Stephanie Jenzer in an documentary airing Wednesday on The National, in which CBC News was granted rare access to the brain centre’s lab.
“And so the amount of brain trauma they took from fighting was horrendous. And it could be thought logically that their CTE is related to their fighting. And indeed it possibly is.
“But when we look at this most recent case of Mr. Martin, that’s a problem because he wasn’t a fighter, he’d only had perhaps one concussion. And so we’ve got to be concerned that the jostling of the brain just from the skills of the sport of playing in the National Hockey League led to him having chronic traumatic encephalopathy when he died.”
That’s a giant alarm bell for the culture of the game, for anyone playing the game, and especially for anyone who is bringing kids into the game. More research must follow to further delve into this problem – and perhaps uncover some kind of cure – but for now, those in the sport of hockey need to audit the way they protect their heads, and the heads of those they coach, old or young.
Click the link above to watch the 20 minute report.
Tonight, it’s a new season and a fresh start for the good ol’ hockey game. As for the future of that game, well, that’s a bit unclear right now. Almost as if our world just got a little bit concussed.
3Posted by Scott Michalak on October 4, 2011 at 8:19 am
Spoiler alert: we’re going to be very, very good this year.
Barring catastrophic injuries to some fundamental positions, the Buffalo Sabres are poised this year to challenge for the North East Division and for the Stanley Cup. They are seasoned, mature, in their prime, know what it takes to win and know what causes them to lose in the playoffs.
So far, they are healthy, and in Europe to start one of the most anticipated seasons in memory. As John Tortorella kindly pointed out for The Hockey News in their season preview, the last three Cup winners started their seasons overseas. It’s no guarantee by any means, but I don’t mind piling on yet another portent of good things to come for our boys in Blue and Gold.
This season preview is joining a hoard of similar previews already published, so we’ll keep it short and to the point here.
Those lonely looking banners may very well be getting some company by season's end.
Readers of BSN should be familiar with the Sabres’ “picket fence defence,” as talked about in length here earlier this year. The brunt of this season preview is actually in that previous, and quite comprehensive post, so give it a click. It’s a fun read, too.
To quickly paraphrase that post: the Sabres’ defense was too young to help carry this team through the playoffs last year. Despite a strong 16-4-4 finish, the lack of true veterans along the blueline was an Achilles’ heel that the team could not overcome (see Chris Butler: getting burned behind the net at the worst possible times against Philly).
Well, gone is Chris Butler, and in are Christian Ehrhoff (winner of the almighty Canucks’ Best Defenseman of the Year award for the past two seasons) and Robyn Regehr (arguably Calgary’s best defender, and rigid backbone of the Flames aside Jarome Iginla). Landing these two defenders was huge.
Of course, landing a bonafide #1 center was the #1 wish of Sabres fans in the offseason – but as we wrote here before, the Sabres were already ranked 4th in the East in goals for last season, and that was without Derek Roy. Ville Leino will make anyone he lines up with better. The young core in the Queen City, including the likes of Tyler Ennis (who scored 20 goals as a rookie, which is a pretty big deal in the NHL), Nathan Gerbe, and Luke Adam will continue to blossom. The Sabres may have wanted Brad Richards, but they never needed him in order for Lindy Ruff to roll scoring lines with the players already here.
Truthfully, it was our defense needed help, and folks, Pegula and Regier not only helped to bolster that blue line, but they created something so fearsome that it is now one of the best in the NHL. Forget those afraid to prognosticate the obvious and stop at saying “they look good ‘on paper.’” We’ve seen enough of the preseason to know that this group is for real, that this group is smart and talented, that it is deep enough to overcome injuries, that this group can protect Ryan Miller, that it can QB the PP, and that it will keep goals against to a minimum.
Speaking of Miller, the newly married and settled netminder must feel like he’s entering a second honeymoon with the Sabres: with these new blueliners surrounding him, he’s again among the favorites to win the Vezina Trophy. Actually, he is THE favorite – at least at the betting resource site Bodog.com, which has him at the top with odds of 5/1. Backup Jhonas Enroth will help provide victories when Miller needs a night off.
So there you have it, folks. The season in preview includes a top tier offense, a scary good defense, and a netminder ready to reclaim his status among the very best in the world.
A few wildcards will give us some plot twists as the season goes along:
Ville Leino will not only have to succeed at the center position during play, but also at the faceoff dot. Puck control is the name of Lindy Ruff’s game.
Brendan Shanahan, now in charge of league discipline, is handing out headshot suspensions like Halloween candy. This will cut down on some contact – especially early on in the season as the league and Shanahan adjust to this new direction – and that means the speedy Sabres could be given the deadly advantage of more open ice.
Again, as Torts pointed out, the last three Cup winners started their seasons off on a Euro-trip. Coincidence? Maybe, but the Sabres should come back as a more closely-knit group (oh so critical along with the new additions of Leino, Regehr, and Ehrhoff). If they falter, well, it’s hard for any team to come back from a slow start in this NHL.
It’s the true beginning of the Pegula Era, and it’s time to expect big things. Anything short of a Stanley Cup will be a disappointment for this team. The competition is very strong – it will be a tall order to usurp the Bruins, Capitals, and Penguins and get to the Finals this time around. But all the pieces are in place to get it done, and the players are ready.