#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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hold on tight.
(And don’t worry BINGO fans – I’ll be sure to sneak in a board or two before this is all over.)
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:
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…
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.
I put my Twitter "reputation" on the line for you, Horsehead Guy.
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.
Sounds like wise, practical judgement to me. Hey, that’s the very definition of “horse sense!” Go fig.
Uh oh. Try neighing?
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.)
Ryan Miller is back to being, well, Ryan Miller.
Miller was pretty dang upset when his friend and man-at-arms on ice, Paul Gaustad, was dealt at the trade deadline.
No matter the way you view hockey, you have to understand how important players like Paul can be and how long it takes to develop a guy that plays that way at such a high level. Winning those faceoffs is not easy. Killing those penalties is not easy. Not a lot of guys are willing to do that job every night, and he was.
Oh, and he also said that if he was GM, that trade would not have gone down. A lot of folks in this town took Miller’s comments as a coup on Darcy Regier, but really, it was just Ryan Miller being Ryan Miller – exactly where/who the Sabres need him to be.
You might remember that Miller reacted much the same when Tim Connolly was lost up the QEW to the rival Maple Leafs. Connolly was no Gaustad, but he was a piece of the core – he was one of Miller’s guys.
And Miller stands up for his own.
Lately, Miller has been doing the same standing up for his own, just not so much in the locker room, but between the pipes. Nothing is upsetting him there, not these days. Lindy Ruff has finally been able to “ride Miller down the stretch” as he promised to do, and Ryan is putting in the best performances of the year – right in line with the best of his career.
He’s now got 82 saves in two consecutive shutouts – some of them routine, a good bunch of them brilliant, and many of them simply stupefying.
And he’s brought the Sabres along with him, as usual, into legitimate playoff contention. Today they sit just four points – just two games – out of 8th in the East.
His focus is the Sabres’ focus: win the moment. Win every moment. Every shift. Every period. Every game. It’s been a long road back to legitimacy, from the first mention of #SeedsOfGreatness, which then became the #Crapshoot, and now seems to be moving back into #SeedsOfGreatness territory again. The way the Sabres are playing, it sure looks like those seeds were indeed planted a few weeks back, and here they are finally, actually sprouting. And what better place to see them bloom, than in Ryan Miller?
He’s the backbone of the team afterall, and now that he’s willing and more than able to carry it along with him, the top 8, and everything else, is possible.
What you don't see is the rest of the Sabres roster, which has climbed onto Ryan Miller's shoulders. Don't worry. He's never slouched even one inch under that kind of weight.
Strip away all the commentary, all the analysis, all the playoff statistical probabilities, all the quotes, the articles, and the blog posts, and you’ve got here has now become pretty clear: a pretty darn strong team, peaking at just the right time, holding fast together during their upwards climb over their Eastern Conference rivals.
It would seem desperate times, and it is. But for Miller and the Sabres, desperation has given way to an heroic focus on winning the moment. A focus whose ultimate moment of convergence – hopefully – will exact itself in the playoffs.
Pretty dramatic stuff. Pretty unbelievable, really, seeing how most of this season has gone.
But none of this should be surprising.
It’s just Miller being Miller, after all.
Let’s keep this thing going, boys.
Be sure to check in with Store716 today – their “Miller ‘Verse 30′” shirt is on sale for 15 bucks until he gives up a goal. Goodtimes.
Today the Sabres face off against the hated Bruins, for a pair of points that actually means something for the Sabres. While we’ve continuously insisted that the highlight of the season will be seeing Darcy Regier’s embarrassed smile at the draft lottery table, the Sabres continue to stalk 8th place – right now they’re just 7 points back, with 22 games remaining.
And the teams ahead of them aren’t exactly powerhouses.
It's all snake eyes for the teams stalling out around 8th place these days.
We’ll count Winnipeg in this, too. Total crap. They’re in 3rd place, but only because they lead the crappy SE Division over Florida, Washington and Tampa. That division is so terrible that even its last place Canes are just 9 points away from stealing the grubby 2011-12 SE Divisional crown.
Wow. Nice goal differentials, South East Division.
Yup. To get to 8th place, the Sabres have to leap over a lot of teams. Thankfully, all of those teams are awful.
The Sabres can get actually do this. Lindy Ruff may believe in his players and all that nonsense, but frankly, this whole 8th place thing is up for grabs.
May the best loser win.
Welcome to the #Crapshoot.
Get it trending.