Some of these things may actually have to do with the outcome of the game, but most won’t. Why? Because hockey is fun, and I refuse all #suffering.
So, here we go:
1. A Message From The Hockey Gods
Don’t shoot the messenger.
Does Hasek want to party like it's 1999?
Hasek is actively (and vocally) seeking a spot on an NHL roster for next season. He’s already narrowed his choice down to one team. From the Vancouver Sun:
The 47-year-old netminder, who didn’t play anywhere last season, has confirmed to several Czech publications he’s exploring the possibility of making a comeback to play an 18th season in the NHL.
“I know what I want,” said Hasek, who last played with Spartak Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League during the 2010-11 season.
“I know where I want to play, but I’m not going to talk about it. I think it’s better if you only know there are two sides and that’s enough.
“Now it’s not appropriate to publish anything.”
Hasek’s son Michael still attends Michigan State University and the six-time Vezina Trophy winner confirmed he recently was in the Detroit area visiting his son.
The Czech story said he also visited Buffalo, where he spent the bulk of his NHL career and has a charitable foundation.
“My agent, Ritch Winter, knows what I want,” Hasek said. “We’re working and will see how it goes, I don’t know.
“It’ll probably be decided in June.”
“I train regularly, almost every day, without exception,” Hasek told Isport.cz.
“I’m in great shape and the other sides know it. Of course, if I’d agree (to a contract), I’d go even more intensely by late June or such.
“I still haven’t gone on the ice. I went just before last season, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t prepare any differently.”
Logic would tell us that Detroit is the obvious choice here, but there isn’t much logical going on with this decision. Frankly, anything is possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was up the QEW jockeying with 4 other netminders for space between Brian Burke’s pipes next season. In any event, it is an interesting developing story to follow in the offseason.
And oh, what does this mean for the Sabres? Right now, nothing, except that if he goes pro, then we will have to wait another year to retire his jersey.
His playing days here were beyond memorable. There was so much just to the spectacle of his play, to the events on and off the ice, that some of them have been lost to history. Yesterday brought one of those more forgotten moments back. Remember May 25, 1998? From the Sports Illustrated vault:
BUFFALO, New York (AP) — The NHL admitted the play that led to the Washington Capitals’ winning overtime goal over the Buffalo Sabres in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals should have been blown dead for icing.
“What?!?” you ask/scream? No. “Figures,” you more likely shrug. This is Buffalo sports, after all. The shrug continues:
(Bryan) Lewis (the NHL Director of Officiating at that time) informed the Sabres that the overtime play should have been blown dead the moment Sabres defenseman Jason Woolley touched the puck. He said the failure to call icing came about because the linesman thought a pass by Washington’s Esa Tikkanen had been released at the center ice line, when it actually had been released before the line.
He also said a non-call for a video replay on a goal by Peter Bondra was “at the referee’s discretion.”
Had referee Kerry Fraser consulted the replay judge, the official could have told him that Bondra’s skate appeared to be in the crease when the goal was scored and the goal, Washington’s first of the game, would have been disallowed.
No Goal, part 1.
A blown icing play and a blown crease call, both in one game. Yup. Peter Bondra had scored the “foot in crease” goal in the 2nd to knot the game at 1. While replays clearly showed that his skate was “in the crease,” referee Kerry Fraser declined a video review.
To make matters conspiratorial, this was a Buffalo/Washington game – with President Clinton in attendance. You can draw your own conclusions from that. Or you can just allow yourself to laugh over how unendingly stupid the history of sports in this town has been for the past, oh, 100 years or so.
Oh well. There’s always next year. And we just might have Hasek on board for another wild ride.
If this was a story, the Sabres would be at a critical turning point. Could this be the darkest hour for the Sabres, when it looks like things are at their worst?
The Sabres are 7 points back in the Eastern Conference now, in the 11th spot. And just when you think the Sabres are getting healthy, they take some more hits. Vanek took a puck to the jaw requiring him to finish the Islanders game with a full cage. He should still play, but it’s scary. Regehr is likely out for the next four games and Leopold has been battling the flu. Almost as a symbol of the dark times, we also have the MSG/Time Warner cable dispute.
The calls for the Sabres to make drastic changes are getting louder and louder and from more and more sources. The hashtag #darcydosomething has become a very popular tag recently.
The Sabres front office has maintained a calm demeanor and insisted that nothing drastic should be done or will be done. Terry Pegula has reiterated that it’s all about injuries and that the Sabres can’t really even move anyone until they get back to some semblence of health. From The Buffalo News:
“What everybody is missing is that I’ve been carrying around 167 man games,” he said by telephone Thursday evening. “Forget about the season. I’m talking about the last 25 games. We’ve had 18 players go down. It’s like a merry-go-round every night. You look on the ice and what are your defensive pairs tonight? Hell, who knows? Who’s healthy?
“My attitude now is, ‘Let’s put Humpty [Dumpty] back together again,’ ” Pegula said. “I want our players to know that I thought we had a pretty good hockey team until all this happened. Let’s paste it back together and start a new season.”
This was before Friday night’s Maple Leafs game win and the loss against the New York Islanders. The team came out guns blazing against Toronto but not quite as energetic against the Islanders. As a start to a new season within a season, it’s not wholly inspiring. (Of course, blaming injuries for the losses is starting to get old for fans.)
Next on the agenda is a 5-game road trip that ends before the NHL All-Star break, kicked off by a game against the always tough Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are 7-3 in their last 10 and looking for a record 15th consecutive home win. Not to mention the Wings are 18-2-1 against the Sabres in their last 22 games AND 10-0-1 in their last 11 games. Oy.
This 5-game road trip will be crucial to the start of the Sabres “new season” and hopes of getting back into the playoff mix. With games against the Red Wings, Chicago, Winnipeg, St. Louis and New Jersey, it won’t be a cakewalk. Each of those teams is 6th or better in their respective conference except for Winnipeg who sits at 10th in the East (just above our Sabres). The Sabres have their work cut out for them.
Will the Sabres dig themselves a hole they can’t get out of or will they get back in the race? We’ll start to find out tonight.
It’s hockey lesson time! A while back we touched on the 1-3-1 Neutral Zone Trap, a.k.a. the Tampa ‘T’, as they mainly employ that style of defense. Now I’ll talk about the defensive forechecking system known as the Left Wing Lock.
The Left Wing Lock was made popular by the Detroit Red Wings in their Stanley Cup runs of the 90s. Also, if I remember correctly, it was employed by our own Lindy Ruff for the Buffalo Sabres in the late 90s. At least, I remember hearing about it and wondering what what the heck it was ever since those days.
Basically, it’s this: when a team loses possession of the puck, the left winger moves back in line with the two defensemen. Each of those three skaters covers a third of the ice, playing a zone defense. That’s really it. You have two forwards up front forechecking and three guys back playing defense.
Watch this animated GIF a few times to let it sink in:
Pretty easy, eh? Why did coaches of the 90s make it sound like an extremely complicated chess move?
While the concept is pretty simple, the execution of it is much more difficult. Think about if the left winger is way up in the offensive zone when his team loses the puck. Either the center or right winger has to swing over and cover his zone. Which guy should do it? Confusion could abound in the heat of the moment and quick pace of the game. Like anything this strategy could take a LONG time to refine.
The cool part is that, when applied correctly, you can play some hellacious defense (and that’s actually a bit better than tenacious defense). With three “defensemen” back (or “defencemen” for you Canadiens), the two forecheckers can get really aggressive. The Left Wing Lock can also help prevent odd-man breakaways, as you’ll typically have three guys back – each one able to cover an opposing forward.
The history of the Left Wing Lock goes back to Czechoslovakia in the days of the great Soviet teams of the 1970s. The story goes that the Soviets were primarily left-handed shooters and so attacked moreso from the left side of the ice. The Czechs rolled their d-men over to that side and pulled the left wing back to cover the empty spot.
Know you know. And knowing is half the battle.
Tonight features the iconic matchup of Mike Babcock’s “The System” versus Lindy Ruff’s “The System.” May the best philosopher win.
To go along with this head to head chess match, we at BSN are proud to rebuff it with a even more snarky than usual version of Sabres Twitter BINGO. I’ll warn you ahead of time – this one is not going to be very winnable. And it’s kiiiiinda wordy.
Frankly, you can just put your dabbers back in the drawer for this one. Heck, it ain’t like we ever actually give out prizes to the winner anyway.
Prepare yourself for a heavy dose of old Tim Connolly, Darcy Regier, and Jochen Hecht jokes.
Tonight’s winner receives the least bruised octopus.
Waste not, want not.
As always, click to enlarge, and again to re-enlarge.