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Sabres March to the “Playoffs”

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The Sabres are undefeated.

Forget the first 20 games. Forget the win loss record from that wretched stint of Sabres history. Forget the inability to score in those old first periods. Forget the fenwick, the corsi. Forget the goal differential. Forget the slumps, the bumps, the lumps, and the chumps we all were. Oh, and forget the actual playoffs, too.

Instead, start charting stats from tonite on. It’s time to set a new playoff marker – a number that won’t get the Sabres in, but one that the Sabres can achieve in these remaining games, in order to be considered as a team that suddenly “looks to be pretty scary next year.”

The Sabres entered their newly reset season under Ted Nolan with a clean slate. Tonight against the Leafs, they took advantage of it, playing hard in all three zones, scoring dramatically, and bringing the crowd at the FNC to its feet (and the sending throngs of blue and white jersey clad fans shuffling their feet back outta’ Buffalo).

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The Sabres/Leafs Scrum Goal: Its Many Layers of Crazy Will Keep You Coming Back for More

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This has to be the play of the year for the Buffalo Sabres.

Sabres Leafs Scrum 300x196 The Sabres/Leafs Scrum Goal: Its Many Layers of Crazy Will Keep You Coming Back for More

Sabres fans aren't ever going to forget this incredible goal. Welcome to the Sabres' historical highlight reel, Jordan Leopold.

It’s like a really good movie: every time you watch it, you notice something new. Let’s watch this instant classic again:

 

Wow.

Here’s a quick list of what I’ve noticed so far:

  • Foligno and Komisarek’s foreshadowing chirps before the faceoff
  • Ennis’ quick singling-out/distraciton of Komisarek, just before the puck dropped
  • Komisarek then getting run over by Foligno right after the puck hit the ice
  • Foligno willfully forcing the puck to the net
  • Komisarek regaining his feet to willfully drive Foligno into the ice
  • Komisarek delivers about a dozen swipes to Foligno’s face, as he keeps him pinned
  • Referee Mike Hasenfratz in perfect position to watch the puck – still loose – under that mass of humanity in front of the net
  • Tyler Ennis lunging forward to give Komisarek a little cross check across the back
  • Stafford and Leopold lunging forward and stabbing, almost coordinated, at the puck together
  • Leafs’ captain, #3, Dion Phaneuf, falls back under Stafford’s stick, giving the Sabres #3, Jordan Leopold, the space for the shot
  • Arms in the air
  • Komisarek slowly rising, defeated
  • RJ going nuts
  • Fans going nuts
  • Hey look! Sulzer was on the ice!
  • Foligno raises his arms in the air, whooping it up, then slowly skates by Matt Lombardi while staring him down
  • Scrivens’ hapless complaint to the ref about the whistle never blowing (Sorry Scrivens, but for once, the ref got it. He saw the puck, you didn’t. Game over.)
  • In the replay: watch Scrivens’ head darting about – he never looks down, his hands aren’t even near the ice. He never shows possession, just desperation. The first time he looks down is when he is looking at the puck in the net.
  • Shoutout from Sudbury! (Marcus played Jr. hockey there from 2005-2001, his father Mike played there from 1975-1979)
  • Mike Foligno (Sabres and Leafs alumnus icon) and family in the stands, looking stunned
  • Foligno’s chirp from bench to bench

Wow.

After the game, Marcus Foligno would sum of the Sabres play of the year with the Sabres quote of the year:

“I think the ref was watching how many times I got punched in the face,” Foligno said, “and he was in awe.”

Good job, Sabres! 2 games left: keep that willpower surging, and get this done.

As for me, I’m going to watch this play again. In case I missed anything else.

Go Sabres.

 

 

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Sabres/Leafs Twitter BINGO: Special “Windowless” Edition!

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By now, you’re all too familiar with Joffrey Lupul’s tweet-take on the Buffalo skyline.

LupulTweet Sabres/Leafs Twitter BINGO: Special Windowless Edition!

Now also all too familiar with his grammar. Yikes.

To JoffreyLupul, I say: Well played! You kicked Buffalo fans square in their overly sensitive skyline nuts. Sure, you’re looking at some incredible architecture out that window of yours, and it appears that the sun actually might be shining somewhere, and your grammar was painfully missing the obliogatory “eh?” exclamation, but this quick Buffalo sucker punch on Twitter is the best of the year so far.

Maybe.

BH Sabres/Leafs Twitter BINGO: Special Windowless Edition!

(This is a BSN screen-grab from October, 2011.) Boy, they sure know how to get to us. Say, we need one more NHLer to do this so we can do a new "Awards" post. If Chris Neil still unfortunately plays in the NHL, he could be our guy.

Also, to reassure you, Mr. Lupul, we don’t throw batteries in Buffalo (not even waffles). And in honor of your topical snark success story, you’ve earned yourself a few squares on tonight’s Sabres/Leafs Twitter BINGO. I know, I know – it’s what all kids dream of throughout the world while playing street hockey until the sun goes down.

Tonight’s winner receives one of Ryan Miler’s flaming Molotov Gatorades to toss at Lupul during the game! (I know, I said we didn’t toss things here in Buffalo, but we all must follow Miller’s lead.)

ryan miller HOCKEY news1 Sabres/Leafs Twitter BINGO: Special Windowless Edition!

The Passion of the Crease.

Fans, get your dabbers ready. Tonight’s gonna’ be a hot one.

(As usual, click on the image to re-size, and click again to re-size once more.)

SabresLeafsWindowlessBINGO 300x216 Sabres/Leafs Twitter BINGO: Special Windowless Edition!

Good luck, folks! And again, we still need one more NHLer (or ex-NHLer) to tweet something endearingly stupid enough to give us all another BSN Awards post. Consider it an early Xmas. If it happens. (Please let it be Soupy Campbell.)

Go Sabres.

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The Vanek Set Play: A Sabres GIF Gift (And an Early Look at the NE Division)

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*We’re making this post “sticky” today in honor of Thomas Hockey God Vanek vs. the Habs. Man. This GIF: ALL. DAY. LONG. Go get ‘em, boys.

 

The list of 2011-12 GIFs has begun.

Thanks to Paul Gaustad, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, and of course, Carey Price’s inability to contain his inertia on the ice, we have our first winner GIF of the season.

“The Vanek Set Play” will undoubtedly make our 2011-12 GIFs of the Season, but why wait? Let’s enjoy it now.
 The Vanek Set Play: A Sabres GIF Gift (And an Early Look at the NE Division)

It looks even better in slo-mo:
 The Vanek Set Play: A Sabres GIF Gift (And an Early Look at the NE Division)

It doesn’t get any easier looking than that. But bear in mind, this set play wasn’t a fluke. It was a play that the team had actually been practicing.

Meanwhile, this game-winner also set a historical marker. From the Montreal Gazette:

Montreal Canadiens haven’t started this badly at home since 1938

And that’s just the title! The Habs are in an early season struggle, and Vanek’s goal was a dagger in the heart of Montreal’s effort to get back to their winning ways. Again, from the Gazette:

The chance to end the winless-in-Montreal-since-April-26 skid comes Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The time to pounce is now, against a team that must surely be distracted planning its Stanley Cup parade.

Indeed, the Northeast Division is Bizarro World right now – the Leafs are atop everyone with a nearly flawless 4-0-1 record. Buffalo is a solid second – for now – at 4-1-0. Montreal’s 1-3-1 record has them ahead of the pitiful Senators (1-5-0) by one measly point. If that’s not enough, Boston is just one measly point atop Montreal, at 2-4-0. Sure, the Leafs have yet to play an away game, but the all-important goals for/goal against ratio tells no lies.

NEStandings 300x81 The Vanek Set Play: A Sabres GIF Gift (And an Early Look at the NE Division)

Remember the old adage: “You know it’s Spring when the Leafs are out of the playoff picture.” We’ll see.

It seems strange to say that Montreal is entering must-win territory just 5 games into the regular season, but with Toronto in town for a 4 point swing, it’s their best chance to start reversing this reversal of fortunes in the Northeast.

Vanek’s goal was a shocking upset for Montreal fans, but as it turns out, it wasn’t a fluke. As the GF/GA ratio shows us, neither are the Bizarro standings.

For now.

Keep practicing those set plays, boys!

Go Sabres.

See also: “Top Ten 2010-11 Sabres GIFs,” “Sabres GIFs: Back by Popular Demand

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For Tim Connolly, the Pressure is Greater than Ever in Toronto

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Pressure.

Tim Connolly was always under heavy pressure here in Buffalo, be it from the fans who expected more from him and his big contract, the media that constantly clubbed his concussed conscience with “overpaid, underperforming” wallops, or be it from having to constantly prove to himself and everyone else that he wouldn’t break coming off his latest injury.

Sadly, but fittingly, his long tenure in Buffalo ended with all three. He exited the playoffs, injured, after only registering 2 helpers in 6 games. He went without a goal in the playoffs since the 2005-2006 season. The media that criticized him for this was smugly rewarded. While teammate Ryan Miller was left behind in Buffalo to staunchly defend Connolly from all the criticism – calling at least the media part of it a “vendetta,” Tim slipped out of town.

timmypassthemike 300x223 For Tim Connolly, the Pressure is Greater than Ever in Toronto

In Toronto, Tim Connolly can expect to see a few (dozen) more microphones in the locker room after games.

But is the pressure over for him now? Not a chance. Now in Toronto, one of the biggest pressure-cookers in the league, he’s really going to be surrounded by strident voices and public opinion for every mistake he makes, and each injury he takes.

At least his steady diet of smack from the fans and media in Buffalo gave him a little crash course for it.

For Connolly, the pressure in a Leafs uniform – one that he still has yet to wear in a game – is already on, and it’s on big time. That article I just sourced (from the Globe and Mail) above citing Miller’s defense of Connolly lasted all but two short paragraphs before it started listing the Toronto Sun’s key words to describe Connolly’s play:

 The latest criticism of Connolly, the NHL club’s only major free-agent signing this year, was published in the Toronto Sun this week, suggesting his reputation amongst “hockey people” consists of being “difficult,” a “loner,” a “spoiled brat” and “not a team player.”

Reputation aside, here’s a run-down on what Tim is expected to accomplish in his new home up the Queen Elizabeth Way. A fresh look, from Fox Sports:

Connolly is most likely the next first-line center under the microscope in Toronto, courtesy of a two-year, $9.5 million contract he signed in July. His game will be dissected like his body has been examined. Which, considering how often virtually every inch of his 6-foot-1 frame has been broken, torn or smashed, is a lot.

“I’m just looking forward to my time in Toronto, getting ready for that,” he said about shaking his injury jinx. “That’s what I’m thinking about now. I think the fan support there, it’s just a hockey town. I think it will be just an exciting experience for me.”

For a player whose game is so flashy, Connolly hopes to color Toronto in more subtle hues like penalty killing and fundamentals.

A brief report from the Sporting News also (and mainly) cites that injury history:

Tim Connolly, signed to center the team’s first line in the offseason, says he’s ready to face the challenge of playing in Toronto — and hopes to stay healthy, something that hasn’t been easy for him during his eight seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, in the process.

“I’m just looking forward to my time in Toronto, getting ready for that,” Connolly, 30, and known for his skilled play, told NHL.com. “That’s what I’m thinking about now. I think the fan support there, it’s just a hockey town. I think it will be just an exciting experience for me.”

Last season, Connolly had 42 points in 68 games; two seasons ago, he put up 17 goals and 65 points in 73 contests.

In the three seasons that came before that, though, Connolly played 98 games total and developed his injury-prone reputation. Ultimately, that played a role in his exit from Buffalo; the team opted not to re-sign him.

Even the caption under the photo the Sporting News used read “Tim Connolly has been relatively healthy for two seasons.” There is relatively no escape from this history in these articles.

From the Toronto Sun, a newer article noted that some other responsibilities were now on Tim’s shoulders with the Leafs:

Tim Connolly knows he will have to take on a more veteran role this season. Connolly is 30 years old, a more experienced player on the young Leafs squad. “I can bring my experience” he said in an interview. It appears he has changed his attitude since being much criticized by the Buffalo media. He will still need to improve his faceoffs, which hovered at 48% last season.

Once more from the Toronto Sun:

The Maple Leafs signed Tim Connolly and acquired John-Michael Liles this summer for a number of reasons, and there’s the hope that each will provide some punch to the Toronto power play.

In Connolly and Liles, the Leafs have the potential to improve when they’re up a man or two. But the players have to make it happen.

Here’s a list of what Toronto is concerned about so far:

  1. His age
  2. Face-offs
  3. Making the powerplay work
  4. “Fundamentals”
  5. Bolstering the penalty kill
  6. Providing veteran leadership
  7. Staying healthy

Did I miss anything? Oh yea, the whoe “spoiled brat/not a team player” thing.

This upcoming season is a huge one for Connolly, and I think most fans in WNY wish him well (except, of course, during Sabres/Leafs match-ups).

Still, if the Toronto media has told him anything already, it’s that he better provide a boost to every area of the Leafs organization, or he’ll have a lot of microphones to answer questions into.

Pressure? Wow.

Good luck, Timmy.

Go Sabres.

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