Okay, before we say anything, what is wrong with VS? Why is this game not in HD? Gah.
Pookie is concerned, in an oracle kind of way, for the Sabres; on her drive home from work today she saw a hawk flying overhead with a mouse in its talons, and, she reports, the hawk was red and the mouse was the same color brown as a buffalo. We can only hope that after she passed by the mouse fought back and beat down the hawk. (We take all playoff augury very seriously after driving past — and we are not making this up — a duck that had been hit by a car on the NJ Turnpike on our way up to Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final. Now, we live in the land of roadkill, but in all our combined years of driving, neither of us had ever seen a dead duck.)
19:41 We puzzle at fans who feel compelled to chant the opponent’s goalie’s name before he gives up a goal. So far this postseason we’ve tut-tutted at the Senators fans doing it, and we can’t help but frown at the Sabres fans tonight, who are chanting jeering “Emery”s already. Really, we thought the etiquette dictated you wait until getting a lead on the guy. Are we over-sensitive about this? We think the Hockey Gods agree with us on this point, and as soon as the Sabres fans get started with the chanting, Pookie declares, “Well, they’re not winning.”
17:52 Vanek, that dog, would have scored there if he wasn’t so slow to turn around. He is unable to locate the puck in his feet with a wide-open net in front of him.
17:09 After pouncing on a loose puck in the neutral zone, Roy draws a tripping call against Preissing. Pookie declares it should have been a double minor for how hard Roy went down without looking like he was diving.
16:31 Crunchy makes a nice save on McAmmond on a shorthanded chance. Darren Eliott says during the replay, “It’s not always about the numbers”, which sounds suspiciously like an insult to Crunchy to Schnookie’s sensitive ears.
15:28 After Roy looks like a pile of puke in front of the net, Fisher gets himself a shorthanded breakaway and beats Crunchy five-hole. That blows. Pookie: “I am so sick of teams I don’t like.”
14:21 The Senators are picking apart the Sabres with rink-length passes. Alfredsson almost gets a breakaway of his own but the pass is just out of reach.
14:04 Heatley gets called for cross-checking, and Elliott informs us helpfully, “That is not the kind of penalty Heatley wants to take.” Thanks, Darren. Glad they pay him the big bucks for that.
13:40 It looks like the camera is set on a building across the street from the rink or something. Everyone on the ice looks teensy-tiny.
12:36 Kalinin decides Heatley’s not the only guy in this game who can take needless and stupid penalties and gets called for hooking Fisher.
12:14 Connolly takes a penalty (VS doesn’t tell us what for) putting the Senators on a 4-on-3. Do the Sabres not want to win?
12:06 The crowd stops chanting Emery’s name after Alfredsson scores on a screened Crunchy. Schnookie, through her tears: “Poor Crunchy. He needs my tender loving.”
10:30 The Senators get caught icing the puck on their power play. Is this a sign that they’re imploding? Probably not.
9:05 WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! For the first time this postseason, someone is there to put home one of Emery’s signature awful rebounds, as Afinogenov decides he’s tired of being down 2-0. (Hats off to VS for showing us footage of the crowd watching on big screens outside so we can see the guy trying to climb up on his buddy’s shoulders in celebration, but falling off. Nothing like a good pratfall to make a goal celebration that much sweeter.)
7:42 Emery stops a quick Pominville shot from point blank; Pommie was set up on a pretty between-the-legs pass from Gaustad. Pookie predictably announces that Gaustad learned that play from Drew Stafford.
7:41 In an on-bench interview with Wade Redden we are treated to a glimpse of what is clearly Wade’s attempt to style himself like Wolverine.
6:33 Joe Beninati tries to tell us this is the first time in over 30 years that the 1- and 2-ranked offenses are meeting as late as a Conference Final or Stanley Cup Final. Darren very politely says, “Well, actually it happened in 2001.” Hey, Joe was close.
3:52 The Spezzas try to do their “oh, we’re totally unstoppable” routine, but a combination of a sprawling defenseman and a poke-checking Crunchy stymies Heatley. We’re kind of intrigued to see whether the Spezzas can stay dominant when they’re playing against guys more spry than the Madden-Pando tangent. Bearing in mind that many slow-moving underwater robots in James Bond movies are more spry than the Madden-Pando tangent.
2:36 That little bitch Comrie takes a tripping penalty in the offensive zone. It is troubling to see Buffalo going back on the power play late in the period; this is really the time of game you hate to see a shortie scored.
0:36 Tallinder discovers something he could have learned if he watched some game tape from the Devils second-round series: don’t try to carry the puck through all four penalty killers. If even we know this, how does he not?
0:06 Joe tells us, after praising a nice forechecking shift by the Senators, that both teams have declared that “the forecheck triggers the offense.” This is met in our living room by a sarcastic chorus of, “Oh really?” Then an awkward pause before Schnookie suggests, “Someone needs to tell the Devils that.”
0:00 The highlight package before going to intermission includes footage of a squirrel running around the ice. Even the vermin get more ice time than Staffy.
Brian Engblom proves that he is under Crunchy’s sway just as much as Schnookie is when he says Crunchy has a “magnetic personality”. He then lamely adds, “On the ice.” Seems like a very clumsy way to try to say Crunchy’s good at finding incoming shots.
In the always lame “Tales Of The Cup” feature, we are promised stories of all the exotic, far-flung places the Stanley Cup has visited. But all we actually hear about is a time the Cup was taken to the Bahamas for some NHL executive meetings. They couldn’t even tell us a story about an exotic place a player or coach took it? (To be fair, in the intro to the piece, Bill Clement [again in those awful burnt-orange pants and slate-gray suitcoat — does he not read IPB? We told him not to wear that outfit!] told us the Cup recently made its first-ever trip to a combat zone by visiting troops in Kandahar.)
Okay, Preissing’s mic’d up is pretty funny when he’s caught on tape saying acidly, “That was our first halfway decent 5-on-5 shift of the game. [Pause] Only 17:20 into the period.”
19:26 Crunchy is floridly praised by Joe for making a save on a sharp-angle shot from Alfredsson… that came out of a sloppy rebound in the first place. VS’s pro-Sabres bent is so bad even we’re annoyed by it. (Coming out of intermission, Bill declared, “Only one Sabre had two shots in that period, but he made one of them count.” Then he added in a rushed, quiet voice, “But they trail the Senators 2-1.”)
18:22 Derek Roy gets called for an obscenely lazy holding penalty (on top of which could have been added a dive, just because he’s Derek Roy). Pookie, as the penalty is replayed in merciless slow-motion: “Oh my God… BENCH HIM.”
17:24 The Sabres are almost staggering in their inability to get to loose pucks, connect on passes, or clear pucks when they get chances on this penalty kill. It looks like when you play a game against a little kid and really showily pretend you’re doing badly so the kid doesn’t realize you’re tanking. We don’t think the Senators need to be treated that way.
14:50 Schnookie, after Afinogenov puts on a little flash of offensive thrust: “Max has been the best forward for the Sabres tonight.” Pookie: “He hasn’t had very stiff competition.”
13:30 Zubrus looks like maybe he’s learned something from Max’s speed and general sense of purpose; he bulls his way through a couple of defensemen toward the net and draws a hooking penalty on Preissing. In many situations a team should be happy they’re going on the power play, but with the Slugs? Not so much.
12:30 One full minute into a power play that has pretty much dawdled in the neutral zone and given up a few simple shots to the Senators, the fans are starting to grumble and boo. Darren snarks that the fans fancy themselves a bunch of power play specialists. We think Darren isn’t considering that these fans have been suffering through disastrously awful power plays all season — they might not be able to coach a better version of one, but they know a bad one when they see it.
11:15 WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lydman, recognizing that the Senators are willing to stand around watching him skate wherever he wants, opts to skate down the boards, walk along the goal line, and slip the puck in five-hole.
10:26 Kelly sneaks a smart pass to Vermette, who gets in behind Kotalik and makes for Crunchy’s net. Kotalik ties him up, but high sticks him in the process. Great. Now the Sabres get to put on another clinic on putrid penalty killing.
9:04 Crunchy makes a huge save after the Senators make a series of swift cross-ice passes. Darren exalts over Crunchy’s ability to follow the puck “around the horn.” Pookie, fan of historical naval fiction, perks up, “Around the Horn? The ship can’t take much more of these heavy waters!” It seems an apt description of the Sabres’ special teams.
7:31 For the first time in this game, really, the entire five-man unit for the Sabres is flying, and a hard-working shift in the offensive zone is rewarded with… oh no. Another power play. (Phillips is victimized by Derek Roy’s flair for diving and is called for hooking.)
6:07 Darren declares the Sabres are “slightly discombobulated”, and Schnookie mis-hears it as “obscenely discombobulated.” She is momentarily annoyed that Darren beat her to what she was about to say, before realizing her mistake. (Pookie, not long after, shouts at the Sabres, “How hard is it to look where you’re passing the puck?”)
5:01 Schnookie narrows her eyes unhappily at Crunchy after he whips his glove in a snotty, showoffy way after catching a close-in, bad-angle shot that was going wide. She does not approve of that kind of Patrick Roy-esque showboating.
4:14 Hecht takes a stupid, stupid neutral zone cross-checking penalty on Saprykin.
2:10 After some fantastic shots on the power play, Darren exclaims, “Right now [Crunchy] has at least four grade-A saves on Heatley alone.” Pookie: “That’s because Heatley is a grade-A moron.” Schnookie can’t decide if that’s an insult aimed at Heatley or an underhanded swipe at Crunchy.
0:51 The Sabres put together three quick, long passes up the ice that almost result in a streaking Sabre tapping in an easy goal. Pookie groans at the player who just couldn’t reach the puck, “Pommie, you’re supposed to be fast. Unless that wasn’t Pommie. It was probably Slowy McElectricCar.”
0:00 Well, that period was a bit more like it. Eventually one would hope the Sabres would quit putting themselves in special team situations, but until then… at least they got the better of things on the scoreboard in that period.
We get an interview with Max Afinogenov; he’s wearing his “61” baseball cap, and Pookie decides he wears it to differentiate himself from Faye Dunaway. “See,” she imagines Max explaining, “If I were Faye Dunaway my hat would say ‘Faye’, but I’m not. So it says ’61’.”
VS gives us a little World Championship update (and by “little” we really mean it… they race through a handful of unexplained scores before tossing it back to commercial) that includes the news that the US is not contending anymore for a medal; we imagine poor Zach Parise, having raced to Moscow immediately after the Devils were eliminated, being now doubly heartbroken. This leads to some speculation that the person sitting next to him on the flight home is going to be like all the people in “Airplane” killing themselves to not have to listen to Ted Striker’s story anymore.
Cue GOB’s theme from “Arrested Development”; we’re brought back to the game with a shot of Niagara Falls and Joe shouts, “There’s magic in the mist!”
Mic’d up with Preissing is just as entertaining this period as it was last; we even get to hear him yell, “I’ve got slot!” just before Lydman scored. We agree it would have been even better if he’d said after the goal, “I haven’t got slot.” (We would listen to an entire game of Preissing’s mic’d up. He’s awesome.)
19:30 Joe tells us the biggest hits of the night have come from Volchenkov and Darren says, “I think his name is Voltchenkov.” See what he did there? (Wow. Throw that one in the trashbin along with Chico’s failed “Razmanian Devil” tag for Eric Rassmussen.)
18:02 Schnookie is starting to feel threatened by Darren and Joe — back off, boys. Crunchy is hers. (They are losing themselves over a snappy save he made on Heatley that, frankly, anyone playing a decent butterfly would have gotten. Heatley shot it into his legpad.)
16:19 The Sabres have not decided to tighten up their puck-possession focus, and repeatedly overskate easy pucks in the defensive zone.
15:08 Hecht suddenly finds his skating legs and screams down the wing, but Emery has only a little bit of trouble containing his slapshot.
14:07 Max gets a halfway decent chance on a quick move to a loose puck beside the net, but Emery shuts it down. Pookie mutters darkly, “He didn’t score there because Roy is on the ice and his sphere of sucktitude is enveloping everyone around him.”
13:25 Apparently when Max is driving hard to the net it is 100% legal to take his legs out from under him from behind. Because nothing gets called on Wade when he does exactly that.
12:19 Saprykin tips home a pass from McAmmond at the boards after the Sabres D completely falls asleep. Pookie reassures Schnookie, “There was nothing Crunchy could do there.” But there was plenty the Sabres could have done. Grrr.
11:09 Emery gives up another craptacular rebound, but it bounces right over Max’s stick.
10:32 Darren is trying to reassure the American audience that this isn’t over: he points out the Senators blew more third-period leads than any other team this season.
8:33 Going into commercial Joe comments on the fact that the Sabres have gone 0-5 tonight on the PP. And that really wouldn’t be that big a deal, considering they couldn’t score on the power play during the regular season, except they’ve been skating so badly with the man advantage that it completely derails their entire game. At this point we don’t necessarily feel like they need to figure out how to score in those situations, but we’d like to see them figure out at least how not to hand all the momentum and flow to the Senators.
6:11 The Sabres are pushing a bit too hard. On successive long passes they first ice the puck, then are called offsides.
5:12 Roy loses his mind completely and takes an atrocious tripping penalty trying to catch up to Fisher on a two-on-one. Pookie: “Did I mention yet that Ruff should BENCH HIM?”
4:12 Pookie snarls, “I hope Derek Roy is happy”, then adds some choice names as she grumbles into silence. Heatley scores after the penalty killers fumble all over in front of the net. (Schnookie declares, “Nothing Crunchy could do about that.” She really is single-minded when watching the Sabres.)
2:43 We get to revisit “Darren’s Keys To The Game” and find out the Sabres have only 20 shots tonight. It really doesn’t seem like that many.
1:39 Vanek does a frighteningly good Patrik Elias impression after having the puck poke-checked off his stick in close to Emery; he completely lets up, rolls his eyes and throws out his arms as if to ask us “What was I supposed to do there?” We don’t know, Tomas… how about try?
0:13 McAmmond scores an empty-netter.
0:00 At the final buzzer we get a shot of Crunchy, mask up, shaking his head with disgust and giving someone off-camera the hairy eyeball. Boomer asks who he’s shooting that look at and Pookie hopefully suggests, “Everybody.”
Well, that wasn’t surprising, but not at all what we wanted to see. The Sabres looked tonight not unlike how they played against the Islanders, and, um, discovered the Senators are considerably better than that. After watching them beat the hapless Penguins and listless Devils, we’d really like to see how the Senators look when playing against an actual functional NHL team, but we guess that will have to wait until Game 2 at the earliest. (And seriously, would somebody — anybody — start making Emery have to earn some of the praise he’s getting?) But this was not an encouraging start for the Slugs. We think maybe they should turn to their secret weapon for the next game, their ace-in-the-hole… you know who we’re talking about… Yeah, that’s right. Drew Stafford. We don’t think the Senators can handle that.
Final Score: Ottawa 5, Buffalo 2