Hockey Word Association 1.16

With the Anaheim Ducks out to a 2-0 lead over the Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup finals, we could be facing only two more games this season, Oh, the horror!

Rather than crumbling into a ball of howling, hockey-mad blather, why not divert your attention and play along:

1.) Hershey Bears =
2.) Travis Moen =
3.) Panic =
4.) Mike Sullivan =
5.) Undisciplined =



Sunday morning homily XXVI

As we enter what is likely the last full week of the 2007-08 season, it seems like only yesterday that the Lightning were in training camp. Dozens of ticket stubs later, a one-and-done foray into the playoffs and the disappointment of watching the Sabres' season end, we're on the cusp of hockey history.

Both the Ducks and the Senators, in their current incarnation, have the opportunity to win their first Stanley Cup. Both are strong teams and boast high-octane offenses. But as I wrote before, I like the Ducks' chances -- defense wins championships.

The Stanley Cup finals show, though, just how quickly time flies by when you're having fun. Like most of you, hockey is much more to me than a passing interest. It goes beyond being a collector and, over the past two seasons, a chronicler of a collection.

Even before the puck drops for Game 1 tomorrow night, I'm looking forward to the upcoming season. I've even posted the first three known trips. And all I'm willing to say now, even though I've told a handful of people, is that there will be more than a Hound Central 3.0.

As always, I appreciate you stopping by.

Bye-bye, Brian

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the retirement of Brian Leetch, arguably the best American-born defenseman. It's funny, but I thought he had already retired. Seeing that he didn't play this season, maybe it took him all of this time to understand that his career was indeed over.

In his only season in Boston, following the lockout, Leetch quickly grew tired of all the hounding. Then again, as a likely Hall of Famer, he should have expected that. Either way, I'm glad I had him sign as much as he did.

Opening trip

Today's brevity, so to speak, was brought to you by the 2007 Sunburn Tour along Florida's central western coast. Our first vist, made earlier today, was to Redington Shores beach. Signs warning of fast currents and stingrays greeted us in the parking lot. The water, which took some getting used to, had lots of seaweed. We didn't stay long.

Other stops this summer will include Maderia Beach (parking lot was full, hence the change to Redington Shores), Caladesi Island, Sand Key and, of course, Fort DeSoto's North Beach. Yes, we have plenty of sunscreen.



Preview: 2006-07 Sweet Shot

As proof in the pudding that Upper Deck keeps trotting out pure drivel for hockey products, I present the company's latest offering, 2006-07 Sweet Shot.

A 100-card base set that mixes players past and present, I believe it's nothing more than a late-season cash grab that offers very little for collectors. Players moved at the trade deadline, such as Philadelphia's Martin Biron and St. Louis' Brad Boyes, are shown in their old uniforms. The cards, which come in a tin, also lack true rookies.

As is mostly the case with Upper Deck's late-season offerings, only diehard collectors, or those with an unlimited amount of disposable income, will likely find this product worth buying.

Labels: , ,

Think twice about Sully

It's bad enough to read this morning that the Tampa Bay Lightning has fired associate coach Craig Ramsay. But to learn that former Bruins coach Mike Sullivan is under consideration as Rammer's replacement gives me a case of the willies. Sullivan did little at the Bruins' helm and I don't see what he could bring, other than his losing ways, to Tampa Bay.

Labels: ,

Please, not Upper Deck

Not that I'm any kind of antitrust overlord, but news that Upper Deck has made an unsolicited bid to buy the Topps Co. is truly unsettling. Market conditions have allowed Upper Deck to gobble up most of its competitors. Sadly, Topps could be its next, and biggest, conquest.

Allowing this deal would leave the industry with one, flippin' huge 1,764-pound gorilla. From a consumer's point of view, I want choices. Lots of them, too. As it stands, I can hardly voice my disapproval with Upper Deck by buying hockey products from competitors.

Though this deal will have its greatest impact on baseball cards, I believe that Upper Deck's track record in hockey, where it places a greater premium on high-end cards, provides a glimpse of things to come for baseball collectors.

Labels: ,


Hockey Word Association 1.15

Here we are, down to the final two teams playing for Lord Stanley's Cup. It's too bad, though, that we must wait until Monday for Game 1.

In my bid to provide superior customer service, feel free to engage in the following exercise to help bide your time:

1.) Home-ice advantage =
2.) Jean-Sebastien Giguere =
3.) Superstitions =
4.) Daniel Alfredsson =
5.) Next coach fired =



Ducks in six

That's my pick for the Stanley Cup finals. Not only do I believe that Anaheim has better offensive depth, but the Ducks' defense, especially goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, is so much better than Ottawa's contingent. The series begins Monday, or Memorial Day, in Anaheim.

Labels: ,


Sunday morning homily XXV

As we make our way through life, we seldom recognize the pure genius that's encountered in advice. Most times, or at least in my case, it's usually sloughed off. I've believed for quite a long time that I know what's best for me. As a result, I often let these nuggets of wisdom flow uninterrupted between my ears.

Like most of you, obligations as a husband, father and employee (in that order, mind you) keep my plate pretty full. Adding in the responsibilities of this blog, while adhering to its mission, only increases the burden. The bottom line, unfortunately, has been an increase in stress.

Lately, though, I've been taking the time to listen -- not only to others, but myself as well. Want to know something? It's been pretty useful.

A trip to New Hampshire last week, which included defending myself in small-claims court (the case was settled for $1 and a cup of coffee), produced some of the best advice I've received in years -- simply, life's too short to walk around in a never-ending state of grumpiness.

For the past few years, I've tried to wage a campaign against hockey autograph dealers. Granted, I believe that their existence has only hurt our hobby. Now, though, I find myself wondering whether it's been worth the time, effort and hassles. As it stands now, it hasn't.

There's not much I can do to stop them. And, taking it a step further, do I even have the right to try to interfere? The answer? No. All I've done is lose focus of why I got into this hobby and the fun, memories and friends that have been a part of the journey.

The legal dispute that took me to New Hampshire involved an old friend. Without getting into too much detail, he wanted me to return some autographed sports memorabilia, including a pair of autographed game-issued Ray Bourque hockey gloves. Because they were given as gifts, I was reluctant to honor that request. Hence, the trip to New Hampshire.

Now that everything has been settled, and that fractured friendship has been restored, it's time to practice some of that advice. It's time to recognize that true friends look past differences, forgive mistakes and, sometimes, have your best interests in mind. It's also time, too, to sever one-way relationships, especially when you're always on the giving end.

In a roundabout way, all I'm trying to say is that it's better to distance yourself from frustration and embrace what brings you happiness. Pretty simple and good advice, if you ask me.

And for that, I'm grateful. Thanks, John, for being a friend.



Honoring tradition

With the Sabres are no longer in the playoffs, it's time to shave off our playoff beards. Mine's already history.


Thank You, Sabres!

Sure, I'm disappointed that the Sabres lost to Ottawa, 3-2 in overtime, ending a season that I sensed back in early November was going to be special. But rather than be bitter, I'm going to celebrate the team's strong season-long effort.

Ottawa's a very talented team and I wish them nothing but good luck in its quest for Lord Stanley's Cup.

For my beloved Sabres, though, I'm appreciative of the thrills, and chills, they've provided:

Thank You, Sabres!
Thank You, Sabres!
Thank You, Sabres!

Labels: ,

Words of discouragement

Here we are, at another pivotal Game 5 of a series, and the Sabres are going to need your assistance. By all means, make as many of these signs as you can before this afternoon's game and give Ottawa a warm (if you know what I mean) welcome to Buffalo:

~ Uh-oh!
~ Bored now, Emery?
~ Rottawa
~ See you Wednesday
~ Real fans don't hit girls

Go get 'em, Sabres.

Labels: , ,


Entertain yourself

Looking for something to do tonight? Here's an idea.

Dig out that old Wooly Willy travel game you've had since you were a kid, invite some hockey-loving friends over and play a look-alike game featuring players from your favorite NHL playoff team.

In my case, I'd pick the Buffalo Sabres. For Chris Drury, you'd need a full beard. For Daniel Briere, a few wispy tufts would do.




Lisa tells me her Mother's Day breakfast was pretty good, save for one thing: the hash browns. Not only where they a little crisp, but she saw through my veneer of melted cheese and crumbled bacon. Her assessment? One word: "Nasty."

Headed to the sin bin?

There was a brief news item in this morning's St. Petersburg Times about the so-called "Red Wing Bandit." It seems that the bank-robbery suspect, apparently a fan of Hockeytown's heroes, has worn a Detroit Red Wings cap during three of the four-heist crime spree.

It's my guess that Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman and Alex Delvecchio aren't going to be too happy about this.

Addendum: A suspect has been arrested.

Hockey Word Association 1.14

First off, please accept my most sincere apologies for forgetting last week's installment. Secondly, feel free to pick up where we left off two weeks ago:

1.) Desperation =
2.) Ryan Miller =
3.) Five on threes =
4.) Chris Pronger =
5.) Choke artists =



The beard remains

To be honest, I was giving some serious thought to shaving my playoff beard in an attempt to change the Sabres' luck. After Buffalo's 3-2 win earlier tonight, I'm glad I didn't.



Sunday morning homily XXIV

Now that I'm done making Mother's Day breakfast (French toast, home fries, bacon and cut fruit) for my wife, Lisa, it's time to reflect upon the current, and possibly sorry, state of my beloved Buffalo Sabres.

I'm at a loss to pinpoint exactly what's happened. A potent offense against most other teams, what defense has Ottawa deployed to once again flummox the Sabres? Has trading away Martin Biron forced Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff to play goalie Ryan Miller too much? Have the Sabres forgotten that the competition gets more intense and physical with each round?

Whatever the reason, the Sabres are staring at an 0-2 hole against a talented team that's shown the ability to come back from a deficit. It's time, like any great team does during the playoffs, for the Sabres to show their resiliency.

In Buffalo, and the surrounding communities, resiliency is a trait that's all too familiar. As much as I hate to say it, Buffalo sports fans have always watched someone else celebrate. The Sabres, who have twice tried to grab Lord Stanley's cup, continue their quest. The Bills? We know those stories.

But you know what? We've been able to take something away. We know the rewards of hard work and values. We honor commitments. We dig in. We're resilient.

Roll, Sabres, roll.

The other playoffs

Don't forget, too, that the American Hockey League is deep into its Calder Cup playoffs. The Manchester Monarchs are a Game 6 win away Monday night from putting the Providence Bruins away for the season. The Hershey Bears await the winner for the Eastern Conference title. The winner of the Manitoba Moose-Hamilton Bulldogs game, at 3 p.m. today, will gain a 3-2 advantage in their North Division final. The winner will face the Chicago Wolves for the Western Conference championship.

A long weekend

I have to tend to some business over the next few days. I'll try to check in Wednesday night.

Labels: ,

Don't give up

After losing to Ottawa last night in double overtime, Buffalo finds itself in a pretty deep hole. But if there's any team with the determination and skills to get back into the series, it's the Sabres.

Labels: ,


Caps new look?

Here's a link to what could be the Washington Capitals new RBK Edge sweaters. What do you think? Those look like Avalanche colors to me.

Labels: ,

5.8 seconds

The Hockey Gods have, once again, smiled upon Buffalo's Daniel Briere. Sabres faithful can smile back. Thanks. Let's put Ottawa away. Now.

Labels: ,

This is more like it

Buffalo's Jochen Hecht gives the Sabres a 2-0 lead. This is what we've come to expect. And this is what the Sabres need to do.


Disallow this

Sooner or later, the Sabres are gonna stop getting jobbed. How can a player not move his hands when he 's attempting a shot? I saw no direct movement of Tomas Vanek's right hand toward the puck, did you? Now, as I sit here, Vanek, who didn't have the strongest of efforts in Game 1, scores Buffalo's first goal. I guess he wasn't going to be denied.



Not a good start, eh?

In what might be the understatement of the day, Buffalo's loss to Ottawa last night was disappointing. Here's hoping for a more concerted effort come Saturday night.

Labels: ,


War of words

Just in case there isn't enough bad blood between the Sabres and the Senators, feel free to send along these greetings to Ottawa during warmups tonight:

~ Road Ray-ge is a crime, Emery
~ Crack open a Schaefer
~ How's the shoulder, Mike?
~ Peel Neil off the boards
~ Impeach the Senators

Labels: , ,


Fringe benefits

Given that Buffalo and Ottawa are fairly evenly matched teams, and maybe that's putting it nicely, I'm hoping that the Sabres take full advantage of the home ice gained by winning the Presidents' Trophy. It could come in handy.

Ottawa took the eight-game season series, 5-3. The Sabres split four games with the Sens at the HSBC Arena.

Now more than ever: Roll, Sabres, roll.

Labels: ,


One more thing

Do you know what else Buffalo's victory over New York means? I won't be shaving for at least about 10 days to two weeks. The beard, in all of its itchy glory, lives on. Sorry, though, no pictures.


And the other half

Now that the Sabres finished off the pesky Rangers, Buffalo's second test of the playoffs, it's time to turn our attention, and barbs, toward Ottawa as the Northeast Division rivals meet for the Prince of Wales Trophy.

This should be an interesting, physical series. Because the Senators haven't had to work so far these playoffs, it's hard to imagine them being anywhere near ready for the battle-tested Sabres.

Roll, Sabres, roll.

Labels: , ,


One half of the bracket

Now that the Senators have sent the Devils home for the summer, we know that Ottawa will contend for the Prince of Wales Trophy. I’m not surprised. The Sens are stacked with talent and have a very good, and highly underrated, goalie in Ray Emery.

If the Sabres advance to the conference finals, this should be one helluva series. Not only do they mirror each other, there’s some significant bad blood as well. Still, the Sabres win. Ottawa hasn't been tested yet.

God forbid, should the Rangers advance, it’s Ottawa in no more than five.

Labels: , , ,

Looks good to me

Most times, a picture is worth a thousands words. This one, NHL.com's Frozen Moment tribute to the Sabres' Game 5 overtime win, can be described in one word: awesome.

Roll, Sabres, roll.

Labels: ,


Nine to go

After his overtime goal gave the Sabres a crucial 2-1 victory over the Ranger in the pivotal Game 5 last night, it's safe to say that Buffalo's Maxim Afinogenov has gone from the doghouse to the penthouse.

Roll, Sabres, roll.


Arts and crafts

It's this simple: Get a poster board. Find a marker. Hassle the Rangers.

~ Caveman? Yes. Jagr? No.
~ Got aspirin?
~ Avery = Blah, blah, blah
~ Running on fumes
~ It was a goal

Labels: , , ,

Go get 'em, Goose

In an amazing comeback, Buffalo's Paul Gaustad, who suffered a sliced tendon in his left ankle, could see his first game action since early February. You think he'll be a little pumped up?


Rolling thunder

A home game, the pivotal fifth of seven, on a Friday night? In Buffalo? For a Sabres fan, that's a honkin' slice of hockey heaven.

Electricity, my fellow faithful, produces energy. That's what we need.

Roll, Sabres, roll.



Hockey Word Association 1.13

What? No takers on last week's installment. I certainly hope it's because your attention has been captured by the playoffs. If not, there's only one way to make amends:

1.) Best-of-three =
2.) Shane Doan =
3.) Hart Trophy =
4.) Jay Pandolfo =
5.) Playoff beards =



Pretty ugly

Now that I've had time to think about it, and those thoughts are influenced by the Sabres' 2-1 loss, maybe it's a bad idea for coach Lindy Ruff to tell his team to get ugly. Speed and skill, not mucking it up, has brought the Sabres this far. Still, though, if it's not broke?

Should this home-ice trend continue, and it better Friday night, we could be looking at a home Game 7 next Tuesday. Anyone have a spare ticket? I know someone who'd loved to go.

Roll, Sabres, roll.

Labels: ,


And the nominees are . . .

Everybody, and I do mean everybody, likes to win awards. Used-car salesman. Rodeo clowns. Math teachers. You name a profession, chances are there's an award to be won.

Earlier today, the National Hockey League announced the nominees for eight awards:

Jack Adams Award (Outstanding Coach): Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres; Michel Therrien, Pittsburgh Penguins; Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (Sportsmanship and Gentlemanly Conduct): Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings, Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche; and Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning.
Calder Memorial Trophy (Outstanding Rookie): Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins, Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins; and Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche.
Hart Memorial Trophy (Most Valuable Player To His Team): Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; and Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks.
James Norris Memorial Trophy (Outstanding All-Around Defenseman): Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings; Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks; and Chris Pronger, Anaheim Ducks.
Lester B. Pearson Award (Most Outstanding Player as voted by fellow members of the National Hockey League Players' Association): Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning; and Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks.
Frank J. Selke Trophy (Outstanding Defensive Forward): Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes; Samuel Pahlsson, Anaheim Ducks; and Jay Pandolfo, New Jersey Devils.
Vezina Trophy (Outstanding Goaltender): Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils; Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames, Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers; and Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks. Third-place tie led to four finalists, rather than three.
Winners will be announced June 14.

Based on regular-season results, some award winners have already been named:

Art Ross Trophy (regular-season's top scorer): Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins, 120 points
Maurice Richard Trophy (most regular-season goals): Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning, 52 goals
William M. Jennings Trophy (fewest goals scored against): Nicklas Backstrom and Manny Fernandez, Minnesota Wild, 191 goals allowed.

Now that the nominees have been named, here are my predictions:

Calder Memorial Trophy: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Frank J. Selke Trophy: Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes
Hart Memorial Trophy: Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
Jack Adams Award: Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Chris Pronger, Anaheim Ducks
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Lester B. Pearson Award: Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning
Vezina Trophy: Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

For comparison purposes, and fodder for a good belly laugh, here are my preseason picks:

Art Ross Trophy: Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals, 119 points
* Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (perseverance and sportsmanship): Jeremy Roenick, Phoenix Coyotes
Calder Memorial Trophy: Gilbert Brule, Columbus Blue Jackets
** Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP): Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
Frank J. Selke Trophy: Mike Fisher, Ottawa Senators
Hart Memorial Trophy: Alexander Ovechkin
Jack Adams Award: Ron Wilson, San Jose Sharks
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
* King Clancy Memorial Trophy (leadership and humanitarian efforts): Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Brad Richards, Tampa Bay Lightning
Lester B. Pearson Award: Joe Thornton
Maurice Richard Trophy: Alexander Ovechkin, 58 goals
Vezina Trophy: Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
William M. Jennings Trophy: Ryan Miller and Martin Biron, Buffalo Sabres

* Winner will be announced June 14
** Winner announced at conclusion of Stanley Cup finals.


Getting 'em Ruff and ready

It sounds like Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff has had enough of pretty plays, dipsy-doodles and, quite honestly, losing to the Rangers. My advice: Have Ruff take his players into some of the Buffalo's blue-collar businesses before Friday's Game 5. I'm sure there'll be no shortage of motivation for the team to start playing "ugly."