After attending tonight’s Sabres – Capitals game with Kevin and Jerome (both of BfloBlog fame) and perhaps thirteen other people, I was torn between the headline used above and the following other options:
“Marty Biron Sucks”
“How do you know when its time to take your Johnson out?” (More on that later.)
With a lake effect snow storm raging just south of Buffalo (12-14 inches in places) the crowd was a bit thin at tonight’s game but the die-hards were expecting a win over the Capitals. It was disappointing to learn that Marty Biron would get the start over Mika Noronen but most people, including myself, were thinking “Its just the Capitals, how bad could Marty play?” We would find out the pathetically sad answer to that soon enough.
The night started out well enough – a few large beers and good seats, along with a provocatively stripper-esque entrance by the Sabres mascot, “Sabre Tooth”. As “The Tooth” was rappelling down from the rafters during the game’s intro he (she?) did a little Canadian ballerina move on the rope by flipping upside down and wrapping his (her’s?) legs around the rope like a professional looking for dollar bills. Now that I think about it, I think a friend of mine lost his virginity to “The Tooth” the weekend before his wedding. There were a lot of beers that night so its difficult to say for sure.
While I was contemplating that, Brian Campbell scored the first goal of the game to put the Sabres ahead just 37 seconds into the game. Most Sabres fans are used to early goals when Marty Biron is in net but they are usually scored against the Sabres, not by the Sabres. What a welcome treat that was. Of course, Marty was in typical form and allowed the Capitals to score less than four minutes later to tie the game at 1-1.
This first goal would be the first of many goals and scoring chances that Biron would give up simply because he cannot control rebounds. Marty is like someone who is duck-taped to the goal posts. If the puck hits him it will most likely bounce off of him and land in front of the net creating a perfect scoring opportunity for the opposition. Why doesn’t he hang onto the loose puck or smother the rebounds? Good question. Perhaps the team that eventually trades for him can figure it out. In the meantime, someone should teach him that its OK to catch and/or smother the puck.
There were so many goals in tonight’s game that I won’t bother with a recap of each one. Its enough to know that the Sabres were up 4-1 after the first period on goals by (Mmm, mmm…good!) Campbell, Kotalik, and Pyatt (who had two in the first). It was looking like the night would be a blowout.
In the first eight minutes of the second period the Sabres went up by a score of 6-1 on goals by Kalinin and Campbell. This is about the time we started pondering the drunkenly funny question of “How long do you leave your Johnson in?” The Capitals had started Brent Johnson in net and through a period and a half of hockey he looked positively sieve-like. The Capitals left him in though, perhaps realizing that with Marty Biron in net, a five goal deficit is never out of reach. Sure enough, Washington scored three unanswered goals within eight minutes of each other to close the gap to 6-4. The Sabres left the ice to loud boos at the end of the second period – the first time a home team has ever been booed after scoring six goals in two periods and holding a two goal lead. These are fickle fans. The booing may have had something to do with the seven minute power play that the Sabres had in the second period. Not only did they not score during the power play, they managed to let Washington score a short-handed goal. Nice work by the special teams.
Speaking of the seven minute power play, it came after Brendan Witt was tossed from the game after playing extremely cheap against Sabres rookie, Thomas Vanek. The Caps were P.O.’d about the game and looking for a spark when a five-on-five melee broke out. Witt threw some extremely cheap punches at a defenseless Vanek which led to a game misconduct. In hockey, once you’ve got your opponent beat, its traditional to let up. Witt will surely receive some payback in the form of Andrew Peters’ fists when these two teams face each other again later this month. He’ll deserve everything he gets too. On a related note, the Buffalo Sabres Carruba Collision of the game went to Witt’s fists for their repeated pummeling of Vanek’s chicklets.
Buffalo would finally regroup in the third period and go on to win the game by a score of 8-5. The fact that they let Washington get back into the game is partly due to the “new” NHL that favors goal scoring but is mostly due to extremely bad goaltending by Marty Biron. Before I look like too much of a Marty basher I want to go on record as saying that I have been a fan of his for a long time. I’m one of maybe four other Americans who actually watch the NHL Draft each year and I remember when the Sabres drafted Marty. At the time, I thought that this was our goalie of the future who would be a super-star. I enjoyed watching him excel in the AHL (with Rochester) and I thought that backing up Dominik Hasek would be great for his development.
Something happened along the way though. Biron is just so aloof and indifferent that I wonder if he’s on the verge of flunking out of the NHL. Is this what happens as a result of too much raw talent, not enough hard work, and large six-to-seven figure checks regularly showing up at your door? Its called being too comfortable. I don’t like his attitude or his lackluster approach to the game. Darcy Regier should send him down to Rochester to play in the AHL for a while to see if that fixes his attitude at all. What’s that? You’re saying that he won’t clear waivers? Well, what a shame that would be. The Sabres would clear 1 to 2 million in payroll and some other team would have the headache. Sounds good to me.
The Sabres will have Ryan Miller back in a couple of weeks and its about time that Buffalo found out if Mika Noronen can play or not. Keep in mind that many hockey “experts’ actually favor Noronen over Biron as far as raw talent is concerned. Again – why won’t Ruff play Mika? The more he sits, the harder it is to put him in as a starter. It’s a Catch-22 that Ruff has created. One of the biggest knocks on Ruff as a coach has been his ability to handle goalies. We are seeing it all over again this season. After the game Ruff was quoted as saying that “it looked at the end of the night that we might need nine or ten” (goals). That’s because Marty played horribly. Enough is enough – put Mika in and let the chips fall where they may. Give him three games in a row and see what happens. How much worse can it get? The Sabres face the Bruins, Rangers, and Islanders in the next three games. They are all winnable games and the Sabres should expect to go 2 for 3 in this stretch. It’s a perfect time to see what Mika’s got in the tank.
Speaking of the next three games… Two games ago, Ruff challenged his team to win six of the next eight games. They are two for two right now. In addition to the Bruins, Rangers, and Islanders, the Sabres also play the Canadiens, Capitals (again), and Penguins in that stretch. None of these teams are Stanley Cup contenders. Lindy – please, please, please let Noronen play four to six of the following games. Biron has played horribly in all but one or two of his starts this season. He constantly gives up rebounds and lets in soft goals. How confident is the rest of the team playing in front of him while trying to protect a lead or get that go-ahead goal? Not very, I’m sure. Ryan Miller isn’t due back for 2-4 weeks – you’ve got to change it up in the meantime.
Game Notes: Taylor Pyatt had a hat trick and Brian Campbell scored two goals tonight. The Sabres play again on Saturday night in Boston against the Bruins. The Bruins lost to Toronto (in Boston) tonight and fell one point behind the Sabres in the Northeast Division. One other thing – that Ovechkin? He’s the real deal my friends. He had one goal and one assist tonight but he does everything well. He skates fast, hits hard, and could stick-handle his way out of a paper bag. He undressed Derek Roy with one particular move tonight and Roy is still looking for his jock. I haven’t seen anyone handle the puck like that since Gretzky. I’d take him over Sydney Crosby any day of the week.
Trivial Game Notes: The Sabres have been paying some dork to come to a few home games each year and dance around to “The Twist” and other annoying songs for the past few years. Is this really entertainment? If even one penny of the thirty bucks that my ticket cost goes to this whack-off then I feel like I’m being cheated. He is an annoying, no-talent, dork who can dance around during commercial timeouts and …are you ready?…take off his jersey and (multiple) tee shirts and throw them into the crowd! How totally wicked cool (if you’re three years old). As for the rest of us, please spare us the stupidity.