April 21, 2011

At war with a Buffaloian.

My friend Mike, who I've mentioned before, is from Buffalo. He's a drinker, and a fiend. He's also brilliant, an employed Cornell graduate with a razor-like wit and a mind like a steel trap. If you ranked the city's finest sons from "zero" to "All-Star," he's Dominik Hasek. Definitely way cooler than Tim Russert.

Mike's been through his share of sports-related heartbreak: the Bills in the 90's and the Peca/Satan/Barnaby Sabres after that. And, of course, let's not forget the long, storied struggles of the minor league baseball Buffalo Bisons (no championships from 1961 to 1997). If all things were equal, I'd be rooting for one of his teams to bring home a title. Hell, the most fun I've ever had watching a non-Eagles football game was at the Bills bar in New York City; I do feel a certain kinship with their merry band of losers.

Obviously, however, that's not the case. Our cities are at war, and behind a giant stone wall dressed in a Ryan Miller jersey, Buffalo now heads back to Philadelphia with the series tied.

I said before this all started that the Flyers would win in 6, and I stand by that prediction. Besides Miller standing on his head, the Flyers have looked like the more talented team. Brian Boucher's been rock solid in goal, and I love the aggressive forecheck from guys like the rapidly maturing James van Riemsdyk.

But I won't sell Buffalo short; the Sabres are taking it to the Flyers. Patrick Kaleta, in particular, is a physical pest in the Dan Carcillo vein. Say what you will about the oft-discussed elbow from Mike Richards -- which should have been a two-minute minor, not a fiver, and I'll flip out if he's suspended -- but it was a knee-jerk reaction to Buffalo's aggressive play. It's exactly what Kaleta was hoping for; he'd probably take five elbows to the face every night if it brought home a win.

Will this level of physicality shift when Chris Pronger steps onto the ice? For that matter, will Chris Pronger step onto the ice? His presence would certainly steady the team, in particular on the power play, and he's probably dying to be in the middle of some of these post-whistle scrums at every stoppage. I personally expect to see him in Game 5 (as do several of the beat writers), but as of early Thursday morning, no one knows for sure.

I'm not upset that Ryan Miller has shut the Flyers out twice; he's a top-three NHL goalie, and a loss is a loss at this point. But I am perturbed that Jeff Carter might be out with a knee injury, and that Richards could conceivably be suspended, and that the Flyers lost two very winnable one-goal games. I'm a little nervous that a pesky team like Buffalo is still hanging around, and that the refs seem to absolutely loathe the Flyers.

It's an even series, and while the Flyers still have home-ice advantage, the margin for error has thinned. All I know is I don't want to give Mike, the lovable asshole that drinks vodka from a jar, any kind of bragging rights. I want him, my good friend, to suffer like the sad, Buffalo-bred runner-up that he is.

1 comment:

Michael McLachlan said...

Why Steve and the Flyers will Fall to the Elation of the Gentleman Thief from Tuffalo,

I cannot begin to describe the profound respect and adoration I have for the talents, hilarity, art, and person of my close friend London Steve. We’re brothers in life in the respect that our every decision is in part based to a life philosophy so clearly articulated by HST, to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whiskey and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling love and not getting arrested. We frequently seek each other to exchange the most absurd of life experiences, connoisseurs in the art of poor decisions and I’ve vowed to watch the man buried. This kinship however, in no way prevents me from pointing out that Steve’s beliefs and opinions on this latest Flyers/Sabres series can only be viewed as his latest attempt of fiction.

The logic and reasoning Steve presents on the Flyers is all well enough but it’s got no balls, no panache. It’s unconvincing and the flaccidity it exhibits has not been since Pronger demanded a trade from one of the greatest hockey markets of the history of the sport based on the shopping preferences of his Mrs (that removed the man is my hero and I’m glad he’s not coming back soon).

The Sabres make sense because they don’t make sense. Conversation about talent and what should be happening based on the output of the regular season is not the early debate of championship teams. Counting easy categorical victories but lacking the conviction when discussing your team’s future is a sign of losses to come. But when will it come?

Buffalo hasn’t had a team so seemingly unexciting for a number of years. For many it’s difficult to pick who to watch or who’s going to need to step up. For my eventual roster back tattoo to commemorate the winning of the cup (and yes a friend’s dad had the offensive and defensive line-ups of the 1990 Buffalo Bills tattooed on his back), I’ll probably need to bring a roster. Yet this team has been dominating everyone, over a significant period of time. The argument should be what needs to go wrong for this team to lose, which when you try isn’t as easy as it would seem, with the notable exception of Miller being un-Miller which you could point our current losses to.

So does this mean the Flyers fate now rests solely on Miller not showing up? Is this reality why Steve’s words create nothing but a smile on my face as I anticipate the waves of Schadenfreude that are due to wash over me with a Philly loss? This time I think so, and I will think so when I again watch the game drinking vodka out of a jar tonight, streaming the shitty internet version of the game on a wall projector to enhance its shittiness just because that’s how we did it two nights ago.

Sorry I’m not sorry Steve. I had begun with the thought that I’d discuss how you’ve grown soft on the incredible successes of your fine city, but that won’t be necessary to lessen your belief in the only nhl team to wear full length pants. Hope Briere dies. Remember, there are men and there are cowards, and that one day we’ll sit together and in Brett’s voice you’ll say, “The Flyers could have had such a damned good time together.”

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”