I wanted to write and post this yesterday but I had to drive home from Minneapolis which is approximately four hours away from my home and I was forced to go to sleep when I arrived because I had an 8:00 AM class.
I wanted to describe what it is like to go to the only Sabres game you will attend all year. Then I need to make you comprehend how amazing it was for the Sabres to make it such a glorious occasion that I almost don’t care that I won’t get to see them again this year.
I arrived in Minneapolis at around 3 p.m. and stopped for food with my friends and family who were going to the game with me. We numbered six in total and we were all decked out in Sabres gear, from the old score “Goat” Lafontaine to the new sequin Ennis female jersey.
We made it to the game in time to catch warm ups. It was eye popping to see some of the players I had never seen- Niedermayer, Gerbe, Mancari, Enroth or Boyes suit up in Blue & Gold before. The first thing you notice is exactly how short Nathan Gerbe is! He truly is an Ewok. He’s adorable. Enroth is rather small as well. Mancari is a big guy.
It took us awhile to figure out whether or not Weber would be playing. He didn’t and I was disappointed. I wanted to see a bit of the grit he provides on the back end. I have wanted to get a Sekera jersey since early this season. I am pushing “buy” tonight.
He is a dynamic and explosive player. He has really been on his game this week and he makes a difference when he’s on the ice. He still has some trouble behind the net and with bouncing pucks at the point, but those things can be worked on. He truly is a force right now and the Sabres need to lock him up for the next few years.
There were some great skill moments in this game. Thomas Vanek pulled off an absolutely filthy dangle on Nick Schultz. He then missed the net and yet “Gosh Darn It!” (or something like that). He’s getting frustrated, you can really see that.
Drew Stafford’s OT winner was a pure power move. He also had an amazing hand play where he went wide, had one hand on his stick and passed the puck back between his legs to the front of the net. There was no one there, but it was still amazing.
Jhonas Enroth is for real. The save on Madden required some “We’re not worthy” bowing. He made some spectacular stops and was solid all game long. Just the backup the Sabres really need. Another thing that struck me is how good the Sabres are at blocking shots. The defense and the wingers make sure about half of what leaves the opponents stick never reaches the crease.
Chris Butler played a solid two-way game. He was good with his timing and his positioning, two of my biggest pet peeves with his game. He looks to be developing again, which is good news for the Sabres who usually have at least one defenseman under performing at any given time. Leopold, Montador and Morrisonn were all solid and steady from the backend. Really good veteran defense from them. Tyler Myers is just too good. It’s like cheating.
For the highlights: The first goal was just plain pretty. It was unbelievable live, one of the nicest I’ve seen (until OT). When Rob Niedermayer scored I nearly died. What are the odds he gets the only goal he’ll ever score as a member of the Sabres when I’m in the crowd. I couldn’t believe it.
Marek Zidlicky fell on his face in the best way when the Sabres needed to touch up for a delayed penalty, hilarious! McCormick’s fight against Stoner was my first live NHL fight. Pretty even and short bout. Still very fun. Drew Stafford’s goal wasn’t even fair. When he got the edge on the defender I knew it was happening. Just pure brilliance! It made my year to see that happen 20 feet in front of my.
Sometimes I get nervous when I’m the away fan at a game. I went to the Bills – Packers game this fall as a Buffalo Backer and most people treated me with respect. I was one of the few Bills fans in the stadium though. This time around there were Sabres fans everywhere.
The section I sat in was made up of about 2/3 Wild fans, 1/3 Sabres fans, and we were loud. We started a “Let’s Go Buffalo” chant that caught on so the Wild fans responded. Later we began to go back and forth with “Let’s Go Wild” – “Let’s Go Buffalo” it was a pretty even match considering the numbers disparity. I love Buffalo fans!
It was really pretty civil. There was very little heckling. The Minnesota fans were actually really well informed about the Sabres. After a Jon Madden miss I heard a “When did Pominwide switch jerseys?” The Wild fans were fun, albeit a little quiet. The arena, while small was filled pretty well and the fans were wearing the team colors very well.
The game presentation itself was only alright. I really didn’t care for the PA/In-House Announcer. His voice was rather quiet and run of the mill. He also sounded confused at times. The 1st intermission was done with the lights down for the entire time. That was just uncomfortable. I also didn’t like the 3rd Zamboni/Hay Ride. It went out during the intermissions with the sole purpose of driving fans around. It just seemed like a lame gimmick.
They did have some very cool audio/video segments to get the crowd charged up. The atmosphere was very Minnesotian. The people were just plain nice. Once Stafford scored the Sabres fans in my section ran down to the glass to join in the celebration. Instead of yelling at us and pulling us away, the attendant simply thanked us for coming. They also sold Mini-Doughnuts during the game…awesome.
Thank you to Minnesota for letting this Sabres fan invade you’re borders for a day. Thank you to my fellow Sabres fans for showing up en masse and supporting your team and finally thank you to the Buffalo Sabres for making my life just a bit more joyous.